Rainbow For Japan Kids #1

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 – Friday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The children set out from Tohoku to Hawaii via Narita International Airport.

Because they are children departing from the disaster-stricken areas, it was difficult just to move them from one place to another. After a full day of a lot of moving around, they arrived at Narita International Airport. There, the children briefly met each other for the first time. They also received “bloggie” cameras from Sony who supported this project. Then, the children boarded the plane after having been seen off by Miyagi Bikki Organization members Kaori Kano, Moko Ogawa, and Yusa Mimori.

Before boarding, the pilot, the copilot, and the head flight attendant came to greet the children. When the children boarded, they were sent off with gifts and applause from the ground staff. Even on the in-flight announcement, the Rainbow for Japan Kids project was introduced, and before arrival, the flight attendants gave the children gifts such as message cards.

For many of the children, it was their first time aboard an airplane and their time going abroad, and so they were very nervous and unable to sleep during the flight.

bh1_01At the airport in Hawaii, they passed through the nail-biting immigration inspections smoothly. Then, as they boarded the bus, they greeted with leis, after which they headed off to do some sightseeing. The children looked around the famous Moanalua Gardens, the site of the Hitachi tree as well as Pali Lookout in Nu’uanu.
bh1_04Afterwards, the bus arrived at the Japanese consulate. Here, they held a welcome reception party. Although the children held stiff expressions due to the long trip as well as being nervous, it seems that they were pleased with their warm welcome.

In the afternoon, the children finally checked in to the Pagoda Hotel where they would be staying the night. They were split into groups of 5 and went to settle into their rooms. The unpacked and rested for a short while. However, it seems that one lively group of boys spared no time in getting to know each other as they played together around the hotel.

In the evening, the children went to Kahala Hotel & Resort Oahu where they enjoyed Dolphin Quest (a dolphin show).

Through special arrangements, the children were really excited as they were able to watch the show from up-close. It seems as though their bundles of nerves had become undone. After the show, they enjoyed a buffet-style dinner indoors, and after the meal, they walked along the beach that continued from the hotel grounds and relaxed.

When the children returned to their hotel, their long day was finally over. You must all be tired. Good work everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011
At 7:30, the children ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
All of the children rested 5 people to a room each but due to the fatigue brought on by the long journey there were some children who didn’t come out from their rooms. However, we somehow managed to depart on time.

bh1_21On this day, the children went to Camp Erdman located on the north side of Oahu. The children brought along backpacks packed with things for 3 days and 2 nights. Before this, along the way one place they stopped by was Kualoa Ranch. It is a place that was used for the backdrop in various movies because of its rich verdant landscapes.

Here, the children took part in team-building activities. Through various games, they learned to cooperate with one another in group activities while having fun. Not much time had passed since they met one another so at first it was a little awkward for them, but they became really excited over the centipede contest that used a plank.

After that, they participated in a bus tour that took them around to the locations of the premises that were used in the movies. The children’s emotions rose as they saw sceneries with their own eyes that they wouldn’t normally see in Japan.

After having lunch, they boarded the bus once again and headed off to Camp Erdman.

As the shoreline became visible to them, there were children who said they wanted to go into the ocean and asked if they would be able to do so. Because there were children in the group who were devastated by the tsunami, the organizers in Hawaii ventured to make arrangements for them for a program that avoided going into the ocean. However, the children who were primarily raised along shoreline areas appeared to love playing in the ocean. It seems that the impressions you get from the oceans in Japan and Hawaii are different, and also, because it hasn’t even been half a year since the earthquake disaster, conversely the mental trauma might not have yet set in.

Thus, the children safely arrived at Camp Erdman and settled in to the cabins where they would be staying. Thanks to the courtesy of the hotel where they were staying this time, we borrowed sheets, blankets, and pillows which the children used to make their beds. After that, it was activity time. The children were split into 2 groups and enjoyed archery and rock climbing.

The children had dinner at the dining hall. Everyone staying at the camp gathered together, and at that time, kitchen patrol was decided by cabin. The cabin group that were chosen for duty had to report to the dining hall fifteen minutes before meal time upon which they lined up the chairs, set the plates, and, when it was meal time, carried the food dishes to each of the tables. It had an atmosphere similar to that of a boardinghouse, and after everyone said “Itadakimasu” (“Thank you for the meal”), they began to eat. 5 minutes before the end of meal time, “5 more minutes, 5 more minutes” were repeatedly called out upon which everyone rushed to go and get second helpings.

After dinner, it was time for the meeting with the non-profit organization Kids Hurt Too Hawaii which has taken charge of caring for these children. There, everyone gathered in a circle, and, while introducing themselves, talked about their experiences of the great earthquake disaster.

Of course, as a rule, the children didn’t have to force themselves to say anything they didn’t want to say, and it was explained to them beforehand that they were not to talk to others about the stories they heard from their peers here. This wasn’t to compel them to say anything, however most of the children talked about their experiences in a few short words. There were people who cried and feelings that were held in until now were let out; it became quite depressing. However, after that, they moved on to a Koa tree shaving activity.

The Koa tree is a Hawaiian tree. It is very sturdy and is used as material to make various things such as ukuleles. At the camp, the children cut the blocs of wood into their favorite shapes, fined them down with files, and made them into pendant charms. For the activity, pre-cut blocks of Koa tree wood were distributed, and the children were taught how to fine the wood down with the files. The Koa tree is very tough and so it was quite difficult to file them down. However, by doing their best to file the wood, the children were able to make their very own one-of-a-kind charms. They became engrossed in filing the wood upon hearing that it will be a precious memory, charm, or treasure as they thought about the people and things they’ve lost from the earthquake disaster. Actually, there wasn’t enough time to complete this activity, but after that, the children continued to work on their charms during the small gaps of time they found during their travels. As a wrap-up, the children enjoyed time around the camp fire.

bh1_28Kelsey, of the Japan-America Society which has made the arrangements for the children’s stay at the camp, had prepared the popular “s’mores” snack for the children. It’s a snack in which you sandwich a marshmallow between a block of chocolate and some graham crackers after having toasted it over the fire. It was very popular among the children from Japan as well, and many of them ate a number of s’mores by themselves. Also, everyone had a great time as they gathered around the fire and talked about various things.

Earlier at the Kids Hurt Too meeting, a feeling of fellowship sprouted within the children as they shared their disaster experiences with one another. That night, even after returning to their rooms, the children continued to talk among themselves. Up until now, many of the things they talked about have been harmless topics, but they also talked about things they couldn’t share with their normal peers such as their experiences at the refuge shelters and how they’ve been doing since the earthquake disaster.

The children had many things to talk about, but the trip was not yet over. It was lights out at 11 P.M. Good night everyone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Throughout the morning, at the camp, the children did team-building activities. Above all else, everyone put their heads together and cooperated to accomplish a single task. In this particular activity that involved carrying a bucket of water, it appeared that their solidarity had strengthened considerably through trial and error as they brainstormed together.

On this day, as the ambassadors in Hawaii, a children’s group called the Bridge Club who does exchange activities with various groups had arrived at the camp and spent time with the children from Japan. The children in the Bridge Club consisted of students from the higher elementary school grade levels to students in high school, so they were immediately able to get along well with the children from Japan, as their ages were nearly the same.

bh1_34Actually, it was here when the representative of the board of directors Muneyuki Sato, who was brought along from Miyabikki Organization, parted ways and returned to Japan. After having said his final goodbyes, there was a request from the children, and he performed a rendition of “Aoba Jo Koi Uta” by ukulele. In addition, as for Tatsuya Aoki who participated in this program, his birthday is on the 30th, and according to Japan time it was the 30th, and so with Mr. Muneyuki at the center everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and celebrated his birthday.

In the afternoon, the children went hiking on the mountain in the back of the camp together with the Bridge Club. After they returned to the camp, they had free time, and some of the children spent the time playing volleyball on the courts at the camp. This time, of all the children that participated, there were only 5 boys, so they seemed really happy to be able to play sports with the children from the Bridge Club. Also, by the strong wishes of the children, we allowed them to play on the shoreline for a little bit during this free time. Because safety for the children such as life savers when swimming in the ocean wasn’t secured, they could only go into the ocean with the promise of going in as deep as the level of their knees. However, the children seemed like they had a lot of fun just playing in the rippling waves and the sand, and we could see that the expressions on their faces came to life.

After dinner, the children held long chats with the children from the Bridge Club at the tables in front of the cabins and the open spaces. The children of the Bridge Club couldn’t particularly speak Japanese, and the children from Japan weren’t adept at speaking English so they conversed through broken words. However, it seemed fresh and stimulating to the children. On this day too they gathered around the camp fire and ate s’mores, but they were livelier than the day before. On the next day, we were to leave the camp which meant having to part ways with the children from the Bridge Club, so after having exchanged contact information, we all took commemorative photos together.

The memories of this camp where the children were able to interact with the local children seemed to be specially engraved into the hearts of the children.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On this day, the children were set to depart from the camp early in the morning. It was a short amount of time but the children said their goodbyes with the Bridge Club whom they became close with. Everyone gathered in front of the bus and saw the children off.

Well, the children set off to Rainbow Gakuen Japanese School. It’s a school in Hawaii for the Japanese. On weekdays, the children attend their local schools, and attend Rainbow Gakuen on Saturdays.

In the beginning, the children were led into the hall where they received welcome greetings. In order to carry out today’s program, the children were divided into groups and received leis from the Rainbow Gakuen students with which they were paired. Then they gathered together by groups. The event for the morning was a dodge ball tournament. The children from Rainbow Gakuen and the children from the Rainbow Project from Japan formed 4 combined teams and played against each other in a round-robin tournament. After the winning team was decided, there was also a tournament with team Hawaii and team Japan in opposition by gender, and it was very lively. The children that like sports were particularly the boys, but the children were all very glad to be moving their bodies around freely. The rules were slightly different compared with those in Japan. Here, they used 2 balls and there was an outfielder on the side; it seemed like there was some confusion, but the children quickly became used to them and appeared to have had a great time.

For lunch, we returned to the hall and had spam musubis that some of the parents had prepared for us as well as Japanese boxed lunches call TOKYO Boxed Lunch. It was the first time any of us had Japanese food in a while. The children took a short break as they chatted with the Rainbow Gakuen children with whom they became familiar through the dodge ball tournament. The girls in particular seemed lively as they were surprised that Japan idol groups were popular even all the way in Hawaii, and also as they talked about the latest trends.

In the afternoon, the children were split into groups and created haiku. Everyone had put forth their own ideas and made their haikus, but in the end, it was decided that a representative from each group would present. Upon writing their haiku on imitation Japanese paper, they presented it front of everyone. In one group, Nami Kumatani from Japan’s work was chosen, and she came to the front and presented her poem which received great praise for its unique point of view. “Ureshii na, Hawai de taiken, redifaasuto” (“I’m so happy, my experience in Hawaii, ladies first”). After the presentations, the student council president answered questions from everyone who came from Japan, and there was also a hip hop and a ukulele performance. In addition, on this day, it was also Tatsuya Aoki’s birthday according to the local time, and Sean Mizukami who played the ukulele, played “Happy Birthday” on the ukulele while everyone sang along in chorus.

bh1_58Our next destination was Sand Island where captain of the Hokule’a Mr. Nainoa was. Capt. Nainoa talked to us about Hokule’a’s marine navigation methods and the next time he would be setting sail. He also introduced us to a young female who came from Japan to study in order to ride the Hokule’a. Lastly, we were able to see the actual Hokule’a.

The children appeared to be interested in and were very surprised at Mr. Nainoa’s stories of world travel as well as the techniques and awareness of marine navigation by looking at the stars. Perhaps, the birth of Hokule’a’s future sailors may be among these children. And so, Capt. Nainoa also talked with great enthusiasm.

The agenda for the day was over. We returned to the hotel and the children ate their dinners, and actually, fun had been waiting for them. It was shopping at the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center. It has still been only about 3 months since the earthquake disaster, and primarily, shopping is a daily conduct. However, most of the children had been living in refuge shelters, had moved to relatives’ homes, or had rented apartments for temporary housing, so as expected the children themselves felt something having endured various things. Because of that, they had a great time as it seemed as though those feelings were at once freed.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

On this day, we spent the morning at the Bishop Museum. Here, there were many exhibits displaying Hawaii’s history and nature. It was a wonderful place where even the local children come to learn as part of their class for school. We were shown around by Asanuma san who was a volunteer guide. The children heard various interesting stories about Hawaii’s history such as those about Hawaii’s kings as well as why there are many Japanese in Hawaii. After that, the children had some free time where they looked around at everything the wide museum had to offer. Just so happen, there was also a dinosaur exhibit on site. The children seemed impressed to see the large-scale animals they don’t normally see such as the dinosaur models and the whale showpieces.

For lunch, we had boxed lunches in a garden on the grounds of the museum. On this day, too, the missus of a Japanese restaurant had prepared boxed lunches with rice and a variety of side dishes which were really popular with the children. It may have been a time when they were missing a little bit of the flavors from their homeland.

The next destination was Hickam Air Force Base. The children were able to see this U.S. air force base in which regular citizens aren’t normally allowed to enter. The number one purpose was to be able to tour the air cargo planes that carried emergency provisions to the Tohoku area that was part of the American forces’ “Operation Friend” at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The children saw an array of machinery, toured the airport of the base, and saw the many varieties and sizes of the planes. The children were each allowed to sit in the cockpit of the airplanes. They were really excited at this valuable experience. Furthermore, actually, being able to see the actual people and planes that came all the way from America when the people of Japan were in trouble as they lacked food and water at the time of the earthquake disaster appeared to have been deeply engraved in their hearts.

There was an arrangement by the American troops in which at the end of the tour, a place where the messages from 2 children representatives are expressed was set up, and they were able to receive messages from the colonel who gave us the tour as well as from some of the servicemen who actually took part in “Operation Friend.” Both the children as well as the servicemen who went to the disaster-stricken areas were filled with deep emotion and welled with tears as they never imagined they would meet in Hawaii 3 months after the earthquake disaster.

bh1_71Today our last event was a visit to the KoAloha Ukulele factory. Here, Kaori Kano and Moko Ogawa from Miyabikki Organization, who will be accompanying us for the second half of the program, joined us for a tour of the factory. We shaved blocks of the Koa tree which are used as material for the ukuleles and made key chains, and we also received a mini lesson in which we got to actually try and play the ukulele. After that, we got to see how ukuleles are actually made. Lastly, there was a mini concert with performances by Ryan Nakamura, the champion of the Chibikko category of a Hawaii ukulele players contest, and Jody Kamisato. The factory’s Okami family also performed a song “Nandemo Dekiru” (“We can do anything”). This song was composed by husband Alvin Okami with the thought of wanting to encourage the Japanese people who have lost their spirit as a result of the earthquake disaster. The first lyrics are written in Japanese and the second in English. It seems the warm feelings of the Okami family had reached the children.

After the concert, we all went outside of the factory and had a dinner barbeque. The children were also delighted at the Hawaiian local style barbeque. Furthermore, as a surprise, each of the twenty children who participated in this program were presented with a ukulele from the KoAloha Ukulele factory.

At night, we set aside some time for their 2nd time to go shopping, and so we all went to Walmart. It’s a supermarket where the local people also go to shop. It was huge and also had a souvenir corner where the children fully enjoyed themselves as they shopped while having thought of the people waiting for them back in Japan.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Today, we moved from the island of Oahu to the island of Hawaii.
We went to Honolulu International Airport, and this time, we went on board the domestic flight Hawaiian Airlines.

Upon arriving at Kona International Airport, we headed off to the Doutor Coffee farm.
Here, the children studied about Hawaii’s Kona coffee. They received explanations about the string of operations from how the coffee beans are cultivated down to when they are roasted. They also experienced actual coffee bean picking. After that, they were also given a tour of an on-site fruit garden. They were surprised as they saw how pineapples grow from the ground as well as how the fruits that we eat daily grow. Also, the children got to see plants that are characteristic of many southern countries. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing tour.

For lunch, we ate sandwiches at a garden with a great view, and in the end, we each received a proof of coffee bean harvesting experience certificate. Next, we went to Keauhou beach.

bh1_81At Keauhou beach, Mana Hasegawa told us stories that are passed down from the past by the people who live in this area and performed a chant for us. Then, we proceeded to experience some Hawaiian culture. First, we were taught how to make bracelet leis using ti leaves. After that, we were introduced to age-old Hawaiian games which everyone played and freely enjoyed. Lastly, Mana invited us plant some ti trees.

“In the past, a tsunami also came to this island of Hawaii, and the plants and everything were washed away. However, through this, new trees were planted again and things have returned to the way they are now. We will take care of the trees that everyone planted today, so please come back again to see these trees. Please work hard and use that money to return to Hawaii.” There were many children who cried at this story that Mana told. They were able to have had a really great experience.

In the evening, we headed off to Kilauea Military Camp where we would stay the night.
The camp was near Kilauea Volcano National Park, and because the elevation was high, the temperature was low even for Hawaii, and so at night it was really chilly. It was also raining a little, so after dinner, in the recreation center everyone played table tennis, billiards, and learned how to make dream catchers from the staff of Kids Hurt Too.

Here, the rooms were like dormitories so the rooms were split into boys rooms and girls rooms, and everyone slept together. It seemed like a lot of fun as the arrangements appeared to be like a boarding house with the bunk beds and everyone sleeping together.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The 20 junior high school students who participated in the 1st Hawaii Rainbow for Japan Kids Project safely returned home!

At the send-off, the Bikki sisters Moko Ogawa, Kaori Kano, and Yusa Mimori rushed over to see the children, and at the children’s welcoming, the Bikki brothers Daizo Koshiba and Koichi Yamadera came!

The Bikki executive office as well as Muneyuki Sato came along. On the way, Muneyuki Sato returned to Japan on the account of his schedule, and Moko Ogawa and Kaori Kano took his place as the accompanying participants. Along with greeting everyone that has helped them in Hawaii, they also made an appearance on the radio.

The other day, all of the children continuously returned home safely.
We have received great support from everyone. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.