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TOMODACHI Ties Through Taiko Blog

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  • Monday, August 08, 2016 7:30 AM | Anonymous

    Monday August 8 arrived, and the exchange program truly began!

    We opened the day at Nihon Fukushi University Affiliated High School, with some greetings by both sides. The American TOMODACHI participating students delivered some presents to Rakko: a sports banner with accompanying card, and popcorn from The Pittsburgh Popcorn Company.

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    After the morning's greetings, we traveled to Mihama City Hall, where we were greeted by the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Mihama, along with members of the government's education department. Beyond our greeting, the members of Rakko were able to successfully report receiving 3rd Prize at the All Nippon High School Bunkasai last week. 

    From city hall, we traveled to the seaside restaurant Uotaro, where we had BBQ. The students cooked fish, shrimp, clams, and many other fresh catches from the sea. 

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    After lunch, the students gave their first performance in Japan! They performed "Arashi" in front of an audience waiting for them in the Uotaro restaurant, on drums borrowed from Rakko - drums that, in some cases, are much bigger than what they're used to!

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    Their performance was a rousing success, showing both the members of Rakko and the attending crowd the results of their hard work over the past year. 

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    After the American students were finished, Rakko performed two songs, wrapping up a great time at Uotaro.

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    From Uotaro, the group traveled to Ebisenbei no Sato, a ebi senbei (rice cracker made with fresh shrimp) factory in Mihama. Beyond learning how ebi senbei are made, they also had the chance to cook and design their own senbei!

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    We then travelled to Shio no Yakata, where the students not only learned how salt is made in Mihama, but also had the chance to make salt themselves!

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    From Shio no Yakata, it was a short walk to Ryosanji, a Buddhist temple that is home to the grave of Otokichi, a Japanese castaway who in 1832 got caught in a storm with 14 others, before landing with 2 other survivors in the United States in 1834. Otokichi's journey is the subject of the song  that Rakko performed at the All Nippon High School Bunkasai. 

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    After Ryosanji came Noma Daibou (Omidoji Temple), famous for being the site where Minamoto no Yoshitomo - father of the first Kamakura shogun - was murdered. Students learned more about the story and saw the grave, which is covered with wooden swords left by those seeking to have prayers answered.

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    Following this, everyone returned to NIhon Fukushi University Affiliated School, having made it through an full and busy day, all the while not losing to the heat. Tomorrow is the first taiko practice in Japan, followed by a trip to Nagoya for a visit to a science center and a reception held by the Aichi America-Japan Society. Stay tuned!

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    For more pictures from the day's adventures, follow this link to see the Flickr album.


  • Monday, August 08, 2016 6:22 AM | Anonymous

    Sunday, August 7 was a day off for the students, a chance to relax and spend some time with their host families. And everyone made the most of this time! 

    I asked everyone to write a brief description of what they did (and include some pictures, if they so chose). Here's a glimpse into how they spent their first full day in Japan!

    Ashley Whitehead: My host family took me to a local shrine and a local festival.

    Evan Lysko (with Sebastian Feliu and Cole Gradeck): Went to Osu temple with my brother, cole, and Sebastian  (6 people ) stopped in a bunch of stores. Used subway.

    Jacob Aluise: I went to atsutajingu and Nagoya castle, after that I went to an exhibit of Fujiko F. Fujio's manga.

    Jasmine Talbert: I went to Inuyama Castle.

    Maya Best: Yesterday I went shopping at Aeon in the morning and then we visited a Neko cafe. There were many cute cats that gathered around us and ate treats from our hands. In the evening we went to a market to buy vegetables and meat for dinner.


    TaeChaun Goggins: Yesterday, my host family and I went to a festival, enjoying the sights, sounds, and the treats. In the evening, we went to my host siblings' wadaiko practice.

    Jacob Stuligross: We went to Okazaki castle, where we saw a few museums, and then we went to a kaitenzushi restaurant. When we came home, my host brother taught me how to play fue.

    Sabrina Cheng: I went to 3 temples on Kyoto: kiyomizu, kushimi inari, and kinkakuji.


  • Saturday, August 06, 2016 9:05 AM | Anonymous
    After 18 hours in the air, we've arrived in Japan! We were greeted graciously and enthusiastically by members of Rakko, as well as our host families! Following a quick gathering, everyone departed to their respective homes for some time together and much needed rest!
    August 5-6, 2016 - TOMODACHI Day 1 & 2 - Travel

    (Click on the picture to see more from the two days of travel)

    Tomorrow is a day off for everyone, and they'll be spending it with their host families. We hope to have some great stories to report back to you all!

  • Friday, August 05, 2016 6:03 AM | Anonymous

    Today’s the day! Everyone met up at Pittsburgh International Airport bright and early - 4:45 AM! It appears that most of the students did not sleep last night, but nevertheless they’re all excited and ready to go!


  • Tuesday, August 02, 2016 4:32 PM | Anonymous

    Hello! My name is Ben Pachter. Along with fellow Pittsburgh Taiko member Erin Kelly, I’ll be serving as chaperone for the August 2016 TOMODACHI Ties Through Taiko trip to Japan. Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll be providing updates about the trip as it happens, uploading pictures and videos as I recap the daily activities for our blog readers.

    The 10 participants in the program leave for Japan this Friday, and are incredibly excited to embark on this journey. As we make final preparations, I wanted to open up the blog by introducing you to the program, the participants, and what we’ve been up to over the past year. 

    From August 7 to 16, 2015, seven middle school and high school students from the Pittsburgh area participated in the first round of a cultural exchange as part of the TOMODACHI Ties Through Taiko program. They welcomed to Pittsburgh 12 students from Nihon Fukushi University Affiliated High School’s wadaiko club “Rakko.” Over the course of a week, the students practiced taiko together, visited cultural sites across the Pittsburgh area, and learned more about the role that arts organizations have played in Pittsburgh’s renaissance. The week culminated in a joint taiko performance by both groups at Pittsburgh CAPA. A slideshow with highlights from the exchange can be seen below, and more videos can be seen on the Pittsburgh Taiko YouTube page:


    After part one of the exchange was done, the students began preparing for the next part: a trip to Japan in August 2016. Five of the students who participated in the August 2015 exchange were joined by five more high school students from across the Pittsburgh area. I'll let them introduce themselves...


    Over the past year, the students have been preparing for their trip, practicing weekly and performing across Pittsburgh (including a pre-trip performance at Pittsburgh CAPA on July 21):


    Now, they are making their final preparations for a trip to Mihama, Aichi Prefecture, where they will be engage in the second part of the TOMODACHI Ties Through Taiko Exchange. Stay tuned to this blog for daily (hopefully) updates from the trip!

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