On Sunday, 16th July, 2017 the Kansai division of MSA organized an evening walk to the Gion-festival in Kyoto. Despite the bad-weather with occasional heavy downpour, 33 people joined the event. It is important to note that this was one of the first MSA events in Kansai and so, the support shown by the fellow MEXT scholars was a great source of motivation for the organizers. People came not only from all parts of Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) but also, there were 2 participants from Okayama and Kagoshima.
The evening started with a visit to the Yasaka Shrine, which is the shrine for the Gion-festival. As it was the day of Yoi-Yama, the day before the procession of floats, there were many special events in and around Yasaka Shrine. One of those was the performance of Iwami-Kagura, an ancient Japanese dance form usually performed in shrines to please the deities. Iwami-Kagura is from the Western part of Shimane-Prefecture and depicts a fight-scene of Susanoo, the Kami of Storm with an eight-headed serpentine monster. The participants tried to blend-in with the crowd despite the hot-weather and became a part of the festive-mood.
After the performance, the group walked towards the Shijo-Karasuma area. The next stop was the floats (or the Yama-bokos) which are the prime symbols of Gion-Matsuri. The crowded street was filled with people in yukatas and it was a beautiful sight. The Yama-bokos were all beautifully decorated and stationed elegantly as if all of them were looking forward to the procession on the next day. The evening ended with the enjoyment of the local street-foods which were in plenty and also another attraction of the festival.
In a short span of a few hours, many of the participants became friends with each-other. Most of the participants were happy as this was their first official outing with other MEXT scholars. The breaking of ice was the primary objective of organizing this event. The plan is to work towards building a very strong family of MEXT scholars in Kansai area and beyond. The wheel has been set into motion and the Kansai team is now already discussing about their next event.
On the 24th of June, MEXT and JASSO co-organized a reception for MEXT scholars in Kobe filled with speeches by MSA and MEXT representatives, cultural programs and opportunities for networking for MEXT scholars in the Kansai area. Of course, MSA was also present with its very own booth; answering questions, spreading the word and encouraging new scholars to sign up on the spot and become a member of MSA! Furthermore, MSA also arranged a number of seminars to help new scholars getting started in Japan. Two of the committee members even traveled all the way from Tokyo to guide new scholars through the event in English as well as Japanese and to personally invite them to join the growing community!
The regional head for the Kansai region and graduate student at Kyoto University gave a warm welcome speech to all new scholars at the event.
We would like to thank Mr. Hiroki Matsuo, Deputy Director-General of the Higher Education Bureau, MEXT, and Mr. Hideki Yonekawa, Vice President of JASSO for their words of support and for giving us the opportunity to connect with you through events like the reception for MEXT scholars in Kobe. We also greatly appreciate everyone who visited our booth and took part in our seminars and were simply overwhelmed by the great number of students taking interest in MSA. Thanks to every single one of you, our community is growing bigger and our bonds are getting stronger every day! With a bigger and stronger community, we can have a greater impact and it will be easier to give back to Japanese society!
MSA will be having our first event out of Tokyo this coming July! We will be gathering in Kyoto for the Gion-Matsuri – one of the 3 big festivals of Japan.
We want to let festival to be an opportunity for scholars to get to know each other and experience Japanese culture. We also plan for this grand festival, with the yamahokos in the Kyoto streets to mark the start of our activities outside Kanto.
We’re gathering on the evening of Sunday, the 16th of July so if you’re an interested MEXT scholar, do check out the links below for more information!