Last weekend I participated in an English event on the island of Naoshima. One of the other teachers, Richard, is based there and does a good job of recruiting the rest of us to come over and help them out every year. The nature of the event is that we get over there, meet the students, join the students for English presentations, closing activities, a free art tour, and finally make the return trip. The adventure took the morning and afternoon, but it was a really great time.
Last year I skipped the event for no reason other than rampant sloth, and apparently missed a pretty nice day. I wasn’t going to let it happen again this time. We met at 8am at Takamatsu Ferry Port, and took a large boat to the other side of the inland sea, to the smallish island. The ferry took nearly an hour, but I was with all my fellow teacher friends, so it passed quickly. After arriving at this island, filled with a population roughly the same as my village, we were met by a bus that took us to the school. I was immediately impressed, as it had an architecture unlike any I had ever seen before. All Japanese schools seem to follow the same cookie-cutter appearance and layout, so this was refreshing.
The whimsical world of Naoshima. These sorts of things are everywhere on this island, known for its art.
After some tea, we had a quick introduction activity with the students, where we were dispersed among the different classes. In this 15 minutes, I had exhausted every entertaining thing in my repertoire, but was happy to find that they would be running the show and I was just along for the ride.
The day consisted of going to a number of different classrooms, where then student hosts would present something to us, each room a different theme. There was a quiz show, information about landmarks on the island, and an international restaurant. All their presentations took place in English, which was really impressive. Maybe it was the result of living in isolation from the rest of the prefecture, or maybe just the amount that they prepared for the event. Either way, great work.
This was the mini group of students I was paired with.
After our lunch with the students, we had another set of activities with the teachers. These were some icebreaker type games and conversation starters after which we were turned loose. From here we had two options: take the boat home or enjoy a complimentary tour of one of the islands many art landmarks or facilities. There is a really nice museum that I would like to see someday, though this time around I opted into a tour of structures renovated by artists – these included a shrine, a dentist’s office, some houses, and a dark room with an illusion. The tour would have been better, but I was right in the midst of my midday lull, and it had sapped my of any desire to be social, awake, or even alive.
The Liberty of Statue, one of the pieces at the converted dentist’s office. 2 stories tall.
At the end of the tours, everyone who had stuck around met at the ferry port for our departure. This was a perfect chance to sate my need to throw something. Myself and the other gents started throwing around a Vortex football I had received for my birthday, and it really hit the spot. Hurling something as far as possible just feels good. The stiff wind played quite a factor in it the trajectory, and we came a few feet from assassinating some children on a couple of occasions.
Finally we boarded the ferry and headed home. It was a really nice chance to see another island and see my friends on a day off, with all expenses taken care of. These cross cultural chances are a great chance for us to fulfill that part of our job description that includes being a cross-cultural ambassador for our home countries. I’m sure that I will participate in the event next year as well.
Edit: I just received a handmade card in the mail from my students, filled with pictures and notes. I will most definitely be doing this again next year.