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Aug 2018 – English Summer Fes in Rikuzentakata

English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata

This is the recap of the 2018 English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata.

The third summer festival was organized with the past two events in mind. We reviewed previous events’ team organizations and processes looking for improvements. At the beginning of the year, we elected 5 executive chairs and in May two business leaders. Together, seven of us planned and prepared the festival with monthly meetings and communications via SNS.

During this year’s preparation, we have remained committed to our basic objective to provide a cross cultural platform to anybody who can participate as well as the students from Komo’s English@Sanriku and Kesen area (east coast of north Japan) residents. We wanted the festival to provide opportunities for people to be motivated to communicate and experience diversity. We also kept in mind that we want all the supporting staff, SOCA counselors and volunteer members to enjoy what they help to create.

The event was fully funded with the money donated by the Let’s Talk Foundation. Donors included regular contributors, members of “Run For Let’s Talk”. Other donors included participants to our English classes in Tokyo. We sincerely thank everybody who have made contributions.

In preparation, two chairs visited SOCA Camp in Izu

SOCA holds a kid’s English summer camp for almost one month in Izu and Kiyosato. Two of our chairpersons visited the camp in Izu to introduce concepts from our summer festival. During the introductory meeting, we showed a video created by Ms. Emi Yoshizawa who is a student at the Sanriku class. Her message described, through a mother’s eyes, how the local kids were during and after the great quake. She also expressed what she hopes from the summer festival.

August 17 (Fri), the day before the festival. Activities to introduce Japan and Takata to SOCA members.

The first day of the event started with a ‘meet and greet’ session at Ms. Osaka’s residence. Ms. Osaka has been generously providing an English class venue with meals for the coaches. 

After the opening, we toured the quake affected areas guided in English by Ms. Kayo Oikawa who is a student at Komo’s English@Rikuzentakata. This is the third tour of its kind and we readjusted the contents since the area keeps transforming. For example, a few weeks prior to the tour, the signage board at the Okamoto Gas Station was moved to other location. This board was known to mark the farthest point the Tsunami waves reached. We quickly altered the tour accordingly. We also additionally incorporated Imaizumi Heights. This is a newly developed elevated ground area. The Imaizumi Heights area was the origination point until few years ago for the belt conveyor, a contraption that transported soil, to create mounds

As in past years, our last stop was Gassan Shrine. Ms. Keiko Araki made a presentation about Shinto (Japanese traditional religion) and Tsukigami Shrines which she has been studying. Based on the feedback from last year, she upgraded the contents with animation and charts to make the presentation more “American counselor” friendly. By the end, all the counselors learnt the way of Shinto prayers.
After the tour, Ms. Fumiko Osaka gave a lecture on the use of chopsticks and the making rice balls. The counselors were treated with rice balls and miso soup during the lecture. Ms. Osaka took them around her property while sharing experiences from the earthquake. We visited the Takekoma temporary housing site where she spent 5 years. The houses were removed this Spring. People also planted cherry trees in honor of the perished. Trees blossomed for the first time this year. Counselors were treated to Sakura tea using salted cherry petals

Ms. Oikawa, Ms. Araki, and Ms. Osaka made a great effort to prepare for this tour. We believe the experience of communicating what they are learning to the native English speakers had been invaluable. As for the counselors who are also college students, this tour day made an impression on them by listening to the locals’ real experiences

August 18 – 19: “English Summer Festival in Rikuzentakata”

Like last year’s festival, we welcomed support from the Rikuzentakata City Board of Education and the Rikuzentakata International Association. At the four-part festival we had roughly 206 participants from the very young to the very old.

Unlike the rainy festivals of last year and the year before, we had nice weather. On top of the sunny weather, the temperature was comfortable enough for the summer festival. Rain or shine, we planned to have events in the gymnasium, which was being used by former Kesennuma Junior High School. Many returners from previous years added more excitement to the events. From the start of the festival on Saturday afternoon, every participant and SOCA counselors enjoyed sports and games together.

We held the evening BBQ party inside the gym according to the original plan. To make sure that all the participants including volunteers can spend time together, we brought in a Kesennuma caterer “Cheers.” The party was full of fun activities starting with dancing led by the SOCA counselors. Mr. Teichi Sato of Sato Seed Company played wonderful guitar for the group. We danced Takata Bon Odori as we’ve done every year and sang American style camp songs. We concluded the night with a talent show by the counselors.

There were about 40 people staying over-night, about the same number we had last year. On Sunday morning, we hosted a group breakfast for the first time to include all participants. The SOCA counselors showed us “the right way to make PB&J” and we all had a taste of America!
Along with other activities and much more excitement, we concluded the part 4 of the festival.

After we saw off everybody, Ms. Osaka gave a speech. In her speech, Ms. Osaka told us that she was planning to take a trip to the U.S. as a gift from her family after taking care of her mother in law. The trip was cancelled as she lost her second son around the same time. She never made it to the U.S. but hosting the summer festival and welcoming SOCA counselors feel almost as if the America has come to her. All of us, counselors and volunteers, were deeply touched by her speech.

There were 25 volunteers from far or near who supported the operations side. Some were regulars to Komo’s English@Rikuzentakata, some came to the area for the first time, and some were truly new to our group. Also, noteworthy this year is that we had two doctors available in case of emergency, Mr. Yoshizawa on Saturday. and Mr. Takahashi on Sunday.

Our summer festival grew in scale and there was room to improve since last year.  We implemented some changes and because of the changes, the festival went very smoothly. The operations were broken into groups: reception, lodging, transportation, communication, medical, and the reserve. Along with those groups, other volunteers helped to prepare Onigiri and worked on the tour. We are grateful to all of the volunteers and team leaders who worked tirelessly and proactively.

This year’s event brought numerous exchanges and friendships again.

Beside those people we’ve mentioned, there were many other people and organizations who supported this year’s festival. Thank you to: Mr. Matsuda of Matsuda Forestry Company who donated smoking chips for BBQ, local Takata residents who demonstrated Bon Odori to participants, staff members of Futamata Fukko Koryu Center hotel who provided the lodging, facilities staff members of former Kesennnuma Junior High School gymnasium, staff members of Tosnet Rikuzentakata Company who helped direct traffic in the area, and all media companies (The Asahi Shinbun, Iwate Nippou, Tokai Shinnpou, The Yomiuri Shinbunn) Without such generous support, the event couldn’t have been carried out.  

Thank you very much everybody! We are already looking forward to getting together again next year!

(Summer Festival Chair : Nakamura, Fujishima, Omori, Best, Komo)

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