On September 27, 2023 NUCB hosted a cultural enrichment tour to Ena City for its new intake of exchange students in the fall semester. Students were eager to set off, with many arriving early on campus to be picked up by a chartered tour bus. This tour saw students from many different nationalities including France, the Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland, Germany, and more.
Ena is a small town in Gifu Prefecture, conveniently close to Nagoya. Situated on the renowned Nakasendo highway from the Edo Period, it's a popular starting point for hiking adventures.
The tour started in Iwamura, a historical location about 20 minutes away from down-town Ena. Here students got to experience the Edo-style town with its historical architecture and traditional Japanese atmosphere. There are also a number of confectionary vendors, with castella cake being a local favourite.
13th Annual Nakasendo Noren Contest: Traditional Japanese Curtain Painting
Moving on, we made our way to down-town Ena City where everyone took a well-earned breather and enjoyed chatting with one another. Students were then introduced to the Nakasendo Noren Contest which is held annually in Ena City. Noren is a traditional style of Japanese curtain found hanging out the front of shops and restaurants, and often shows the name or logo of the establishment.
For this competition, custom-designed noren are gathered from open submissions across the country, and are displayed along the Nakasendo highway. As tourists walk the streets, they are invited to vote for their favorites.
Everyone was given the opportunity to paint their own noren in the afternoon for the contest, and many students came up with some amazing designs. Some of the organisers even commented that it would be difficult to determine a winner this year with everyone producing excellent artwork. Interestingly enough, a local Ena City news crew dropped by to film the students hard at work on their painting!
Bunraku: Japanese Puppet Theatre
To finish up the day, the students were introduced to Bunraku: a traditional Japanese performing art that involves puppet theatre. The art form has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century. Everyone enjoyed the intricate movement of the puppets, and were given the opportunity to handle and take control of the puppets themselves.
Overall, the day turned out to be a great experience for everyone. Our students not only got involved in some culturally significant activities, but were also able to interact with and get to know their fellow students and NUCB staff members.