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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Let the Learning Begin!

***This week the National FFA Officer will be blogging from Japan, where they are learning about Japanese culture and international agriculture.***

The adventures in Japan are officially off and running! I must say that all of the national FFA officer team is fully excited and amazed to be here. Already we have experienced some great cultural differences and have learned some history as well as taking a look at some of the more modern lifestyles. Of all that we have seen up to date, we are amazed at the variety and dynamics of the people in Tokyo.

When we first landed in Tokyo, we were greeted with a warm welcome and were taken to our hotel before enjoying our first meal in Japan. One of the first things that was noticed, was how clean the streets were and how busy it was while still being quiet and orderly. We enjoyed our meal (well most of us enjoyed it) and we were then looking forward to our beds after a 14 hour flight. The next day would bring a full day excitement and questions.

Breakfast came the next morning and we were blessed to have a large variety of choices that included American style food as well. With our appetites satisfied, we took off to see what we would discover. Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine. This was surrounded by a large park-like area full of lush, green trees. It park was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed looking at the over 360 different tree varieties. We then entered the shrine area, after washing our hands and rinsing our mouths, to watch two different weddings that were taking place and to enjoy seeing the many people that were just visiting as well. This area, like many other areas, we learned had a multitude of symbolic messages. We have already seen that the traditional Japanese culture does everything with purpose and meaning.

The understanding of how actions and images have purpose and meaning was made evident through our participation in a traditional Tea Ceremony later that day. Our Tea Ceremony instructor was a very sweet lady named Ukiko. She told and demonstrated each action of the Tea Ceremony for us as well as explaining the purpose of the various physical images. We learned that the main characteristics of the Tea Ceremony were four key ideas: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. We all participated in this ceremony and saw how much quiet time with others is beneficial to the Japanese culture. Ukiko told us what each object meant after we were done. For example, there was a decoration of willow leaves that symbolized eternal prosperity while being soft yet still strong and full of life. Each image truly has purpose and each action has meaning as well. The Tea Ceremony was a neat learned experience for all of us to understand the value of quiet time with others and the demonstration of the four characteristics.

Trying to understand the Japanese culture and see where value is placed has been a challenge as well as very rewarding for all of us. We continue to see the value in broadening our own perspective to understand others. Yet, really there is no difference in seeking to understand a different culture and seeking to understand individuals in our family, group of friends, or even strangers. We have to know how to listen, be observant, and truly focus on how we view the situation to widen our perspective and seek that understanding. We are very much looking forward to the new adventures that we will have and will continue to update on our experiences. Wishing you all the best from over in Japan,

Wyatt DeJong on behalf of the 2010-2011 National FFA Officer Team


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