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English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata, 2017

English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata 2017

This is our report on the “English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata 2017”. This was the second summer festival we have held. Learning from last year’s festival, we fine-tuned the event.  We started the planning at beginning of the year with 5 committee chairs. We had monthly meetings and communicated closely via SNS.

The goal of this festival was to offer a venue where people can communicate cross-culturally, experience English communication and feel compelled to actively connect with others. We wanted to invite all who regularly attend our English classes (Komo’s English@Sanriku), who live nearby, and who live far but were willing to travel, regardless of their age and gender. This festival offers opportunities to know and to venture into a wider world where many wonderful people with different backgrounds coexist.

The event was funded with donations from Hanasou Foundation members. We are truly grateful for those sustaining members and the event specific members. We couldn’t have had the festival without your generous donations.

August 18 Day to share about the disaster, Japan, and Rikuzentakata.

August 18, the day before the “Festival”, was designed for SCOA counselors (U.S. College athletes) who came to act as the event facilitators. We wanted to introduce them to Japan and Rikuzentakata as well as educate them about the great earthquake.

Ms. Kayo Oikawa, a member of “Komo’s English@Rikuzentakata”, conducted the disaster affected area tour. We gave a similar tour last year but this year’s tour was better refined by starting the tour from Abasse which opened its door in April and adding anecdotes to which college students can relate.

We took SCOA counselors to Gassan Shrine at the end of the tour. Ms. Keiko Araki introduced Tsukiyama Shrine and the way of Shinto, which she has been studying. All the counselors looked very serious while following the proper prayer rituals.

After the tour, we visited the residence of Ms. Fumiko Osaka. She prepared Onigiri and Miso soup for the counselors. While they ate, Ms. Osaka gave a lecture on Onigiri making and chopsticks use. After the meal, we moved to a separate outside location to receive green tea while listening to Ms. Osaka’s disaster experiences. This was followed by a visit to Takekoma temporary housing.

Ms. Oikawa, Ms. Araki, and Ms. Osaka spent a great deal of time and effort to prepare for this event. They spent the last few months attending extra English sessions to prepare. We trust the experiences of actually conveying information and ideas to native speakers has been invaluable to them. Also, for college students, this day seemed to become a very memorable day through actually communicating with the locals in person.

August 19 – 20 “English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata”

This year, we had about 95 participants whose age ranged from preschoolers to the elderly. We owe this accomplishment in part due to various support from media companies, Rikuzentakata City board of education as well as Rikuzentakata City International Association. Like last year, we had rainy weather and all participants (young and old, male and female, SCOA counselors) shared activities through playing sports and games in the Kesennuma Junior High School gym. Since we had a larger number of participants, we tried programs by age as well.

On Saturday night, we had a BBQ in the gym due to the rain. The talent show by the counselors was full of surprises. We showed and danced “Bon Odori” (traditional summer festival dance) with the counselors. The counselors in turn sang some American bonfire songs with us. It was truly a fun “Summer Festival” night.

We also had over 50 people who were staying over. There were some inconveniences such as scheduled bath time but staying over night together certainly offered its communication perks.

Early Sunday morning, we came across a heartwarming scene where one of the counselors, who is a softball player, worked with the local high school (Ofunato High School) girl’s softball team. We saw one of the top athletes from America playing catch with a local high school team’s catcher. In the end, they all connected via SNS with a promise to give advice whenever they wanted. This is exactly what we were striving for.

We are confident the event brought many smiles. We’ve asked people about the festival during and after the event. Overwhelmingly people responded with positive comments and with a big smile on their faces. Here are some comments:

“We, as a family, had as much fun as last year. (by a family who participated last year)”

“I want to be an interpreter. Communicating with people from outside of Japan in person was such a valuable experience. (by a male high school student)”

As for the volunteer base, there were 27 volunteers (including distant helpers) this year. Some of them were regulars at the Komo’s English@Rikuzenntakata and some were visiting the area for the first time and some were new to the Hanasou foundation activities. Based on last year’s outcome, committee members put in extra effort to prepare but because there were 130 – 140 participants, councilors and volunteers at all times, there were things that we could have done better. Despite all the difficulties, we were able to run the event successfully because everybody voluntarily helped whenever and wherever possible. We are truly grateful to everybody. Thank you.

We encountered numerous exchanges. People became friends and bonded with each other.

Many, many thanks to all who were involved!

We also had support from media companies. They made announcements and reports on the event. Our sincere gratitude to The Asahi Shimbun, Iwate Nippou, NHK, Ofunato Radio, Kahoku Shinpou, Sumita-ChoCTV, Tokai Shinnpou, The Yomiuri Shimbun. (Alphabetical order)

The Summer Festival 2017 Committee (Maki, Mari, Keiko, Omori, Komo)

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