In July 2019, Hana Tominaga took Sakura Yee to Fukuoka, Japan for the Short Term Visit Program for Young Descendants of Immigrants from Fukuoka. It is a Fukuoka funded program that lets children 11 years old experience Fukuoka in hopes that they will become leaders of their respective Kenjinkai in the future. Here is chaperone Hana Tominaga’s report on their experience. For more information on the program, or if you are a member and have an 11 year child in 2020 to participate in the program please contact us.
From July 5th to July 16th, 2019, Sakura Yee and myself had the privilege of taking part in the 2019 Short Term Visit Program for Young Descendants of Immigrants from Fukuoka from Fukuoka prefecture held by the Fukuoka Exchange Foundation. This is the second time that Toronto has participated in the program. Last year 11 year old Honoka Ishii and Mika Fukuma as the chaperone, participated in the program. The program is for 11 year old children to participate and learn about Fukuoka so that they will continue to be active in their Kenjinkai back home and become our successors one day.
This year, there was a total of 19 children, 12 chaperones and 9 Kempi-university students (students from various Kenjinkais studying on a scholarship for one year in Fukuoka) who participated. They included people from Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle-Tacoma, Southern California, Hawaii, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Paraguay. The children ranged from 2nd generation to 6th generation.
The children spoke an array of languages from Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and English. Most of the children could speak at least two languages which was very impressive.
We all stayed at the Global Arena in Munakata City which is large scale sports complex which has camp style sleeping facilities. The boys and there chaperones together in one part of the building, the girls and leaders in another and Kempi-university students in separate quarters. There was plenty of space for the children to stay active by playing frisbee, soccer or on the outdoor playground together during their free time.
The chaperone’s role is to make sure kids stayed healthy, arrive on time for activities, be safe during the program, understood the activities for each day and translating for the children in there native languages.
On the first day of the program the children had a cultural exchange with students of Munakata’s elementary school making takezaiku (bamboo water guns) then enjoying nagashi soumen (sending soumen noodles down bamboo cut in half with water and catching them to eat) and onigiri together and playing activities prepared by 6 university students.
On the third and fourth days, the children had the opportunity to visit two schools. At Mainosato Elementary School they spent the day with Grade 3 students, and at Ayamegaoka Elementary School they spent the day with Grade 6 students. During the visits, the children introduced themselves, and their country with the banners they all made together once they arrived at the Global Arena, They then participated in activities the school children had prepared. These included traditional games, origami and music. And they then spent the day with the school children in their classrooms, and prepared and had lunch together.
The highlights for the children were visiting Dazaifu Tenmangu and making umegae mochi as well as visiting the Yame Traditional Crafts museum. Here they all made their own fan and learned about traditional lantern dolls. Later in the program we also visited Kokura Castle, Fukuoka Tower and had a hands-on-experience at the Fukuoka Citizens Disaster Prevention Center.
On our last full day together we visited the Fukuoka International Exchange Foundation, the Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly, and visited the Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture and the chairman of the Fukuoka Prefectural assembly for a more formal part of the program. While there, we each gave short introductions and presented gifts from our respective countries. The kids were able to ask questions. Unfortunately moments before meeting the Governor of Fukuoka there was an emergency and he had to cancel.
At the end of our program the children and chaperones had a homestay experience for 3 days, where they all got to stay with their families in Fukuoka. They then all met again with all the families for a farewell party. It was also perfect timing, as during the homestay period was the beginning of the Yamakasa Festival. Many of us had the opportunity to participate with our families or see the festival which included the Governor on one of the floats.
The children all left Fukuoka with a better understanding of many aspects of Fukuoka including school, food, traditions, government and history. And of course they made many new Kenjinkai friends from all over the world. Many of the North American children have still kept in touch online and through LINE sharing pictures and speaking about their experience in Fukuoka.
Sakura and I would like to Thank the Fukuoka International Exchange foundation especially Lim Sankyung who worked tirelessly everyday to make sure everything went smooth for all of us, the Kempi-University students, all the chaperones and children.