My name is Nick Rayder, and I am currently on the Bath-Tsugaru Sister City Exchange. I am 18 years old and live in Falmouth, Maine. Going to Japan has always been a dream of mine since I started studying the language in November of 2010. My standard of Japan has always been high, and every day we have been in Aomori, I have not been disappointed. Today, July 25th, was no different.
We, the Bath Group, started the day off by visiting the Governor of Aomori. After about an hour on a coach bus, we finally arrived at the prefectural building where we were greeted by about a dozen staff members, clapping for us. This left me in awe. This feeling of awe was furthered as we proceeded up the stairs and we walked down a hallway with staff members on either side of us. They were not staring at us, but instead, they were clapping and bowing. The uproar of “Good Morning” and clapping hands made me feel exceptional and unique. I was not just another visitor.
The Governor of Aomori himself, Shingo Mimura, was energetic and quickly took away the tense or formal edge to the 30 minute meeting. His energetic “Okay”s put a smile on everyone’s face. However, we couldn’t stay for long as we left continue our journey in Aomori. We did, however, take a group photo, inside the prefectural office, as well as outside in a small park at a bench which was donated from Maine in 2004 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Maine-Aomori Sister-State relationship.
Japan is very rich in culture. At times during this trip, I have felt that America is significantly inferior to Japan in so many ways, such as its culture. Japanese culture is fostered by many things. In Aomori, the Nebuta Festival is of major cultural significance, where floats up to 30 meters high are pulled around the city. The festival is going to be held the first week of August, so we are going to miss it, but, we were given access to look at an unfinished float.
The float was very complex. About 15 meters high and maybe just as wide. It was huge! I was taken aback by how ornate and intricate the float was. It had two figures as well as a phoenix. The float was covered in a wide array of colors and designs. We will have an opportunity to participate in Tsugaru City’s Nebuta Festival later this week. I became a little giddy knowing that Nebuta is going to be like nothing I have ever experienced.
We were not the only ones learning about Japanese culture there. Small armies of Japanese children were also there to see the floats. Most of them were 3 or 4 years old. They were learning about their culture while young Americans including myself could not identify or describe American culture. I often wonder what American culture is. Perhaps it is buying things in bulk or owning the largest car or house. However, how does this give our society value? How does American culture make American society unique?
–Nick Rayder, 18, Falmouth