5th Okurayama International Students Forum in Yokohama 2016 (Student Report)

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On June 20, the 5th Okurayama International Student Forum 2016 was held at Okurayama Memorial Hall in Yokohama. The students of Yokohama City University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Keio University welcomed the students of Harvard University to introduce Japanese culture and to exchange ideas with them. Before the program, we had about 40 minutes to talk in groups of assigned to keynote lecture. Since we met each other for the first time there, we were nervous. Thankfully, there was no need to worry. Every participant was chatting with each other proactively in English.


There were 2 wonderful fulfilling keynote lectures by Theodore C. Bestor, Director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Reischauer Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, and Takanori Aiba, President and CEO of Graphics and Designing Inc. and Tokyo Good Idea Development Institute Co., Ltd.


Prof. Bestor gave us a lecture about Japanese Cuisine from his research in the theme of “What in the world is Washoku?” Since Japanese cuisine became one of UNESCO’s Global Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013, it has drawn international attention for its healthiness and beautifulness. For example, EXPO 2015 which was held in Milano had a theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. It embraced technology, culture, traditions and creativity and how they relate to food and diet. I went there last summer with my Italian friends and I was surprised that there was a long queue for Pavilion of Japan written “Waiting time: 7 hours”. It was the longest queue at the EXPO. Through his lecture, we were taught the definition of “Washoku” and how it is known all over the world. It was such a precious experience to know “Washoku” from foreigner’s perspective.




When Mr. Aiba’s lecture started, suddenly a “Ninjya” came out and performed acrobatic Ninjya dance. Every participant was attracted by it. Mr. Aiba has designed and produced numerous popular facilities such as “Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum”, “Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince in Hakone” and “NINJYA AKASAKA / NEWYORK / KYOTO”. Like these in vogue places, he gave us a lecture about “The secret of the power of the idea to create an ‘Inspiring Space’ ” Showing us his drawings for designs, he talked about himself and his works beaming with delight. We were totally attracted by him and his works. He was like a magician. We were taught that imagination is important to produce inspiring things. However, we knew that we cannot design and produce just like him because, he has a wonderful talent. Instead we have learned that a person who is enthusiastically doing something that he/ she likes, is fascinating.




After the lectures, we were in a new group for a workshop. Each of us used our imaginations to paint sensu (fan). They came out to be beautiful and unique. The last program was a casual dinner gathering. We ate delicious foods: Japanese, French, and Italian cuisine and more, chatting with participants. During the party, there were some performance by the Ninjyas from Mr. Aiba’s Ninjya restaurant. Time passed swiftly as we deepened exchanges with each other.

On a final note, we were very glad to spend such an exciting and priceless time with friendly and proactive students and to listen to wonderful inspiring lecturers. Through the whole program, we re-realized how important to get to know new people and to exchange ideas in English in the modern society of expanding globalization. We are hugely grateful to Mrs. Yoko Okura and staffs of YCU International Affairs Division for giving us a pleasant opportunity to participate in this forum.



Reported by Saori Ichikawa,

Senior, International College of Arts and Science.