Day 4 – Visit to Seiro Town Office and Seiro Middle School, Grape Harvesting, Lunch at Orange Café, Observation Deck Visit at Niigata Prefectural Office, Visit to Summer Festival
“I was shocked that the Mayor personally conducted the tour. He is such a humble and nice man,” said Danial. He was describing Mr Hirokichi Watanabe, the Mayor of Seiro. Seiro is a town located in the Niigata prefecture and both Danial and Yuhen had the opportunity to visit the Seiro Town Office. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Mr Watanabe himself and were led to a meeting room. Along the way, all members of the staff working stood up to greet the two boys and giving them warm applause. Flowers were also presented to both boys as a welcome gift. In the meeting room, Mr Watanabe gave a presentation on key information about Seiro.
After the presentation, Danial and Yuhen had the opportunity to visit the Seiro Middle School. Mr Watanabe took the boys around and they got to see the school facilities, as well as how various classes were conducted. One feature of the Seiro Middle School is that the classrooms are subject based, unlike most middle schools in Japan. Students had to travel from classroom to classroom to attend the class of a particular subject. At the end of the school visit, Yuhen said, “this school is really clean and the environment is very conducive for the students to focus and study.”
Next up was a trip to the Sakaue Budouen grape farm for fruit harvesting. Danial and Yuhen were given a variety of different grapes to taste. Thereafter, they were greeted by the farm owner who briefly went through with them on the type of grapes they had consumed. Both boys were then given a pair of scissors and had to proceed to harvest the grapes. “This is first time I am harvesting grapes. I had to follow the instructions carefully on what to do”, said Yuhen. Danial added, “while harvesting the grapes seemed easy, I had to be careful when choosing which bunch to cut, so that the grapes would not be wasted.” At the end, the two boys were rewarded for their work by being allowed to bring back all the grapes which they harvested for free.
At noon, the boys had lunch at the Orange Café in Albillage. The Orange Café is where the players of Albirex Niigata Football Club have their lunch daily (except Monday). Upon paying, members of the public get the chance to not only eat in the same facility as the players, but also consume the same food. Served in a buffet style, everybody will get to choose how much food they wish to take. There were labels to indicate the number of calories in each food item served so that everyone could calculate and not overeat. When asked how he found the food, Danial said, “I know that it is important for football players to maintain a healthy diet. Hence, I was not surprised to see that no fried food was served.” Yuhen added, “at first I thought that only fruits and vegetable would be served, but I now know that you need other items like meat and rice to make a meal balance. While the food may look plain, there was actually enough taste.”
After lunch, the two boys spent some time enjoying the breathtaking view of Niigata. They were visiting the Observation Deck located on the eighteenth floor of the Niigata Prefectural Office. Danial was excited when he managed to pick out the Big Swan Stadium quite easily, while Yuhen was delighted that he could see how far the hotel he is staying in was from where he was standing.
The final activity of the day took place near Nakajo Station. It was the Japanese Summer Festival, also known as the Natsu Matsuri. Many people came dressed in the traditional Japanese clothing, Yukata, while the streets were lined up with numerous food and game stalls, just like the pasar malam seen in Singapore. Both boys took the opportunity to try out the food and also played some games. For their attempts in the games, they were rewarded with mini prizes to take home. The one thing however that really caught the attention of the two boys during the event was how a large group of people carried a mikoshi (also known as a divine palanquin) and paraded through the streets. Danial exclaimed, “the parade looks difficult. I have never come across anything like that before in my life.” Yuhen added, “I enjoyed watching the people carrying the mikoshi very much. They had to really work very hard.” While the mikoshi did look extremely heavy, the people still managed to bounce it at the same time as they believe this will bring more good fortune, wealth and happiness to the people.