Day 10 DISNEYLAND

After two and a half days at school and seeing places around Ichihara City, the group headed for a calm and a relaxing day at Disneyland with their host student. Everyone arrived at 9am at the front entrance ready for a fun day in the magical place of Disneyland. For some people it was their first time going to Disneyland, so they stayed as a big group so that the people who already knew their way around could guide them around the park and make sure everyone enjoyed their time.

There were many popular rides and with group discussions we sorted out what rides we would get fast passes for, which takes you through the waiting line quicker, and there is no need to queue for an hour or more. As the day went on, the whole group started bonding with some of the other Japanese host students, and even within our little Faith group we learned new things about each other.

Around 3:45pm we spotted all of our teachers from Ichihara and Faith and decided to go with them on a 3-D simulation ride. Half way through the wait we decided to sing a big Happy Birthday to Ryan and everyone enjoyed singing it to him, even strangers around us!! At 4pm we said goodbye to the teachers till Monday, and after a quick group discussion we decided that all of the Faith students would go on the merry go round and also some of the host students would hop on while the rest of the group filmed us going round on our phones.

Then we headed for big Thunder Mountain and found easy ways to pass the time waiting with some serious Mario Kart racing on DS and a few games of eye spy. While we were waiting in line for this attraction, we began bonding even more, then the ride came and we had some great times on this ride! We then had another group discussion about wether or not we go to Splash Mountain or get dinner and if others should find a spot for the night parade. In the end the group decided to get dinner and watch the magical parade for half an hour. After the parade the group did some shopping and planned to do Splash Mountain after shopping with our fast passes that we got earlier. After a decent time shopping, we headed to Splash Mountain to end our wonderful day at Disneyland, where our group photo was taken, and some people even bought a copy of the photo to cherish that memory forever. Hopefully we will come back to Tokyo Disneyland in the near future.

Zac

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Day 9

Once again this morning we woke up with our host siblings, in their homes and got ready for school. For some of us the day started earlier than others, as many of our host siblings live far away from school, further than most of us may be used to. After breakfast we all made our separate ways to Ichihara, whether it be by bus, train, bike, car, or a combination of these transports. There were many great sights along the way, including for some of us Mt Fuji, the Thomas the Tank Engine bus, rice fields and beautiful traditional homes.
Upon arriving at Ichihara (waking up from the bus trip for most of us) we moved off to room 104 for homeroom, which is like PCG. Periods one through three were spent with our host siblings in class, each of us having different experiences depending on what grade and class our host brother or sister is in. Myself and a few others had Health, Taiso and Japanese History today, being in the same class as one another.

Health is the equivalent to HPE Theory at Faith, however since the whole lesson was in Japanese, we simply did our best to copy down the board notes, which were all in kanji, despite not knowing what was being taught. Of course our Japanese learning at Faith helped us pick up a few words, leading us to believe we may have been learning about recovery time for injuries in hospital. Where Health is like HPE Theory, Taiso is the same as HPE Prac, excpet Taiso is Japanese Gymnastics only. Sport lessons in Japan are not always Taiso, however with the upcoming sports festival, Ichihara students were practising and we were allowed to join in. It was very fun and rather light and easy compared to the kind of sports lesson we are used to. Whilst in the Gymnasium we were also able to see some Japanese dragonflies, which are bigger than Australian ones.

After Taiso, our class then moved on to Japanese History, with a teacher that reminded us of Mr Spiers from Faith. Once again not much could be understood but a comic was used as the learning text which helped us to understand a bit and was fun to look at. We continued practising our kanji skills by filling in the question sheets given to us using the answers from the board. On Fridays at Ichihara, just like at Faith, there is assembly, however it takes place a little earlier- 11:35AM. Today`s assembly was very special, as our Tour Group was introduced to the school and the Sister School Plaques and declaration were exchanged between Faith and Ichihara Chuo High School. Sam gave a short thank you speech of appreciation, which was followed by each of us individually introducing oursleves, and then addresses from both Mr Pope, and Miss Hyde finishing with the very formal appreciation speech, all of this being in Japanese of course! We and the students at Ichihara are so thankful that we are now official sister schools and look forward to developing our relationship further.

With the end of assembly came the end of the school day, which meant cleaning for the Japanese students, and a bit of song practise for the Japan Trippers. By this point it was aroubd 12:30, a nice early finish. Our efforts to practise were somewhat contested by Ichihara`s classical cleaning music, but we did make some progress. When cleaning was over, we got on the bus with our host siblings, joined by Mr Pope, Miss Hyde, Kijima Sensei and Tomoki Sensei, and we drove to Unimo, the Japanese equivalent of Carindale. At Unimo we did some browsing and buying with our siblings, Miss Hyde and Mr Pope in particular picking up some great deals. A small group of us used a Purika booth together, which takes group photos and allows you to edit them before printing them. It was a bit of a tight squeeze inside but it was definitely a fun experience which we now have solid mementos of. After the Unimo mall we went our separate ways, so I only know my own experience.

Today I got to see a shining example of Japanese kindness and the love of my Host Family. Even though my birthday is not for about another month from now, Arisa, my host sister, and her mother took me out for a birthday dinner to a fancy cafe with a bread buffet. It was certainly a surprise and I didn’t understand at first but when it was made clear to me what was going on I was very grateful. The dinner was a delicious three course meal of western food with continuous small breads coming around for us to try. A large candle decorated the table, and signified to the wait-staff that it was a birthday table.

Sadly none of us could finish our meals, getting too full, but there’s always room for cake after all, so the cheesecake, icecream, pudding and creamcake were enjoyed almost completely. Even the birthday sign was edible! After this wonderful experience Arisa’s mother drove us to Arisa’s ballet class. The people there were very talented and kind, and her sensei were very welcoming and fun ladies. Watching Arisa dance was great, and we also saw a big cockroach in the studio! Afterwards we drove home, having to wear seatbelts by law for the first time because we took the highway. Then it was a lovely bath and straight to bed! We’re all very excited for Disneyland tomorrow!!

Lili

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Day 8

We kick started our time in Ichihara with the excitement of meeting our host students. For those of us with families that could not communicate very well in English, it simply meant we had another challenge to accomplish ahead of us. True to word, we soon regarded our host students family as our own!

The next day we were introduced to a much different environment of Japanese school life. After a tour of the school we shifted through classes with our host buddy. It was surprising to find that while most subjects learnt were very different what we were used to, many remained similar to that in Australia. With fun activities planned for us we spent the last hours of our school day personalizing our very own traditional Uchiwa (Japanese Fan). With the Kanji for “serenity” painted on the front, we painted any design or Disney character on the back, in knowledge that these fans would be accompanying is to Disneyland on Saturday!

Later that day, we visited Kasamori Kannon Temple, a Buddhist Temple and Shinto Shrine together surrounded by mountains and beautiful nature. Although we had the challenging task of climbing every step that lay ahead of us, I can say with certainty it was all worthwhile!! We were given the opportunity of seeing the statues and shrines that belonged to their religions, and even ringing the Shohro-Do Bell!! Ringing this big bell involved pulling a rope which in turn pulled back a large log to strike the bell. The echoes of the bell were definitely peaceful and considered one of the highlights of our day!

We also climbed through the centre of a camphor tree over a hundred years old and it is said that children who pass through the hole called Kosazukenokusu will receive good fortune. We the headed home and spent the rest of the evening and night with our host families. I found that spending time with my host student and seeing how she lives in Japan has been a great experience, along with her kind friends that I have met along the way. I have met a lot of great people so far, and to live the Japanese culture today, was a very challenging yet rewarding experience.

Rachel ❤

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Day 7

Due to the busyness of Day 6 we were unable to visit Kiyomizudera Temple, therefore the new plan was to visit the temple early this morning. To do this it meant we had to get up at 4:50am to catch the 5:20am train! I am not kidding we were up before the sun was. We caught the train and then had a 30 minute walk up a massive hill to reach the top of the mountain where the temple is found. Once we got to the front gate we realised why Hyde Sensei encouraged us to get up so early. It is a beautiful sight and you can look down upon all of Kyoto and it was even nicer with the sun rise backdrop and non crowded paths to the main temple. At Kiyomizudera there are nice wide wooden verandahs in which you can stand at different points and enjoy the panoramic views of Kyoto including Kyoto tower which is not far from our hotel. This temple is one of the most visited temples in Kyoto and is usually very busy and bustling with many tourists and markets selling various Japanese souvenirs and food. But because we were there early we were fortunate enough to walk around without other people interrupting our photos and it was a very peaceful and serene setting.

Once we made our way back to the bottom of the mountain we then found a convenience store to get some breakfast. We have become very accustomed to Japanese convenience store food and think it is always very OISHII (delicious). We actually regularly make the suggestion to get food from there rather than finding a restaurant or take away place. After brekky we headed back to our hotel to gather our belongings and then make our way back to Kyoto station for our last Shinkansen trip to Tokyo. Luckily our luggage had been sent ahead as we had to run for the train and only just made it!

The shinkansen ride was just over 3 hours and most of us slept on the train or watched a movie. The weather was a little overcast and rainy in patches so we were also unable to see Mt. Fuji 😦 When we arrived at Tokyo station we found an obento place and each got a Japanese lunch box to eat before hopping on the train to our Host Families. This is when the nerves starting setting in about meeting our host families but there was also lots of excitement amongst us all. After a 50 minute train ride, and then a 20 minute bus trip, we finally arrived at Ichihara Chuo High School and were very surprised to find it tucked away amongst lots of rice farms and other farms, not in the city like we had imagined. We had to change out of our shoes into special school slippers and then made our way to a room where all our wonderful host buddy students were waiting with nervous but excited smiles. I think everyone in the room was feeling both nervous but extremely excited at meeting each other and all the fun times that lay ahead for us. We each made our way home with our host buddy either on the train or bus and once again we were surprised that many students live so far away from their school and can travel for up to an hour to get there.

We are already being treated like rockstars and celebrities with everyone wanting to talk to us and practice their English. Ichihara is a great school, and we know that we are going to enjoy the next 4 days with our host families getting to know them like our own families.

Mickey

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Day 6

We kicked off today after our first night in Kyoto Station Hotel and our first experience sleeping in a tatami room. It was unique and I could speak for everyone saying that it felt AMAZING!!! We went down to our buffet breakfast and then sent our suitcases off to Chiba (near to Tokyo). After breakfast, the majority of the morning was spent searching for wifi in nearby cafes and restaurants to post last nights blog. During this trek for wifi, we came across some lovely people who were very helpful and a good opportunity to practise our Japanese. After we had finally found wifi at the Kyoto train station, we were back on track with the days plans which involved visiting multiple temples and landmarks. It is fair to say that there is some truly OUTSTANDING food here in Japan and most of us cant get enough of it. It just makes it that much better when eating food from a different culture because we never have such fresh fish, pork, beef and egg, in fact basically anything you can think of! Even when we choose to eat at a local convenience store, it is still delicious!

A few highlights of this amazing day include; me personally having Starbucks for the first time, Lilliana wanting to buy a whole packet of rubber bands, temporarily losing Austin at the Fushimi Inari Shrine as he investigated family shrines, Karaoke which was awesome and lastly we have just about established that Mr Popes favourite saying of this trip is “WOW!!!” Everybody was really looking forward to Karaoke because we missed out on doing it yesterday. Everyone was pumped to use their vocal chords to the max!!! I don’t know who the best singer was but my vote had to be Sam with his awesome dance moves and singing just about every song at the top of his lungs.

WOOHOO!! TOMORROW WE GET TO SEE OUR HOST FAMILIES!!!! Every one is sooo excited for the wonderful experience we are going to have for the next five days living with a Japanese family and embracing their ways of living compared to Western society. I myself am also excited for my birthday which is also in five days when I’m with my host family!!!!! It is a once of a life time experience to have your birthday in Japan which makes it that much better. To finish off, I would have to say that this has to be the best group of guys and girls that I have ever been with and I cannot thank Miss Hyde, Mr Pope and Midori enough for the huge amount of work they have done to make this trip possible. This journey will never be forgotten as one of the best experiences of my life.

Ryan

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Day 5

Today was a very cultural day. We started off with a very early morning, having to be in the lobby of our Hiroshima hotel at 7am. We quickly ducked down to Lawsons convinient store for a quick and nutritious breakfast and briskly walked to the Shinkansen. We had our breakfast before getting on the bullet train and we all took our seats ready for the very short 1 and a half hour trip. Apparently the scenery was lovely but I missed out because I fell asleep… Oops! After getting off the train we then caught another 10 min Shinkansen to Kyoto where we reached our final destination. After arriving we soon got back into our busy schedule and took many buses to many temples and shrines. We visited Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and another temple. They were all absolutely stunning and we took many photos of the magnificent scenery. The bus ride to Kinkakuji was very interesting after talking with Lili, I said that I could probably fall asleep standing up on the bus. Turns out that I actually did. There are photos to prove it. Whilst a little embarrassing it was a great laugh. After walking thought the shrines and temples and catching buses all day long, we caught another bus into the Gion District to spend the evening there. Gion is such an interesting place with many alleys and majority of people dressed in kimonos or wearing traditional japanese clothing. It was very interesting to look through. After walking for a bit, Miss Hyde and Mr Pope surprised us with a secret tea ceremony!  We went into a little building and sat on traditional tatami mats and cushions at a long table. We all sat there whilst the lady gave us sweet beans to start off the ceremony. The treats were so nice! After having a quick chat with the lady, a beautiful Maiko came out in a beautiful kimono with her makeup all lovely and her hair tied up looking absolutely stunning. She was absolutely gorgeous. She arrived with all the tea utensils and stared making three cups of tea for the first three guests. She only made three because the other 10 were being made it the kitchen as it would have taken to long to make all of them, one by one, in front of us. She made the cups of tea with such precision and was so graceful in what she was doing. She looked amazing and calm about it all. Because I was sitting on the edge and the head of the table, I was the main guest so I had the first tea and had to do a little traditional ritual thanking the Maiko, the other guests and slurping the last bit of the tea to show my appreciation. The tea was in a beautiful bowl like cup with gorgeous paintings of cranes and flowers on the side. The tea was absolutely delicious. It was a bitter green tea but it was so lovely and refreshing. After drinking the tea we asked the Maiko some questions about her training and how she lived her life. Some interesting answers we got was that she actually stared training when she turned 13, leaving home full time to become a Maiko. She is now 18. Another interesting thing we found out is that she actually leaves her hair in all beautiful and lovely all week! She doesn’t touch it at all except when taking out the hair piece. She has a special pillow that helps it to stay all intact at night. After talking she did a traditional dance it was absolutely beautiful! The story was about a forbidden love. Her movements where so soft and smooth. After watching the dance we played a special traditional game with a bowl where you had to place a flat hand on top of the bowl or fist where the bowl used to be when the other person picked it up. It’s hard to explain but it’s quite a simple game. Everyone lost to the experienced Maiko except for Austin who later felt bad for beating her! After the game we all had a quick photo and said our goodbyes. It was a lovely ceremony. After the tea we went to a ninja style buffet which was really cool! After dinner we caught the bus home and went to our new hotel. Our hotel has Japanese styled rooms with futons and tatami matts. its quite exciting! It was a great day full of more great memories.

Renee

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