Japan Tour 2015- Day 13 (last day at sister school)

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Today we spent our last day with our sister school visiting one of the kindergartens that the principal of Ichihara Chuo also owns. We have since discovered that he owns three kindys, two senior high schools, one university and one TAFE college. We were taken on a campus tour of the facility that has two schools and a university before arriving at the Yaehara Kindergarten. We were surprised to discover that Mr Maita (principal) has plans to build another junior high and senior high at the site we visited today. At Yaehara Kindergarten we were all allocated a class to join and participated in activities such as drawing, making fruit necklaces to play fruit basket, playing with toys, playing on the playground, and eating lunch together. We were truly amazed at how well behaved all the students were following the teachers instructions instantly, and even cleaning up after themselves. The biggest surprise came when after lunch all students went to clean their teeth after eating! We were all presented with a momento of Chiba city and our time spent at this special place before we said a sad, but genki, see you again. Some students called out loudly “see you tomorrow”.

Once we had returned to Ichihara Chuo High School we had a brief period of time to fit in some last minute practice of our speeches and songs to perform at our farewell party later in the afternoon. Then it was time to introduce ourselves to the whole school and meet Mr Maita on assembly. Our students did our college proud very ably introducing themselves in Japanese and presenting our sister school with a gift of English books.

After assembly, we once again had a brief break before it was PARTY TIME! We were so delighted to see not only our host buddies, but the students that have visited Faith for the last three years, at this special occasion. We enjoyed time together watching dance routines and singing performances, eating Japanese snacks and taking lots of photos together, until we meet again.

Once again our Faith students did us very proud with Meron chan (Cameron) and Ebi chan (Evelyn) completing solo performances, and then all students joined together to deliver a hearty rendition of Waltzing Matilda. It was sad to think that we would not see our sister school friends again until next year when they visit, but we all have so many wonderful memories together that we will treasure forever!

I am incredibly proud of our students and they way they have represented our college and country for the last two weeks!! I am also so very proud of them for trying to use their Japanese at every opportunity, and even talking to me in Japanese each day rather than English. Such a lucky Sensei am I to have such amazing students who share my passion for this exquisite country and language!

We are off to Disneyland tomorrow before spending our final moments with our new families before we board the plane for our awaited journey home.

(A very proud and blessed) Hyde Sensei

Japan Tour 2015- Day 11

We have had a great day today with our host buddies at “Tokyo German Village”. We were lucky enough to enjoy many different activities including: pedal boats, rowboats, putt putt, hole in one golf, fun bicycles, archery, games arcade, jungle gym climbing, petting zoo and many many more. It was such a surprise to see a large park full of many different activities and attractions. To start the day it was a little cold and drizzly. Lunch was a Japanese style BBQ that we enjoyed indoors due to some light rain falling at this time. Aidan was especially happy to see a whole plate of meat before him! After lunch the sun came out and allowed us to enjoy an afternoon of fun activities outside even working up a sweat!

Tomorrow is our only day to spend the whole day with our host families. It sounds like they have many fun different activities planned for us and we can’t wait to spend this special day together. It is hard to believe that we will be home in five days and that our amazing adventure will soon cease. We will especially miss Japanese vending machines and konbini (convenience stores) as well as all the beautiful places and people we have encountered. We still have the next four days to spend with our new families and friends, and we intend to make the most of every second!

See you all soon!

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Japan Tour 2015- Day 9-10

We have all arrived at our sister school this morning very happy after spending an enjoyable night with our host families eating delicious food and getting to know each other. We were very excited to be reunited with our friends that visited Faith in July this morning, and started our day with a Japanese quiz and campus tour. We were very surprised to hear that the principal is 93 years old!!! Today is only a short day so we will return home after lunch. We are looking forward to the weekend ahead with our host families and wonder what adventures are in store for us all?!

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Japan Tour 2015- Day 8

Wow! What a day. I keep thinking we have seen the best Japan has to offer, but continue to be blown away by the amazing sites this wonderful country has on show. Upon waking after a little sleep-in, we were quickly on our way, complete with a packed breakfast made by our caring hotel owners. Everyone was in high spirits and eager to see what the new day would bring. Upon arrival at the train station, one of our students realised they had forgotten their rail pass, so a few of us needed to make the journey back to the hotel at a lightning pace. Fortunately, the owner of the hotel offered to drive us back to the train station so we could make our train to Nara on time, much to the delight of the awaiting Miss Hyde. It was a great experience to be driven through Japanese streets for the first time.

From the train station, we needed to take a bus to arrive at Nara Deer Park, where there were literally hundreds of deer roaming amongst the crowds vying for a bite to eat. Students had a competition to see who could get the funniest selfie with a deer, and Aidan won with a great image where he and the deer held a striking resemblance. From here we went to visit the largest wooden structure in the world (Todaiji Temple), housing a 15m high Bronze Buddha. It was a phenomenal site and looked more like a picture out of a book than a real life structure. From here we went to see another temple and large pagoda. There are so many things to see in Nara and Kyoto but this brief snapshot showed the traditional Japan in the best way. With everyone tired and with sore feet, we had a bite to eat and headed to our next long train ride.

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Thankfully the carriage we were in was empty (a rare occurrence!) and most of us took the opportunity to have a nanna nap. Arriving at the world famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, few of us knew what was in store. Set amongst a deep forest, kilometers of walking track up a mountain enclosed by thousands of torii gates painted in bright orange led us on a round trip of the mountain. It was a magical (and exhausting) hike, but well worth it to see the view of the city and experience the feelings of accomplishment when we finished. Truly an experience I will never forget.

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With everyone a bit delirious from the exercise (we walked over 21000 steps and 61 stories today!), and after some funny group photos, we ventured back to Kyoto for a great night out. Our first stop was a technology store where several people bought new phone covers and much needed supplies. From here, he decided to eat at an authentic Japanese restaurant where we needed to remove our shoes and sit at the table with our feet underneath. The food was phenomenal and many funny stories were told. I think everyone was really happy to be sitting down and relaxing! When dinner was finished, we headed to a games arcade and then on to another session of karaoke. Everyone sang better this time, due to the bonding the group has experienced over the last week and how comfortable we have become in each other’s company. The night finished with ice cream and everyone headed to bed; tired but extremely happy.

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Today was a fitting finale to an amazing week of sightseeing. I have had an extremely enjoyable time and am ready for the week ahead with our sister school and host families. I am very proud of our students and how they are looking after each other and remaining positive. I would like to thank Miss Jodie Hyde for organising such a successful trip to share her passion of the Japanese culture and language.

Mr. Ben Rosenblatt

Japan Tour 2015- Day 7

Today was our first full day in Kyoto. We woke up on a futon on a tatami in a Japanese style ryokan. To start the day we had a homemade breakfast around a big table in the lobby of the ryokan. We then left the hotel at 9am to go to Kinkakuji. The bus we caught to Kinkakuji was fully packed the entire trip thanks to people traveling around in silver week and the crowd was definitely an experience. When we finally made it to Kinkakuji we had to stop and rest for a minute as we had all been squashed and standing for a long bus ride. Kinkakuji is a big golden temple set on the side of a lake up in a forest. Luckily the water in the lake was slightly still, so we could get some nice photos of the temple and its reflection in the water.

After walking around Kinkakuji we made our way to Ryoanji, a zen garden 20 mins by walk away from Kinkakuji. Ryoanji is a really big zen garden with lots of different areas, one area has only white pebbles, moss and rocks (a cool thing about the rock garden was that only 14 of the 15 rocks could been seen at any one place), another section was completely green from the moss.

After resting in the zen garden we made our way to lunch, a sushi train, but this one was amazing and different to our sushi trains back home! It had the usual conveyor belt system going round and round with food on it, but in this one you could order meals through a touch screen and it would be launched to your table by another conveyor belt. Also, most plates of food with some exceptions were 100 yen (about 1 dollar).

After filling ourselves up on lunch we decided to go back to the hotel for a rest and to do some washing, then go out for a late dinner. At 7pm we all met up in the lobby to go to Kyoto station to have a nice dinner. We decided on a really nice burger place after a bit of searching as everything had a large queue and a wait time of an hour or more. They served some really nice Japanese style burgers there which came in a really fancy box, which was a surprise to us all. After dinner we were going to go to a games arcade but then decided to go back to the hotel for an earlier night and we needed to pack our suitcases to send to our sister school. We are all looking forward to another day of sightseeing tomorrow in Nara and Kyoto and our last night as a group before the fun of home stay begins!

Harrison Cook (Squashie and droppy)

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Japan Tour 2015- Day 6

Today, was our last day in Hiroshima and the start of our Kyoto adventures. We left at 8:45 in the morning after our Western/Japanese style buffet breakfast and headed to Hiroshima Castle by bus. The castle was a military base before it was destroyed by the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb in 1945 and now holds many artifacts of the samurai. Things like samurai swords, military guns, armour and clothing were on display.

After exploring the castle, we were on our way to the Shinkansen headed towards Kyoto. We made a quick stop at the convenience store and bought some snacks for the 2 hour bullet train ride. Unfortunately, we were all scattered around the carriage, not sitting together, as the Shinkansen are heavily booked during a string of public holidays called “Silver Week” this week. We transferred Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka and then completed our last leg by a quick 15 minute ride to Kyoto.

After arriving at Kyoto, we headed off to Kiyomizudera Temple, where we spotted many people dressed in traditional Japanese clothes called kimono. Rhiannon, Evelyn and I took various selfies with them which was lots of fun. They were all very nice, looked beautiful, and some even wanted photos of us as well! Also because of Silver Week it was extremely busy and crowded.

We slowly made our way up to the Kiyomizudera Temple (it was up a steep hill and several flights of stairs) and paid our admission fee to enter. There were spectacular views all around us of mountains, the trees, and Kyoto city below. After visiting the temple, we made our way down the hill, occasionally stopping at the traditional shops on either side to take a look at the trinkets and souvenirs they had. One shop we stopped at had sold souvenirs and fabrics for 6 generations, with the same family still operating it! The owner told us that he hand-made all the things being sold. It was very cool and some of us made purchases there.

Afterwards, we made our way to Gion by bus to go Geisha spotting, but Hyde Sensei surprised us yet again! She had organised for us to meet a Maiko (an apprentice Geisha, or Geiko as they’re known as in Kyoto). The Maiko, Tomitaie made us traditional green tea and danced for us. After this, we asked her questions about her life as an apprentice Geiko, and took photos with her. This was a great opportunity for us to practice and show off our language skills! It turned out that she was the same Maiko that the Japan tour group met on their last tour two years ago! She told us that as of next year she will become a full Geiko after intense training as a Maiko for 4 years. It was very cool and such an amazing experience to be up close and personal with her. After our visit, she had to leave quickly for an appointment so we all said goodbye and attempted to find something for dinner before going to our new hotel which is a Japanese style Ryokan.

We walked around trying to find a place for Aidan as he begged Hyde Sensei to eat meat for dinner, but after almost half an hour walking around trying to find a shop that didn’t seems to exist, we gave up on our efforts and went to a cute little place that has been selling soba, udon and tempura for 35 years. It was delicious and Hyde Sensei and Mr Rosenblatt said it was the best tempura they have had on this trip so far! We made our way to our new hotel (we got our suitcases back; what. A relief!) after a long and full day of adventure, we are ready for our second day in Kyoto tomorrow.

Miya chan

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Japan Tour 2015- Day 5

Today has been a mixture of emotions. Fun, inspiring, moving, heartbreaking, scary, confronting, exciting and intense. A strange mix, I know… But when we left our hotel early this morning, we all knew what was to come; Hiroshima Peace Park. One of the most sacred and important places in Japan. We did one of our infamous mad dashes to catch the bus, and along the way came across a small, cute, old lady, less than half my height. She came up to us, and said “背が高いですよ!” whilst pointing at our heads, which translates to “VERY TALL!” Hahaha! Upon getting on the bus we were pleasantly surprised when one of the bus staff handed all of us flowers to lay at the Hiroshima Peace Park. It just goes to show how beautiful and respectful their culture really is.

Straight after getting off the bus, we came face to face with some of the ruins destroyed by the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. It was crazy to see how much damage it caused. We were on our way to the museum when we saw a man standing on a rock shouting things out to crowds of people. Rhiannon, who went on the last Japan tour, informed me that he was a survivor, and that he is one of many that stands there every day, telling his story of survival and hope to the crowds of people that come and visit. Over the past few months, Ms Hyde and the rest of us have been at school on Wednesday lunchtimes folding cranes and creating a ‘Faith sign’ to place at Sadako’s monument in the Peace Park, an       d our time finally came for us to do that today. It was a strange feeling knowing that even though the atomic bomb hit 70 years ago, we were still playing a part in the event, and making a difference.

After Sadako’s monument, and a few other monuments, we arrived at Hiroshima Peace Park Memorial Museum. I thought I had prepared myself prior to entering the museum, and people had warned me of what I might expect, but I soon realized that nothing can quite prepare someone for what was in there. Walking through the museum, I was confronted with original items from the bombing, graphic images of people, completely burnt from head to toe, pieces of human anatomy taken from hospitals, and so much more. I couldn’t help but burst into tears as I stared down at a burnt, bloodstained school shirt, once belonging to a girl my age. It did make me think about how fortunate I am to have a great life, and how I need to live out my purpose, because this girl wasn’t able to.

After looking carefully and slowly at each exhibit, I soon realized what the real purpose of the museum was. It wasn’t to scare people, or make them feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t to get revenge on those who bombed Hiroshima. It was to give hope to everyone, and pray that nothing like that ever happens again. There is currently an eternal flame burning in Hiroshima, and it will only be extinguished once all the nuclear weapons in the world are destroyed. I personally believe that our world can change for the better, and that one day we will achieve world peace.

We were all starved by the end of the museum, and my face was stained by tears, so food was sounding like a good option. We headed to the train station, and decided on a tasty Japanese restaurant that served tempura, soba, and udon. It was very delicious!! Miyajima Island was our next scheduled location, and so we were off again.

A bus ride and a ferry ride later we arrived, and the first thing we noticed was a big, beautiful temple. I paired off with Rhiannon, Harrison and Meron, and we had some great adventures together! The very first thing we did was grab some Japanese soft serves (yummmmm), and then we went for a little walk. We walked around the shops for a while and bought some presents, and then we found this secret staircase that led to a giant temple. It was so pretty inside, and I enjoyed taking my shoes off and journaling on the floor. After the temple we went to the beach, and chilled there for a while. Meron and I came up with a secret handshake, and then we taught Rhiannon and Harrison too… It’s pretty great, if I do say so myself.

Another ferry ride back, and we were, yet again, starved. Hiroshima is famous for making delicious okonomiyaki (it is a stack consisting of egg, noodles, cabbage, shallots, bean sprouts, pork and more), and so we caught a bus again to Okonomi mura and enjoyed this delight! It is run by these lovely people, and a very old lady that works there (Mama San) told us that she has worked there for 50 years! Crazy!

After a good feed we decided to really get into the spirit of Japan, and visit Karaoke! I sang my little heart out, and I think I lost my voice. It was a lot of fun though!!! We had our own little private room and jukebox, and we picked a song and went for it! Awesome! I think Katy Perry – Roar was the hit of the night, and the screen told us that during that song, we burnt 6 calories! Hahahaha!

Overall today was a great day. It turned out to be all of the things I thought it would be, and heaps more. I will continue to pray for those in Hiroshima, and I will always remember the things I saw today, and hope for a better future. I am really loving trying new things and tasting new foods. Japan, please can I stay here? Hahaha!

Evelyn Duthie.

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Japan Tour 2015 – Day 4

Today we woke up to a warm, bright and sunny morning- YAY! We went down to get breakfast at about 8:30am and every one except Hyde Sensei got the western style buffet. By 10am everyone had their bags packed and sent to Kyoto, and we were ready to go to Tokyo’s SKYTREE. Once we got to SKYTREE, we had to stand in line for just over an hour and purchase our tickets. Hyde Sensei then gave us an hour to explore the 3 floors of Sky Tree. This is where things got a bit interesting…..

After the hour was up, everyone went back to the meeting point that was arranged. However, the only people that didn’t show up were Hyde Sensei and Mr Rosenblatt. So, all of the students waited 350 metres up in the air for just under an hour, until we decided to use our emergency call lanyards. Miya was able to talk to one of the security guards in Japanese and ask him if he would be able to call Hyde Sensei. Eventually we discovered that the teachers were on the 5th floor of the Sky Tree waiting for us to come down. The natural path of the tower leads you to the bottom rather than the top so once again our teachers were being too logical!

After we found them, we decided that we should all go and have sushi for lunch. I tried raw fish for the first time and Harrison tried sushi for the first time of his life as well. It was surprisingly good and we both enjoyed it thoroughly and plan to eat plenty more before we return home. Japanese sushi is completely different to our sushi back home! After sushi, it was a mad rush to get to the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) which departed at 4:07pm. Fortunately, everyone in the group is fit enough to run up a few flights of stairs and dodge the massive crowds. While we were on the Shinkansen, I tried to get some sleep and listened to some music, Rhiannon and Evelyn took a whole lot of selfies while they pulled silly faces, while Miya, Harrison and Aidan just had a long chat on the first half of the ride and of course Aidan slept like he always does. He has become a champion Japanese power napper! On the second half of the ride, everyone was talking about their friends, movies and how they like their men (noodles). Once we got off the Shinkansen, we stopped by a mini bakery and Meron San (me) got some Meron Pan (Melon Bread). The final stop of the day was at a small convenience store so that everyone could get some ice-cream for dessert before bed. I am highly looking forward to going to the Hiroshima Memorial Museum tomorrow. It has also been quite surprising how much Japanese we can actually speak and understand while people are talking to us everyday!

– Meron San (Cameron) *for those who don’t know, a meron is a “melon” (watermelon, rockmelon or honeydew melon) 😉 IMG_0105 IMG_0112 IMG_8681 IMG_0107 IMG_0106 IMG_0104 IMG_8674 IMG_8678 IMG_8679

Japan Tour 2015 – Day 3

Our second day in Japan has flown by seeing us spending more time with my Japanese sister Midori while visiting Tsukiji fish markets, Miraikan (Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) and Ghilbli Museum.

The start of the day at Tsukiji was such a culturally enriching experience allowing us to get amongst the locals and see where Japanese people shop and the foods they eat on a daily basis. We were also privileged to be privy to some of the best seafood in the world!! There were stalls upon stalls of ultra fresh salmon, tuna, octopus, squid and every edible marine creature you could think of. These were accompanied by some other incredible stalls, including those that make knives on premise. This was an amazing art to watch as the men formed handles and sharpened steel. Something that brought great joy to Midori, a metal work enthusiast, and this put a huge smile on her face and therefore ours. We were also surrounded by many stalls selling all kinds of fresh and pickled produce (Japanese people LOVE their pickles!). One stall was even selling some very special mushrooms for 11,000 yen. There was also another stall that sold gelato, in Japan it is common to see green tea and black sesame flavoured gelato but at this stall we found another very interesting one, ebi or prawn gelato. Yes, prawn…nobody tried it. It was so special to me to spend the day with my sister absorbing Japanese life and sharing our love for seafood and fresh produce.

After Tsukiji we paid a visit to the Miraikan museum. This place is best well known for its robot demonstrations through the development of Asimo the robot. We unfortunately weren’t able to see these demonstrations today but instead were lucky enough to experience a Pokemon exhibit where we were able to try and guess the Pokemon inside the pokeball using a series of machines. The museum in other sections also had research experiences running that looked at your posture and gait, as well as machines that showed where earthquakes and tsunamis had struck in the last two years all over the world. Australia has had a few earthquakes recently as we know! From here we then had a quick lunch before heading out to the Ghibli Museum.

Heading to the Ghibli Museum required a few train changes but our lovely Japanese guide, Midori, had a little difficulty, sending us on a train in the wrong direction and with many wrong turns after that. In her way though it was all laughed off and only brought more enjoyment to the day. When we finally made it to the Ghibli museum though what a sight it was, this quaint yet large and majestic house that appeared to be set in the countryside like something you would find in a fairytale. It was such a wonderful surprise to our day! Once we entered inside it only became more magical opening to a large staircase that we followed down to discover we were on the base of a three storey museum in a Ghibli fairytale house. This entire place was absolutely incredible and its beauty and wonder can not be described in words. It is a place truly to be seen, it’s aesthetics and the knowledge it gives you behind the art of making animation are a keepsake for life. So many rooms in the museum were set up like the people behind the animation were still there working and they were very hands on allowing us to move through the rooms, exploring the Ghibli world.

After Ghibli we went to dinner, savouring our last meal with Midori while laughing and sharing jokes. But it was all over too soon before we were headed to the train station, hugging Midori goodbye and saying mata ne (see you later) rather than sayonara (goodbye). We were right to say that too because when we got onto the train she was the platform across from us, so we waved and waved while blowing kisses and love hearts as the train rolled away ready for tomorrow’s adventures. Rhiannon IMG_8620 IMG_8612 IMG_0079 IMG_0069 IMG_0065