[IWATE, JAPAN, 3 February 2012]
The most recent edition of the Tegami Project was held in Iwate Prefecture on 21 November 2011, just as the first snows of winter began to stick. For this installment of the project, letters from university students in China were delivered to first-year students at Iwate Prefectural University.
|Associate Professor Zhang Jingping delivers a special lecture on China.|
First, Associate Professor Zhang Jingping of Iwate Prefectural University provided the students with a special lecture about China, her home country. Pointing to a map affixed to the blackboard, she started her lecture by saying, “China is shaped like a bird.” She went on to provide an array of useful facts: China is 25 times the size of Japan; China has the world’s largest population; and the population of children in China alone outnumber Japan’s total population. She continued by noting that China is a multiethnic country with 56 different ethnic groups, a diverse range of regional cultures, a fast growing presence of working women in society and even touched on Chinese politics. She then surprised everyone when she explained that, in China, people do not usually eat fried dumplings, as they do in Japan; they eat boiled dumplings, and only fry the leftovers the following day, dispelling a common misconception held in Japan about how dumplings are eaten in China. All of the students enthusiastically followed along, listening closely to her informative lecture. Although China is one of Japan’s closest neighbors, there were many things to be discovered about the country. The lecture also included information about other regional neighbors, offering students a chance to learn about many different countries.
After the lesson on China the students were given the letters. The letters delivered were from fourth-year university students majoring in Japanese language studies at a university in Henan Province, and all of the letters were written in Japanese. The letters were delivered with a separate message that read, “Our Japanese may have grammatical errors and our origami may not be perfect, but we wanted to send you these letters to tell you that we have you in our hearts.” Each of the letters contained warm messages of support and encouragement for the Tohoku students.
When the letters were passed out, several students immediately called out in surprise, “Wow! This Japanese is better than mine!” After carefully reading the letters, the Iwate Prefectural University students began writing long replies to their new friends.
One student told us, “I could tell that people spent a lot of time to carefully craft the letters, and that means so much to me.” Another student told us how happy receiving the letter made her feel, “I am always worried when I hear about disasters occurring in other countries, but I never had a way to express my feelings in physical form before. These letters brought me great joy.”
The Japan Committee for UNICEF will continue to promote the Tegami Project, delivering letters from children around the world to children in Tohoku, and then returning their replies to their new friends around the world.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF