Life in Seika, Japan

Howdy there! My name is Kai and I am the Coordinator for International Relations in Seika Town, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Hopefully by reading this blog you all will get a good picture of what life is like in Seika town, and all the great things that happen down here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hometown Tour

Recently I was introduced to a Mr. Shinohara who is part of the Seika Elderly Talent Association and who has been organizing tours of some of the historical sites and local facilities of Seika Town. Mr. Shinohara was kind enough to invite me along for the practice run of their next tour which will take place in Fall.

The idea is to do a practice run of the tour to gauge how long it will take, which route to walk and more importantly to study the sites and local areas beforehand so that the tour guides and volunteers will be able to field questions during the real tour.

So last Friday I met up with a group from the Seika Elderly Talent Association and we took a walking tour of some of the old shrines, neighborhoods and new facilities in Seika Town. Our first stop was Kasuga Shrine in the north part of Seika. This is one of the oldest shrines in the area which has a long and interesting history, and beautiful architecture. The shrine was once designated as local park so the surrounding area has rest areas and the feel of a recreational spot. The shrine has a few separated buildings so we walked through the old neighborhood and looked at the main shrines and small prayer offering locations.

Next we walked around the local agricultural fields to the Kizu River Water Purification Treatment Center for a tour of the facilities. The center is located right next to the local Community Recreation Center which I often play basketball at, but until the tour had no idea exactly what purpose it served. It turns out that it is a highly developed water treatment center which is the first of its kind in Japan that purifies sewage and house water waste so that it can be returned to the Kizu River without causing any pollution. I have to admit that I didn’t really understand the technology behind the process but they assured us that by the time the sewage leaves the plant it is so clean that fish and other wildlife can live in the treated water alone.

The facilities just look like a few normal buildings but the real equipment is underground. We took a tour of the underground tunnels with pipes and machinery everywhere processing and filtering the sewage over and over until it is clean enough to be released in the river. The plant is quite impressive and even separates the sediment from the water which is in turn recycled and turned into cement and other building materials.

After the water treatment facility tour we walked over to Hosono Shrine which was the site of the famed Igomori Festival which I wrote about back in January in this blog. While I had been there before this was my first time to see it in the day time and with the benefit of Mr. Shinohara’s knowledge I gained a new understanding of the history of the shrine and the ceremonies that are traditionally carried out there.

After the tour we all went back to the Seika Elderly Talent Association Center and had a nice bento lunch and talked about plans for the day of the real tour, and everyone’s impressions of the sites. Then Mr. Asada who is the director of the center and an experienced Japanese tea ceremony presenter explained proper tea preparation while he served us traditional Japanese green tea.

For me it was really interesting to be a part of the tour with the local people and to learn more about the traditional and modern aspects of the place where I live and work. I have to thank everyone from the Seika Elderly Talent Association, especially Mr. Shinohara for inviting me to take part and for explaining everything for me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Community Baseball Tournament

This past weekend there was a baseball tournament held in Seika for some of the teams from different towns in the area. The level of play is not that high and its mostly just for fun. Our team was comprised of government workers from the town of Seika. One of the other teams was the Farmers Association of Yamashiro town.

It was really nice weather that weekend so a lot of the player’s wives and kids all came out to watch and cheer on their fathers. The Seika Town team played on Saturday and Sunday. I played in the game on Sunday but missed the one on Saturday. One of the firemen from Seika almost made it into professional ball with the Hiroshima Carps so he is a really good pitcher. I heard that he throws between 130-140km/h which is way above the standard for the level of play in this tournament. I didn’t get the chance to see him pitch but I heard that he struck out almost every batter and only a couple people were even able to hit the ball. Also I heard that the day he pitched a lot of people came out just to watch since they all knew he almost went pro.

Unfortunately on the day I played we lost by one run, but it was still really fun to go out in the sun and play with my coworkers and see everyone having a good time.