On Sunday, June 12, the first group event of this year's Tomodachi Program was held. It was a potluck. About 150 students and family members attended. In addition to the yakisoba, there were yummy casseroles, side dishes and desserts. There was also an Onigiri table where participants could learn to make their own onigiri (rice balls). There were a variety of fillings to choose, as well as choices for the outside of your onigiri.
Another activity was Suikawari, or watermelon splitting. It is a traditional Japanese game that involves splitting a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded. Played in the summertime, suikawari is most often seen at beaches, but also occurs at festivals, picnics, and other summer events. The rules are similar to pinata. A watermelon is laid out and participants one by one attempt to smash it open. Each is blindfolded, spun around three times, and handed a wood stick, or bokken, to strike with. The first to crack the watermelon open wins. Afterwards, the chunks of watermelon produced are shared among participants.
On Friday, April 22, a beautiful new Japanese garden was dedicated on the Kaneko Commons grounds. This Tomodachi "friendship" Garden is the culmination of a year of planning and production. It was made possible by a generous donation from a long-time Tomodachi Program participant, as well as two other family members.
Margaret Bagley, who has participated in the Tomodachi "friendship" program since TIUA was established in 1989, made a significant donation to Willamette University to establish the garden in honor of her husband, Bruce, who passed away in 2009. In addition to being the longest running Tomodachi program participant, Margaret also promotes TIUA and its many programs as well as recruiting many of her friends and colleagues to join the Tomodachi Program.
Mr. Shinji Nagano (TIUA'92), who lives in Sendai and recently experienced the Eastern Japan earthquake and who is from Kobe, watched the baseball game of Rakuten vs Nippon Ham in “Hottomotto Field Kobe” on April 22, 2011. Shinji's home in Kobe was totally destroyed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake. During that year, he visited the same baseball field many times to cheer on the Olix baseball team, which won the season with the slogan “Ganbaro (Let’s work hard) Kobe.” “This time, from recovered Kobe, Rakuten (which is based in Sendai) will send hope to Tohoku (Northeastern) region” said Shinji while watching the game.