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College Japan Tour 2013

May 09, 2013 at 7:58 AM

There are few opportunities for College students of Japanese to practise their language skills in a natural context, so for a group of fifteen of our students, it was a really exciting prospect to travel to Japan during the recent April holidays of this year and put two or more years of language study to the test.

After an eleven hour flight and a further one and a half hour coach ride, we found ourselves at the centrally located Sakura Youth Hostel in Tokyo’s Asakusa. Over the next three days we were able to visit very traditional places such as the Meiji Jingu temple, the Asakusa Sensooji temple and Ueno Park, alongside the latest that Tokyo has to offer in Ginza, Shibuya, Akihabara (electrical city) and Shinjuku. Along the way we experienced a range of Japanese food enjoyed by all, as well as fitting in a few shopping opportunities. We spent the day at Tokyo Disneyland - along with a few million Japanese junior high school students on holiday also! We rode subways, the famous Yamanote circle line and walked at least ten kilometres each day.

Wednesday saw us lining up on the Shinkansen platform at 10:00am for our first experience on the bullet train. Daniel Hsieh had GPS on his phone and was able to calculate that the train reached speeds in excess of 270 km per hour on our way to Kyoto. The seats were far more comfortable and spacious than economy class on a plane, and we all really enjoyed that, and subsequent, bullet train rides

Kyoto is organised in a grid-like pattern, and so finding our hostel by bus was an easy task. At every stage, the students were expected to ask for information using Japanese, and I was really impressed with the ease and confidence displayed by our students in trying out their skills.

We spent the next day in central Kyoto. We saw a traditional rock garden at Ryoanji, the beautiful golden shrine at Kinkakuji, the former Imperial castle called Nijojo, followed by lunch and a visit to Kyoomizudera up on top of the hill overlooking Kyoto city. We then wandered back through the suburb of Gion, hoping to catch a glimpse of geisha and walked along a street built in the fashion of 16th century Japan.

Our youth hostel in Kyoto was very new, very big and very welcoming. A tour group from another Japanese junior high school was booked in at the same time as our group, and our Saint Kentigern students became mini-celebrities for the evening, as Japanese students fought to exchange email addresses and contact details with our group. Again, it was gratifying for me to see our students chatting in Japanese with their new friends.

From Kyoto we made a day trip to Nara, the first capital city of Japan. Famous for its big Buddha statue, I think the wild deer roaming the park remained the real attraction for our students. A thunder storm forced an early return to Kyoto, but it was an enjoyable day out and we had many great photo opportunities.

On Saturday morning we made a start on the last leg of our trip to Hiroshima, with a stop-off at Himeji castle – one of the iconic images of Japan. Unfortunately, most of the castle was shrouded in renovation curtains, but we were able to get right up to the top of the castle to see the beautiful view from the top.

The A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima and the museum in the Peace Park, were always going to be a focus of our visit to this city. The students were careful to take their time as they went through the museum and watched the movie, so that they could understand the full impact of what happened to Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. It was a very sober group who regathered at the exit of the museum and I am sure that this particular activity will stay with them for some time.

The students were ‘set free’ that afternoon to wander around downtown Hiroshima, shopping and using their Japanese some more. Some students went with Mr Robinson up to Hiroshima castle, others simply roamed the streets and shopped for last minute souvenirs and presents for families.

Monday morning saw us rise bright and early for a visit to Miyajima Island – a local tourist attraction for foreigners and Japanese alike, starring the Itsukushima shrine (the shrine in the water). Our two girls enjoyed a rikshaw ride along the waterfront and we found a delicious café for lunch that was equally relished by all.  It was nice to get out on the water and enjoy a lovely day in the sun on our last day in Japan.

It was a really long trip back to Auckland on Tuesday. A six hour ride on the bullet train, another 3 hours changeover in Tokyo onto the Narita express for the airport trip and a further 3 hours waiting for our flight before the 10 hour flight home. However, none would deny that this had been an extremely successful trip. The outstanding attitude and behaviour of our students made sure that Mr Mark Robinson and I enjoyed ourselves as much as they did, and I hope in turn that each of them can take this experience forward and use it in their studies. Minasan, arigatoo gozaimasu.

Japanese Tour Participants

Hamish Clark, Mitchell King, Adam Jones, Daniel Hsieh, Matthew Swiatek, Henry Rowden, Meheer Zaveri, Nick Hood, Tarquin Marinus, Harrison Young, Sam Tait, Zac Webb, William Langley, Olivia Sullivan, Natasha Leishman

Mrs Chris Leishman, Mr Mark Robinson

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