Today, we had a delicious breakfast of rice, shiitake soup, tofu-vegetable salad, and cooked spinach. We were dropped off at the Higashiomi city hall to meet the Mayor. We all sat in his office and talked (Mits translated as needed). The mayor mentioned he was surprised that Jorie and I were vegetarian, and that it’s not very common. We took group photos and we were given a pack of beautiful postcards featuring images of Higashiomi and a pin with the city logo on it.
After that, we walked to the ceramics studio, Nunobiiki. It was full of beautiful dishes, cups, mugs, wall plaques, chopstick holders, and sculptures. Mostly, the ceramics feature trees or owls. There’s a shrine near the shop where it’s said owls visit, and owls bring good luck. Jorie & I purchased a wall ornament with two owls, as well as a gift. We were there for a workshop, but the head artist, Taro Kojima-san, was not in for some reason, so his son taught the workshop. We were given pre-made clay cups and instructed how to cut animal shapes out of clay to attach to the cup. I chose an owl and Jorie chose a maneki neko. We cut them out, carved them, and attached them. The cups will be fired in a kiln, glazed, and fired again, which will take around a month. We may get them back when a group comes to Marquette from Higashiomi with the sister cities program.
Next, we had a long walk to the Shiga Gakuen middle/high school. We were served lunch in the cafeteria- Jorie and I had kitsune udon and rice. Then we went to Mayumi Kakimi-sensei’s art classroom for the rest of the day. We split up to different tables with Japanese students and we talked about trees and kanji that include the “ki” or tree kanji. Then, a group of visiting Taiwanese students came in! They spoke Chinese, English, and some Japanese. So we were joined by one Taiwanese student. We made paper “ema” or prayer plaques. I drew a tiger on mine for year of the tiger and Jorie drew a deer. We wrote wish messages on them and exchanged them with the other students. Mine said “good luck in school”. The one I received had the kanji for “dream”. When the students left for the day, a few students came in for after-school art club. We were served snacks and we chatted with the art club students before being picked up by our host families.
Okaa-san's blog is here.