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“Let’s Talk” Ambassador to Barcelona!

‘Let’s Talk’ Ambassador, to Barcelona!

The Barcelona visit report ( Yuuka Kumagaya from Rikuzentakada junior high school 1st grade)

From 2014 the Hanasou foundation began sending members overseas, this is called the ‘Let’s talk’ Ambassador Program.

 

First time was for Sato from ‘Sato Taneya’ who went to Taiwan in June. The second is a trip to Barcelona for Yuuka Kunagaya.

Our friendship with Barcelona started in 2011. Basically, there used to be many Japanese fans so when the earthquake happened, they started to support us very quickly. It’s been 3 years since the earthquake but still many people are taking care of us.

I (Komori) visited Barcelona in the Autumn of 2011 following Chika Miyamori. I gave a speech about Japanese company’s reactions to the earthquake at the business school of IESE ,ESADE, and Casa Asia. We’ve been keeping our friendship since that time.

Every christmas we receive over 100 cards from Japanese culture school Bonsaikebana (http://bonsaikebana.com/ president:Reiko Ishimatsu). So we write replies too. People in Korekara Japon (http://korekarajapon.wordpress.com/) hold a Japanese aid event every spring and send us funds.

Yuuka Kumai has been a member of Komo’s English reading class @ Rikuzentakada since we started. Everytime she read the cards from Barcelona she hoped to begin a letter exchange with people overseas. In the Spring of 2013 she started to write letters to Barcelona. Now she has 3 penpals through Ms.Ishimatsu from Bonsaikebana.

The ‘Let’s Talk ‘ Ambassador Program is not just about paying for a fun trip. It can only happen in the case someone has a connection to overseas through the earthquake and maintained it. For that case, we like to support the relationship in any way possible. For Yuuka’s case, she had been exchanging letters for more than 1 year and wanted tell ask Barcelona’s people for help. Because of this we we thought she deserved to be ambassador for this mission.

The schedule was a little bit tight, we left Japan on the 1st of August and stayed there from 2nd to 4th then left there on 5th noon and arrived in Japan on the 6th. One of the pen pals Marina let us stay at her home. Yuuka gave a speech in English, we think she’s grown up during her mission in Barcelona .

It was her very first time travelling overseas and needed to transit so Hanasou funded another member, Takeshi Takahashi, to follow her for the trip. There were a number of people who helped prepare for the trip but especially Ms. Ishimatsu from Bonsaikebaa and Mr,Tsunoda from Korekara Japan along with pianist Ms.Suzuki. It’s not enough to say thank you.

Please see the report of Takahashi below.

 

August 1st, 2014

Yuka was leaving from Rikuzentakata. She woke up at 4 am and took a single bullet train all the way to Tokyo. She arrived at the airport after 10am. Because there are no direct flights from Tokyo to Barcelona, they went by AEROFLOT Airlines via Moscow. After entry, I challenged myself and exchanged 20,000 yen in one go!

Because it was a Russian airline all announcements were in English and Russian. I got the feeling that Japanese was also sometimes being spoken. I used English to order from a flight attendant. Doing this helped me a little, but I managed to order drinks by pointing at what I wanted. This meant I was ok with little help.

I arrived in the transit area of Moscow airport. After we finished the required transit procedures we had some time to wander around the shops. I looked around the shops where various kinds of matryoshka dolls formed a line. At around 8pm we moved over to the boarding gate. It was already 1 am in Japan time. Yuka was sleeping soundly on the plane as the announcements now changed to Spanish and English.

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We arrived in Barcelona 11 pm local time (in Japanese time it was 6 am the following day). Despite it being the middle of the night, Ishimatsu came to pick us up. We safely recovered our luggage from the terminal and met with Ishimatsu. Ishimatsu has been living in Barcelona since 1979. We were taught various things about Barcelona during our ride.

Afterwards I (Takahashi) went to Tsunoda’s house, from korekara Japon. Yuka arrived at the Ishimatsu’s acquaintances house. We were welcomed warmly despite it being the middle of the night and we settled in for the night.

 

August 2nd, 2014

After having had breakfast in our separate accommodation, Yuka and I gathered in front of Marina’s home which had become our short term home base. Neus who was a correspondence partner of Yuka’s for more than a year rushed over and they were able to meet directly for the first time. To start with we walked through Barcelona city. Ishimatsu came too and there were a total of 7 people in all.

I got to have a look at Marina’s home carrying Yuka’s baggage to the room she’d be using. The house was in a great neighborhood called Sagrada Familia Station. We left the house and took a bus to Park Guell. The park was on a hill and Patricia who goes to school up there volunteered to guide us.

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In the park’s garden there were interesting cactus and flowers that you wouldn’t normally see in Japan. In addition to this there were a lot of people around, street musicians were around and there were a lot of stalls selling souvenirs. It was a really interesting scene and Yuka was taking everything in as we walked through it. It was getting hot at this point so we quickly had a look at the Gaudi designs in the park and moved to the Subway. Next we went to the Sagrada Familia.

We enjoyed conversation with 4 students as we walked. They spoke a little bit of Japanese and took care of us very well. Then we took some pictures at the Sagrada Familia. It was very amazing to see the building closely but it was also very detailed. They seemed to be very interested in the detailed patterns on the building.

Then we moved to Yoko’s home for lunch. there was nothing front of this house but a perfect view of Sagrada familia. In this luxurious mood we had a great lunch. Also we enjoyed speaking sometimes in Spanish and soemtimes in Japanese. Then we listened to Yoko’s piano. Rafumaninohunokane (figure skater Mao Asada used for her free style ), Spanish music writer’s tune, used in movie Naushika, and the music composed by Yoko were some of the songs she played for us. The day after we planned to leave Barcelona, Yoko was going to a hold concert but we couldn’t make it which was quite disappointing.

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After we left Yoko’s home four of us visited the expo ‘The Rode of Tohoku’ (Ms Ishimatsu left for now). It was a compact expo to introduce the culture and local products of the area. When we were answering questions about Tohoku it made us realise how much we don’t know about it. Yika was explaining about Kumiki but it was a bit hard.

We met a Japanese guy by accident and we enjoyed conversation about the importance of explaining Japanese culture.

After this, the weather was bit rainy. Yuuka and Takahashi were in a hurry to move to Marina’s home. We had dinner there around 8 pm, because of the time difference Yuuka had jet lag so she had a bit of rest then we had fried angler fish, chick pea salad and peaches etc… It was a great day.

 

August 3rd, 2014

In the morning we left home and went about 1 hour out of the city to visit Ms Ishimatsu’s Bonsaikebana students home with pen friends Neus and Marina. Llica d’Amunt looked like a very comfortable place to live . There was a wide view of gentle slopes, bushes and houses.

We made our connection because Begonya is an Ikebana student. Her husband trains sheep dogs as a hobby (He published in Catalonian language) He showed us the sheep dog chasing the sheep.

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Then they invited us to their home and showed us around. We met their sons then had lunch together. Begonya loves Japanese culture so we could see elements of Japanese style in the style of Catalonia.  

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Then Begonya gave presents to Yuuka from students of Ikebana school! We got some cash. because students wanted her to purchase something in Barcelona and take it back to Rikuzentakada. We decided to do shopping to bring items to Rikuzentakada while we were in Barcelona.

after that we moved back to Barcelona by Mr and Mrs Begonya’s car to the Tibidabo. On top of a mountain there was an amusement park so we enjoyed the attractions and of course the gorgeous view of nature of Barcelona. At this point Yuuka was finally over the time lag. We had to go back to Japan the day after tomorrow it was a very short trip but tomorrow was the most important day of this trip as an ambassador. It was Yuuka’s English speech.

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August 4th, 2014

Today is the day. Yuuka’s English speech day as an ambassador. First at Korekara Japan then at the evening in Bonsaikebana .

First however we went to look for souvenirs to spend the cash we got the day before. Marina, Neus, Patricia, and Lucia when to the souvenir shop. then went to the cafe Mitte where the Korekara Japan event was to take place.

Yuuka gave her speech which she had practiced a lot to 9 people which included a designer, artist, and photographer. Then we moved to a restaurant and had local Paela and talked. The meal was great! 6 people remained and we talked about the situation of Rikuzentakada and described what it was to those who’d never heard of it before.

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Mr Tsunoda had visited Rikuzentakada before and he is also one of the opening members of Korekara Japan (I stayed at his place all my trip). Overall he helped us a lot for this exchange meeting with the Ambassador and guiding us at that day. Thank you so much.

Then we met again and looked for souvenirs together. We enjoyed walking because we could see amazing sights of the city, like houses designed by Gaudi . At 7 pm we gathered at the class of Bonsaikebana. There were students who learned under Ishimatsu and some Japanese language school students. They all warmly welcomed the Ambassador.

Most of the member here were Spanish so Yuuka gave her speech in English then penpal Marina translated to Spanish. Then a student called Oscal spoke in English, Spanish, and Japanese! We exchanged our feelings directly.

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After we exchanged messages we had a small potluck party. People were trying to talk to Yuuka in Spanish and a little bit of English. This helped Yuuka’s mind expand a little more.

After the meal we sang ‘Sakura’ and ‘Amigos para siempre(friends of forever)’ holding each others hands and making a circle. When Marina heard Yuuka practicing her speech in English I saw tears in her eyes. It was very short term but I felt they made a strong friendship.

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We had the last dinner together with a few members. Yuuka had done a big job so she was finally able to release all that nervous tension. However thinking that she needed to leave tomorrow made her cry and Marina cheered her up. At this point I really felt that she had grown up so much to hear her saying ‘I’m gonna come back here, definitely’. She said that quietly but strongly.

 

August 5th, 2014

Marina and her mother gave us a ride to the airport. We were finally leaving. It was short term but the view of Barcelona from the window was looked very nostalgic and familiar, much more than when we just arrived. At the airport it was time to say goodbye to Marina whom we’d spent the most time together. They promised to meet again and we left the country.

Yuuka had so many experience in those days. She said ‘one day when they visit to Japan I want to guide them.’ ‘when I go back to Barcelona I want to speak in Spanish’. She sounded like she had the determination to follow through with these promises.

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