It’s easy to think that experiencing Japanese culture ends in eating Japanese food, watching various events, and sightseeing places. But there’s more to that than visiting the major tourist destinations.
If you really want to see what it’s like to live in Japan and how culture is practiced in their everyday lives, consider going to more local places and interacting with the people living there. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to connect with the locals especially if you only go back and forth to your University or your workplace.
This is the reason why some local government organizations launch programs that connect foreigners to locals. One of the many programs is called the Japan Tent.
In this post, I will share my Japan Tent experience 2016 with you.
What is the Japan Tent?
The “Japan Tent” was launched based on the idea of creating a connected world towards the 21st century. The local government of Ishikawa prefecture offers a chance to foreign students studying in Japan by inviting them to live with the local people in the big “Tent” of Ishikawa. The first ever Japan Tent was held in 1988.
There are about 300 exchange students who are selected to join the week-long, fully-paid immersion program that happens in August of every year. The selected individuals would be introduced to a Japanese family living in any one of the 19 cities in Ishikawa, and would stay with the family for about a week.
About 3,000 host families, college students, and staff members of preparatory committees in each city of Ishikawa join the program, behind-the-scenes, every year.
How to Apply to Japan Tent?
I found out about the Japan Tent because the president of OUISA (Osaka University International Students Association) sent a bulk email to the members regarding it. I read the requirements on their website, downloaded, and submitted the application form.
Back when I applied to Japan Tent in 2016, the application form consisted of two pages. Some of the questions included:
- Basic info about the applicant (what university, faculty, email address, nationality, etc.)
- If the applicant speaks English and Japanese (plus the level)
- How the applicant finances his/her studies
- The applicant’s hobbies
- The applicant’s religion
- The applicant’s marital status
- If the applicant has participated in Japan Tent before
- Why the applicant wants to participate in Japan Tent
- What does the applicant hope to benefit from his/her study abroad experience in Japan
- What aspects of the applicant’s country does he/she want to promote
Other items in the application form included cultural and landmark questions about Ishikawa prefecture where the applicant had to do some research in order to fill it out.
The requirements to join the 29th Japan Tent was a copy of health certificate (including lung x-rays and urine analysis, a photocopy of the applicant’s student ID card, and the Japan Tent application form. Of course, the whole application form needs to be filled out in Japanese language.
Japan Tent in 2022
Their latest program will happen on August 18, and the deadline to submit the application form along with the required documents will be on July 29, 2022. It seems that the Japan Tent program happening this year will only take place on one day and not one week. They have also limited the scope of locations where University students can apply for the program. It is most likely due to covid.
What Happens in Japan Tent?
Here’s what the 29th Japan Tent 2016 itinerary looked like:
|August 17 (Day 1)||Meet the organizers and other selected students in Osaka. Take the overnight bus to Ishikawa.|
|August 18 (Day 2)||Arrive in Kanazawa. Welcome Ceremony. Orientation. Meet the host family. Go home with the host family. Prepare for tomorrow’s activity.|
|August 19 (Day 3)||Go to Tsubata Town. Cook some food from your own country.|
|August 20 (Day 4)||Free time with host families.|
|August 21 (Day 5)||Goodbye ceremony with first host family. Speeches. Gathering in Kanazawa, watch performances, lunch, meet 2nd host family.|
|August 22 (Day 6)||Go to Uchinada Town. Play mini sports festival. Attend Japanese arts & crafts workshops. Explore Kenrokuen.|
|August 23 (Day 7)||Free time with host families|
|August 24 (Day 8)||Farewell ceremony. Depart Kanazawa by bus. Arrive Osaka.|
You can check out the entire event schedule we had in this link (mostly written in Japanese). Expect to attend a lot of exciting activities with your host family and other international students all over Japan.
Breaking Down My Japan Tent Experience
Day 1: August 17, 2016 (Wednesday)
The first day pretty much happens when you meet up with the other international students in the city you’re based in. Everyone will gather in a specific location designated by the committee, and will ride an overnight bus to Ishikawa.
Day 2: August 18, 2016 (Thursday)
Welcome Ceremony in Kanazawa
We arrived in Kanazawa on August 17. There were about 300 international students. The ushers guided us in a massive room at a place called Akabane Hall (北國新聞 赤羽ホール). After a few minutes, they provided us with with Japan Tent t-shirts to wear, as well as sandwiches for breakfast. We prepared for about an hour.
Later on, the volunteers guided us inside a huge auditorium. While waiting, the volunteers supported us whenever we had questions.
During the welcome ceremony, someone from the local government came and warmly welcomed all the participants. They briefed us about the purpose, goal, and the mission of the program, and what to expect in the coming days. After that, they provided us some bento boxes for lunch.
When we all had our meals, the facilitators divided us into groups. Each group went to a designated town in Ishikawa. And upon arrival, students would meet their host families. Some host families who volunteered in the program only want to host one international student. Some could take in two students.
My group arrived in a community center in Tsubata town a few minutes after lunch. There, they paired me with another student from Uzbekistan. Then, they introduced us to our host mom. She was there to pick us up with her six-year-old boy.
Before going to their home though, we went to a supermarket to buy the ingredients we need for a cooking activity the program designed us to participate in. The program gave a specific budget for each student which my host mom already has on hand.
My first host family lived in a remote area in Tsubata. Their house was massive and stunning. There were a lot of very Japanese elements in the house. They had a Japanese garden, and probably had five or six bedrooms in the house.
Day 3: August 19, 2016 (Friday)
On the third day, our host parents brought us in a community center. We met the other international students, their host moms and kids and waited for the facilitators to start.
Every international student had their own cooking station. We had our own stove and our own set of pots.
Whenever we needed common ingredients though, there was a pantry in a specific room where we could go to in order to get basics such as salt, pepper, soy sauce, and other condiments.
When it was time to start, we put our aprons on, and started cooking. Our host mom, together with her son, was just there to support us, ask questions, take pictures, and help us if we needed anything.
When the allotted cooking time was up, we had to present our finished dishes to everyone. We put our dishes on nice plates and wrote what it was on a piece of paper.
Each international student would stand beside the meal they prepared and wait for the host families to go around and ask questions.
Later on, we all went around the room. We checked one another’s finished meals, and tried the foods we were interested in.
After that productive morning, we all went home and spent time with our host families.
In our host family’s home, we spent a lot of time talking to our host mom, playing with her baby, preparing lunch or dinner together, or taking a walk outside their home.
Day 4: August 20, 2016 (Saturday)
Free Day with Our Host Family
The program allotted one free day with our host families. My host parents prepared a full-day schedule for us. If I can remember correctly, we had breakfast on that day, and left home, and strolled in an area surrounded by trees. Then they brought us to Myouryuji (Ninja Temple) in Kanazawa and spent some time exploring the area.
We ate lunch at a Ramen shop in Kanazawa, went home and took some rest.
Around 4 or 5pm, my host parents drove us to a nearby park where they let their son play with other kids in the area and later on, all of us joined.
When we all got tired, we went home, had some dinner, took a shower, and went out yet again. This time, we went to a karaoke place. Of course, I had to sing my heart out that day.
Day 5: August 21, 2016 (Sunday)
When it was time, we were called one by one to read our messages to our host families, and our parents would come in front to receive the message and take a picture.
We bid our goodbyes on that day, and took a lot of photos.
Japan Tent Fiesta
The bus took us to ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel in Kanazawa. There, we went inside a massive hall where another set of host families were waiting for us. At the beginning though, we didn’t know our host family was, so we just stood wherever we wanted.
In the hall, there were a lot of tall but small round tables everywhere. There was also a long rectangular table which was later on filled with food. At the front of the hall, there was a centerstage and a poster with the title “Japan Tent Fiesta.”
The event was indeed a fiesta because before we could meet our host families, there was a series of performances by the local people. Some international students also volunteered to perform in this event.
After the performances, everyone went to get their own paper plates and start having buffet-style lunch.
The facilitators then asked the international students to find their second host family by finding their name and a specific table number on a white board.
Meeting my second host family
When I met my second host family, I was really shy because this time I was alone. I didn’t have a partner and had to keep speaking in Japanese.
My second host dad was a doctor, and my host mom was a nurse. After a few greetings, we left the hall and they took me immediately to Yamato Koji Park where we toured around a former soy sauce factory in Ishikawa.
The park displays traditional production methods and tools, as well as huge barrels where soy sauce is fermented. They bought me soy sauce-flavored ice cream and just explored the area.
Before going home, my host parents brought me to a sushi restaurant. We had dinner together and just talked about my life in Japan and their daily life as well.
Day 6: August 22, 2016 (Monday)
From Mini-Sports Festival to Arts and Crafts Day
On the 6th day, the organizers had a full-day planned for us. In the morning, the international students and their host families were scheduled to join a mini sports festival in Uchinada Town. After the event, we all went to a pasture and enjoyed looking at and petting farm animals.
- Japanese-Sweets Making Experience
- Okiagari Painting Experience
- Gold Leaf Decoration Experience
- Miniature Shime Daiko Japanese Drum Making Experience
- Sandblasted Glass Etching Experience (Hanko)
- Matcha Powdered Green Tea Experience
All of which comes with a fee (¥500-¥2500). But the Japan Tent Organizers let us experience one or two of these classes for free.
After that, we went to Kenrokuen, (rated as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan), Kanazawa Castle, Uchinada Museum, and Uchinada Beach.
Day 7: August 23, 2016 (Tuesday)
Free Day with my second host family
Similar to the schedule with my first host family, I had a free day with my second host family. If I can remember correctly, we spent most of the day at home. But in the afternoon, my host family took me to the beach.
We had dinner at home, spent time talking a bit more, and then went to bed.
Day 8: August 24, 2016 (Wednesday)
On the last day, we all gathered at Akabane Hall at around 11am in the morning. There was a farewell speech from the local government of Kanazawa, some performances, and videos, and that was the end of it.
Everyone bid their goodbyes to each other, rode their respective buses and we all went back home.
My Japan Tent experience is easily the most memorable programs I’ve ever participated in. I feel really lucky to be part of the program.
Looking back, I can say that this experience influenced my way of life and way of thinking.
Even if I’m living in another country now, I still practice the good customs I learned from Japan. I still segregate trash, I still discipline myself to follow rules all the time, I still try to learn the language so that I can always be connected to the people I’ve met in Japan.
I highly recommend the Japan Tent program to any foreign students studying in Japan. You will not only learn and enjoy, but you’ll also understand and connect with the Japanese even more.