Michigan Students Learnt Japan in Minami-Uonuma


ECOPLUS hosted a group of students from University of Michigan from 19 to 20 May in Minami-Uonuma for their learning on the relation with environment, life and culture through experiencing rice planting, weaving and other activities.


The trip was conducted by the relation with Ms. Leslie Pincus of University of Michigan and TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, as a part of their 3 weeks long tour to Japan.

Drying cooked mountain vegetable, “Zenmei.”


On 19th, they strolled around the village of Tochikubo which is located on the slope of around 500 meters elevation. They were deeply impressed by the scenery of mountains covered by white snow and young green, saying “this land might be so expensive.” They also encountered an old lady who was drying mountain vegetable called “Zenmai.”


On 20th, they experienced traditional rice planting by hands. They screamed a bit while they put their bare feet in the muddy soil of the paddy but later they acquired how to plant young seedlings in line and they finished the work in three hours.

Traditional sitting loom, called “IZARI-Bata,” or いざりばた


On the last day, 21st, they came back to the city area, “Shiozawa,” to learn about the local ramie cloth called “Echigo-Zyofu,” which has over a thousand year history. Specialists from Echigo-Jofu technique preservation association demonstrated how to get fibers fro the skin of the plant, how to dye the yarn for patterns, and how to weave. Some of the students experienced actual works by their hands.


Through the three-day stay, they seem to deepen the understanding on the relation with life and nature, like getting fuels from the forest, drinking water from the spring, making the water system running around all the terraced rice paddies.

DAY 8) Coming back with big smiles from homestay ホームステイ後、笑顔で再会

Discussion reflecting the days in Japan started
  After the Yapese students gathered with their host families in the morning 18th March, they had a social gathering. We saw their big smiles in the pictures during homestay, so that we could immediately find they had a wonderful time. Also, Yapese students gave a presentation and introduced about Yap, and their host families listened carefully.

Discussion continued, ふり返りの議論が続きます
After that, they enjoyed making ice-cream by making good use of snow, and playing with snow. Then, they had a reflection session about these days, and shared their findings and thoughts from their own perspectives.

For dinner, they ate more than the first day. We kept laughing during dinner and seemed to get to know well each other through these eight days.夕食では初日より食べる量が増えていたり、笑いが絶えなかったり、8日間もの間一緒に過ごしてきたことを実感しました。

Reported by SHINOHARA Ayumi and OZAKI Yuka

Presentation and Farewell, March 29th 報告会とパーティ

(by Sakane Natsumi) Today we would have a presentation and a farewell party.
In the morning, students in three groups resumed their work to prepare for the presentation from 9 o’clock.
Yesterday we mainly discussed what the Yapese kids had learned through the program, and at the night, we started to think about what society they want to be in the future. Today, we worked out ideas on poster-pape. They looked very fun to write their posters.

At 11:30, we went to the Micronesian Embassy.
The building is not so big. However, all stuff members in the embassy including the ambassador welcomed us with a big heart. Although, the time was short but we really had a good time.
130329大使館s 130329桜で遊ぶs
During the going and returning, there were a lot of cherry blossoms along the streets. We walked beneath a blizzard of falling cherry blossoms. The children were so lucky that they could see both cherry blossoms and snow during the one stay in Japan. When we went back to the hotel at 2:00, some resumed their work, others enjoyed their free time and the others took a nap until 4:30. Then we moved to Tokyo Science University which was today’s venue.

The presentation session started at 6:00.
MC was Christopher. Although it was his first time to do MC but he did very well. Kammagar Christopher!
All the kids made really nice presentations and declarations. I hope this presentation will help them think more about their future and make better tomorrow.

After the session, the next was a farewell party.
Many people including the sponsors and the host families came to have a fun with us chatting, having a dinner and sharing their experiences.
After a small chat, each student expressed their experiences and their feelings. Then Ms.Inaba taught and had these kids experience the tea ceremony. After the tea ceremony, kids sang songs. The time was limited but people seemed to enjoy their time in a warm atmosphere.

The end of the party, we made a surprise for Ms.Takano. Actually, the next day was Ms.Takako’s birthday! We gave her a message card, singed wood-board and a cake.
By coincidence, the first day of this program is Mr.Ohmae’s birthday and the last day is Ms.Takano’s birthday.
Not only for Yapese kids but also for the stuff members, this program was meaningful. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Ms.Takano and Mr.Ohmae for all the work they had done.

Because of the time pressures, we took a group photo outside and finally Yoshiki sang a song with his gutter. He made the song named “slowly but surely”. The song was really nice and the audiences’ spirits pick up!

After the party, we had the last reflection meeting at the hotel.








時間がおしてしまったので、外で記念写真と鳥山さんのライブ。彼は今回、ずっとプログラム中スタッフとして同行しており、この経験で感じたことをかいた「slowly but surely」という曲を28日に作詞作曲。大いに盛り上がりました。

そんなこんなでホテルに帰ったあと、最後の簡単な振り返りミーティング。今日の報告担当 坂根菜摘

Cultural day, March 27th, 3月27日禅寺とラーメン

(by Sakane Natsumi)
Today was the last day in Niigata.
Last night Yapese kids and young staff members had a great meeting until late at night.
However, especially group C members (we divided into three groups and made dishes or washed the dishes in turn) got up early and started to make breakfast.
After the breakfast, we cleaned all the rooms, toilets and corridors.
During the cleaning, some host families came to say good-by to their “kids”.
1130327龍澤寺でJun 130327松井食堂ラーメン
We left the accommodation at 9:30 and went to the Ryutaku temple.
The monk taught us three important things: maintaining the fine posture, catching your breath, living in peace and harmony. Then we had an experience of ” Zazen”, it is a kind of meditation. What we had to do was simple but it was difficult. To make good posture, concentrate on breathing and count the number.
For lunch, we ate chinese noodles which are called “Ramen “, then took a little walk and went to Takano-san’s parents’ home. They welcomed us kindly and served us extremely good water and snacks.
At 2:30, got into the bus and left Niigata. It took 3 and a half hours to get to Tokyo.
For dinner, we separeted into three groups, which I mentioned above, and went to restaurants (two groups went to Japanese-style food restaurants and the other went to Gyudon-shop which serves beef on rice)
Humm…..what I want to say the most is I am really tired but had a great time in Niigata!
Kids’ faces are now totally different from what those were before we went to Niigata, they looks more cheerful, relaxed, satisfied. I hope they learned something from visit in Niigata and will apply the learning to their own lives when they go back to Yap.
 まずはじめに 和尚さんから3つの大切なことを教わります。姿勢を整えること、呼吸を整えること、そして心を整えること。その後、お経があった後、いよいよ座禅に入ります。
130327龍澤寺でみんなで2 牧之通り散策
 その後少し散歩がてら牧之通りを歩き、高田屋さんで古い建造物や品物を見せてもらい、最後になんと高野さんのご実家にお邪魔させていただきました短い時間でしたが、ご両親は大変あたたかく向かい入れてくださって、非常においしい井戸水やお菓子を くださいました。
 ふぅ、、、とにかく新潟への旅はかなり疲れて、いまいち頭も働いていませんが、新潟の皆さんには本当によくしていただいて、非常に充実した4日間でした。子供たちが少しでも多くのことを今回の新潟への旅で学んでいることを望んでいます。ではでは、これでようやく私も寝れます。おやすみなさい。    坂根菜摘

“Zen” at a temple, お寺で座禅

At the final day in Minami-Uonuma, students visited a local temple and experience “zen” and Japanese calligraphy.

南魚沼最終日の今日は、地元のお寺を訪ね、座禅と習字をさせてもらいました。 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During zen practice, students were quite good to stay in the same pose, the monk admired.



They walked through an old street redeveloped recently resembling similar atmosphere as same as hundreds years ago.


Sushi Party in Niigata, March 25th, 70人近くで巻きずしパーティ

by GOTO Ei

Natsumi, Mr.Ohmae and I went to the supermarket to prepare for today’s exchange session. At 3 pm , we started preparation. Cooking rice, cutting cucumbers and raw fishes.

At 5:30pm, Yapese and host families gathered at Shiozawa Seminar House. The session was held with many local foods. For example, they gave us yellow pickles(Takuan) , sermon, boiled plants(Zenmai), etc. We ate Temaki-sushi.130325懇親会巻きずしs.jpg  130325夜のミーティングs.jpg

At the session, Tina met the family who hosted her 16 years ago. The host mother and father came to the session to meet her. They looked so happy and I was impressed.

Mr. Nozawa, who is a photographer, showed us a picture show. It included pictures of Yap and Japan! I haven’t been to Yap , but want to go there. Because all the pictures were beautiful.

After that, Yapese and Japanese had a meeting each. Yapese finished at 11pm. Chaperones and young staff finished around 12 am. Actually, I was sleepy, but it was very good to talk about many things.





その後は、ヤップと日本の若者がそれぞれ何をこれまで学んだかを議論し、ヤップの若者たちの会話は午後11時まで、日本の若者とスタッフのミーティングは午前零時まで続きました。とっても眠いのですが、いろんなことを話すことができてよかったです。今日の報告担当 後藤瑛