Year 10 Japanese Study Tour

By Aayush Bhatia, Year 10

During the spring holidays, the Year 10 Japanese class travelled to Japan for an exchange and study tour. Our trip started from Canberra and ended in Okayama after almost 13 hours of travel. Once we reached Okayama, reality began to set in. We were all extremely excited to visit Konko Gakuen High School, meet our host families, and reconnect with all the people we met in March when students from Konko Gakuen travelled to Radford College.

When we went to the school with our host families, we quickly realised how different Japanese school is to Australian school. All of their classes are in one classroom, and all the students sit on singular desks in rows separated from each other. On our second day, we went on a trip with our exchange students to visit the Hiroshima atomic bomb museum and Miyajima Island. This excursion helped us further understand Japanese culture.

"The Hiroshima and Miyajima excursion was a great time to talk to people I didn't know that well from our previous exchange back in March" - Saanvi.

On the last day of the homestay, we experienced a traditional tea ceremony hosted by the Konko Gakuen students. We all made matcha tea and ate traditional sweets. On the Saturday, we went to school to participate in their school sports carnival. It was a great experience participating in all the events. We took part in an obstacle course, the 100-meter race, and a caterpillar race. Surprisingly, we won four out of the nine races we participated in.

Our experience at Konko Gakuen was amazing and one that we will remember and cherish for the rest of our lives.

"The best part for me was being able to connect and reconnect with everyone from Konko Gakuen, and I really enjoyed getting to know and spending time with my classmates" - Priyanka.

Visiting Tokyo Disneyland

Following this, we travelled to Kyoto for the second leg of our journey. On our first day there, we visited Kiyomizudera Temple as a class. We walked along the streets near the temple and then went to an ice cream shop with more than 20 different flavours. On our second day in Kyoto, we visited Nara and fed the wild deer that inhabit the area. We all enjoyed the mostly friendly company of the deer following us as we walked around. Inside Nara's main temple, Todaiji, we saw a 15m Buddha statue and attempted to pass through a 30-centimeter-wide hole known as the Buddha's nostril – it is said, that if you successfully pass through, you will achieve enlightenment.

After this, we visited one of the most famous shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Shrine. We split off into groups and walked the four kilometers up the mountain through the path lined with distinctive orange torii gates. At the end of the climb, which was the mountain top, we were blessed with the beautiful night lights of Kyoto.

The next day, we visited Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion where the top two floors are covered in real gold leaf. After this, we went to karaoke, pet cafes, and shopping as a class. For our last day in Kyoto, we met up with Haruna, our former Japanese assistant, who took us to Dotomburi, one of the busiest shopping districts in Japan. The next day, we boarded our train to go to Takayama.

In Takayama, we stayed in a minshuku, which is a traditional Japanese inn. On our first day, we made homemade soba noodles, which we then enjoyed for dinner. The next day, we embarked on the most challenging activity of the trip – hand fishing. We all struggled as the fish proved to be extremely quick and slimy. For the remainder of the day, we bonded over card games and enjoyed each other's company. The following day, we visited Hida No Sato, a folk village showcasing traditional Japanese architecture. After exploring the buildings, we engaged in traditional Japanese activities such as walking on stilts and playing Kendama (a cup and ball game). Leaving Takayama behind, we hopped on the Shinkansen and headed to Tokyo.

"Takayama was my favourite place. Our group became like a family, and we had the best time together, always open and enjoying every moment" - Iona.

Our first day in Tokyo took us to Harajuku and Shibuya. We strolled along Harajuku's main street, Takeshita Street, where we indulged in crepes, a popular sweet treat. As we were leaving, we even came across a group of Australian tourists driving Mario karts on the road. We then made our way to Shibuya to experience the famous Shibuya crossing, bustling with activity just as depicted in photographs. Our visit to Teamlabs in Tokyo the next day was the highlight of the entire trip. This interactive art museum featured a water section with four main rooms and a garden area with two rooms.

As a class, we particularly enjoyed the rotating room in the water section. Projectors displayed moving images on the walls, creating an illusion of movement and rotation within the room. Arguably the best day of our trip followed, as we spent a day at Tokyo Disneyland. Despite the rain, we remained in high spirits. Upon entering Disneyland, we all purchased Disney character hats or Mickey Mouse ears.

Haruna, our language assistant, made a special trip to join us at Disneyland. Following her recommendations, we enjoyed special Halloween meals for both lunch and dinner. The standout treat was the purple sweet potato pie, one of the best sweets we had in Japan. Throughout the day, we went on rides and watched parades. To cap off the day, we found a spot and eagerly awaited the famous Disneyland fireworks show. Unfortunately, rain began to fall just as the show started. Nevertheless, we savoured the fireworks display before heading back home to prepare for our second-last day in Japan.

The penultimate day was a leisurely one. We visited Sensoji in Asakusa, exploring a long shopping street leading to a shrine. Afterward, we gathered as one big family at a family restaurant for our final authentic Japanese dinner. With hearts full, we walked back home, ready for the final day ahead, which involved a Mt. Fuji sightseeing tour and a ride on a pirate ship. In the morning, we climbed over 400 stairs to behold an unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji. Later, we visited an open-air museum adorned with sculptures and interactive artworks. Our last activity in Japan involved a short and relaxing ride on a pirate ship across Lake Ashi. We then made our way to the airport, preparing to board our flight back home.

"The city of Tokyo was an enlightening place, filled with wonder and enthrallment" - Theo.

Our Japanese study tour concluded with mixed emotions. We created countless memories, engaged in enriching experiences, and formed connections that will last a lifetime. For anyone seeking to immerse themselves in different cultures and explore an amazing country brimming with incredible people, this trip is a must.

"The trip was already expected to be amazing, but it surpassed all expectations because we made the most of our time in Japan!" - Anika.