In April, 2016, a destructive earthquake struck Kumamoto Prefecture causing catastrophe results and Mashiki town was one of the places that suffered from the largest destruction in the prefecture. On November 12, APU organized the annual Culture Wagon Camp at Hiroyasunishi Elementary School, Mashiki town for people to feel our multicultural atmosphere through a variety of performances and cultural booths.
Since 2011, Culture Wagon Camp is an annual event in which various student activity clubs and circles come together to conduct exchange activities with the local community. The event has gone to 6 different cities such as Bungo-ono city, Oita city, Hita city, Kitakyushu city, Munakata city, and this year Mashiki town, like a wagon, to promote cultural exchange with the citizens. Through the exciting performances and a variety of exchange activities, both APU and students hope to spread the beauty of their own cultures to the local community. In 2016, with the hope of helping APU students to contribute to the recovery of Kumamoto and to learn valuable lessons from the event, the Student Office decided to send Culture Wagon Camp to Mashiki town.
There were approximately 80 APU students from Eisa Team, Arauma Chiyo, Kagei, Oceania Student Organization, Taewondo, APUIna, Beppu North Rotaract Club, Sri Langka Student Organization, and the university staff members coming to Hiroyasunishi Elementary School, in Mashiki town. They, being chosen from a pool of student activity clubs and circles, had to go through a lot of practices and meetings before officially delivering their performances. At first, the students went on a farming volunteer activity in Mashiki town and Nishihara village on October 29 in order to understand the situation in Kumamoto and to figure out what kind of performances they would like to present to the citizens. After several times practicing assiduously, they could finally set foot into Hiroyasunishi Elementary School to perform. Eisa Team, Arauma Chiyo, Kagei, Oceania Student Organization, Taekwondo, APUIna, each of them, with their own particular featuring characteristics, managed to bring to the stage their best performances from traditional Japanese dances to Korean martial arts, from Chinese dragon dance to the elegant Ocean movements. Meanwhile, Beppu North Rotaract Club who had organized the Kumamoto Children Camp in October, was organizing a quiz upon specific features of many countries, and Sri Lanka students were cooking their traditional curry. Besides, they also held several activity booths such as traditional games and clothes booths. Outside the building were filled with many people coming to enjoy the delicious grilled fish by fishermen with rice and traditional Sri Lanka curry. All of them, with their own preparation, tried their best to bring out the greatest time filled with smile and happiness of the citizens.
Coming to the first Culture Wagon Camp as a Student Press Assistant, I was more than happy to be able to visit Kumamoto Prefecture. In fact, I have been to Kumamoto three times, one time before the earthquake, and twice after the earthquake, so I got to see how horrible the destruction was. Nevertheless, the most amazing thing is that despite catastrophe damages, Kumamoto citizens have still managed to continue their life with full of smiles and happiness. Along the school corridors were filled with supporting letters from students and citizens, beautiful pictures featuring Kumamon, and many chains of paper cranes carrying with them wishes for a peaceful life, gratitude for being able to survive, and goodbye messages to the unfortunate. During the performances, the citizens were immersed in the flow of the music and dance movements. They also enjoyed joining in to try traditional dances taught by APU students. Over 4 hours, the hall was filled with exciting hand-clapping sounds, nonstop laughs, and happy smiles, both from APU students and from the citizens.
Coming back to Beppu, I felt much more gratitude than ever. Beppu had also suffered from earthquakes but not as much as Kumamoto had. Therefore, I felt gratitude to be able to still live on this life to continue devoting myself to the society. I wish all Kumamoto citizens the best and may there be no more earthquakes there.