Taking a break from research and being surrounded by computers and lab equipment, international students were able to spend one morning around Takayama Chikurin-en (https://www.tikurinen.jp/) to experience planting rice and preparing matcha. This event was organized by NAIST and Ikoma City. We were able to talk with the citizens of Ikoma and even had the opportunity to meet the mayor!
NAIST provided us with gloves, socks, and a towel for the event (thank you!), and we got down in the mud to start planting. Farmers showed us the proper way to grab the seedlings and put them in the ground. It was a relaxing experience for some, but others were a bit more competitive and wanted to finish; I didn’t finish, though.
Our time was up, and most of us were not able to finish our lanes. Fortunately, they had tractors that could finish much faster than us (glad to see how modernized the agricultural sector had become). We washed up and headed towards Takayama Chikurin-en for a brief tour and to learn about preparing matcha. The staff showed us the proper way to prepare matcha using 茶筌 (chasen). I didn’t know it would be so tiring to whisk tea, but it was the proper way to do it.
We ended the event by talking with Ikoma citizens, fellow students, and NAIST staff and taking photos together in on the open yard. It was nice to spend time in the rice fields and take a break from research and the big cities like Osaka. It was also a great opportunity to meet locals and new friends; they were also very eager to meet international students living in the city!
Amidst the peaceful quiet of NAIST, there are times you can hear the sounds of joyous cheers and balls bouncing on concrete. On these nights, you can trace the sound to the multipurpose outdoor court of NAIST. Upon looking, you may see several people from different countries and continents come together to enjoy a game of volleyball (and other sports). This is volleyball night and everyone is welcome here to come and join.
Established in the spring of 2022, the NAIST Sports Club has evolved into a regular weekly session of destress, rest, and relaxation. Though some would argue that playing volleyball for over 3 hours is not rest; it is definitely a much sought-after break from research and work.
What started off as a purely casual game for beginners, volleyball night has transformed into a fun competitive match between friends with moments straight out of the manga Haikyuu. At first, people didn’t even know how to receive the ball properly. A mixture of different hand gestures and positions were used to play volleyball; sometimes even feet were preferred. “It didn’t look like volleyball at the start,” says Maria from Colombia, “but eventually people started learning.” True enough, rallies became longer and matches became more intense. Despite that, funny flops and hilarious moments are still a natural occurrence. “Though we’re improving a lot, beginners are still welcome and we still make a lot of mistakes that we just laugh about.”
Not even storms and rain can stop people from playing. On several occasions, the players would continue forth and enjoy the game under the rain. “It’s a perfect way to cool off during the summer,” says Aimé from France.
Since only one volleyball court is available and only a limited number of people can play at once, others also play various sports while waiting. You can see people playing basketball or soccer on the sidelines while waiting for their turn. Thus, even though some aren’t too good at volleyball, they can still enjoy other sports or also talk to people on the side.
“It really brings people together,” says Kostja from Russia. At NAIST where often it becomes too quiet and isolating, volleyball night allows students to get together and have some fun. “I met my friends at NAIST because of volleyball. Despite it not being an official club, it’s the biggest and most popular one in NAIST.”
“As an internship student, volleyball club was the perfect opportunity to make friends at NAIST,” shared Berat from Turkey. “The club welcomes players regardless of their experience and everyone is always happy to share their knowledge.”
“The best decision in my entire time in Japan!” exclaimed Daniel from Germany. “Everyone here is the same, no matter where you are from, no matter what gender, no matter how good at volleyball. Having fun together is what counts.”
Indeed, no matter the season, weather, or temperature, students from all over NAIST come together to enjoy a game of volleyball and play some sports. It’s definitely one of the things people look forward to during the week.
(All NAIST members are free to join volleyball every Tuesday and Thursday from 7pm)