Goodbye Inage!

This morning students arrived for our final day in Japan with their bags packed. The AM was spent in cooking class where we learned how to make local dishes, including okonomiyaki which we had previously enjoyed in Hiroshima. A quick survey from Inage was completed to assist them in tailoring next years tour to the students desires. Then we had some teary goodbyes and a final photo on the steps of Inage school. Now we are at Narita airport ready to begin our long flight home!

A couple of bonus items to share with families:

First is a collection of photos available to download via Dropbox. The link is available here:

These photos will be available for download for a couple of weeks before I deactivate the link. Please feel free to download as many full resolution photos as you wish.

Second is a link to a montage video from our trip. You can also download this from the Animoto website. Enjoy!









Our Final Day in Chiba

After a Sunday spent with their host families, it was back to school for all the students on Monday in their formal attire for our final full day in Chiba. There are a number of locations throughout the school where memorabilia from previous exchanges are on display but today we noticed a special one in particular. Upstairs, photocopied on the walls were copies of the pages of the book Handsworth students from past years had made and sent to Inage in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. It was a wonderful reminder of our close connection we’ve had with our Japanese friends through both good times and times of hardship.

Today, Handsworth students had the opportunity to join a number of different activities around the school. The early morning was spent in an arts and crafts class where everyone was able to design their own custom chopsticks. This was followed by joining in on a PE class of the students choice. While a couple of students played basketball, most joined in on the traditional Japanese martial art of judo! After a brief warm up, students learned to grapple and throw their opponents! After judo, everyone relaxed with a serene calligraphy class before breaking for lunch. And then it was back to combative sports in the afternoon with a kendo (traditional Japanese sword fighting) class. The end of the school day was spent in English Communication and homeroom classes where students reconnected with their homestay friends.

In the evening all the families, staff, students and chaperones got together for our farewell party. Speeches were given by staff and students, including Logan and Drew who gave a wonderful summary of our groups experiences and thoughts on the past two weeks. Gifts were exchanged and photos taken, but the highlight at the end of the night was our performance of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. Tonight is our final night in Japan… rumor has that many of the students are going with their homestay friends for some karaoke tonight. Tomorrow morning we’re back at school until mid-day when we depart for the airport and begin our long journey home.

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Tokyo Disneyland

Today students met at Tokyo Disneyland at 8am for a full day in the park!  Despite arriving early, there were already throngs of people there to enjoy the rides.  The students split off into groups, along with their home-stay students, to enjoy the day.  The park is open until 10pm so many students will be staying quite late.  Tomorrow is the students free Sunday with their home stay families, so everyone will be doing different activities, depending on what their families have planned for them.  There will be no blog post update tomorrow, but stay tuned for Monday when we return to Inage school for our final full day in Japan and our final day with our host families.  Our trip is almost coming to an end!

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Second Full Day in Chiba

Today we arrived at the school with a fresh copy of the local paper waiting for us… with a photo of us on the cover with the mayor!  Our excursion day today took us all over Tokyo.  First to the Edo-Toyko Museum where we learned the history of the local area, then to Senso-ji Temple and the surrounding Asakusa market area.  Students enjoyed a packed lunch from their home-stay family while in the market area.  Then it was off for a brief photo op at Tokyo Tower before finishing our tour at the home of cartoon character Totoro and the Ghibli Museum – another first for Handsworth students!  Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any photos inside the animation museum, but students had the opportunity to see some of the remarkable ways in which animation is produced, and had the chance to watch a brief film.  The evening was once again spent enjoying activities with home-stay families.  Tomorrow we go to Tokyo Disneyland!

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Today our group arrived at Inage High School with their home-stay students wearing their formal attire.  It had been everyone’s first home-stay night so there were plenty of experiences for the group to share with each other.  By the time we arrived in the morning, our pictures had been posted in more than one location around the school!  While Inage students were in class, our Handsworth group got on a bus and headed over first to Qiball – a Japanese version of Science World!  From Qiball we drove to City Hall for our official visit with Chiba’s Mayor Kumagai.  As official representative’s of our city we heard and made speeches, and exchanged gifts with the mayor on behalf of the City of North Vancouver.  Once we finished there is was over to the Makuhari shopping district for lunch and shopping.  Many students took purikura photo-booth photos.  We arrived back at Inage in time for after-school club activities where we joined in on a Ikebana class (Japanese flower arrangement).  Our Japanese Ikebana teacher selected the top three flower arrangers… they were Dylan, Kiana and Jack!  The evening was spent back with home-stay students doing a variety of activities.  The weather has been great… tomorrow will be another great day in Chiba!

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Travel to Chiba

Today was mostly a travel day.  We were up at 7 to pack and clean our ryokan rooms.  Traditional breakfast at 8 and then it was a 20 minute walk to the train station.  Playing cards between train rides has proven to be popular with many of the students getting on games of “cheat” and “big 2”.  From Takayama was took a rapid local train back down to Nagoya where we caught a bullet train to Tokyo.  There we were met by 2 teacher hosts who ushered through our last brief train and bus ride before arriving at Inage High School. Students were excitedly reunited with their Japanese friends from last October.  Our photos were taken for display in the school and we all gathered for a brief welcome ceremony in Inage’s school auditorium.  Connor and Jack did an excellent job with their welcome speech. Then everyone picked up their second suitcase, which had previously been shipped to the school, and were whisked away by their host families!  Tomorrow is a formal dress day as we have some important visits to make!

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Today was a full day in the Hida hillside town of Takayama.  Famous for its float festivals, wooden lacquer ware and local delicacies, including Hida Beef, this town offered the students plenty to explore.  After another traditional meal, this time a breakfast, in the ryokan, our group set out towards the morning market.  From their, the students split off into groups to explore the town in more depth.  Temples, cultural landmarks, marketplaces, lunch and sunshine gave us all the makings of a great day!  At 1:30 our group reconvened at the train station to trek up to the Hida No Sato traditional village, with its thatched-roof houses.  Here our group got together and prepared, for the first time, our performance of Carley Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” which we’ll be performing next week at our farewell ceremony at the school.  The village also offered the students an opportunity to display feats of strength by hoisting boulders, and the chance to see what a genuinely traditional home would have looked like here many years ago.  This evening was our “last supper” as a group, as tomorrow we’ll be spending the day on local trains and bullet trains on our way to Chiba to meet with our Japanese friends and host families!

On our way to the morning market.

On our way to the morning market.

Foot Baths in Takayama!

Foot Baths in Takayama!

Hida No Sato

Hida No Sato

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Feats of Strength!

Feats of Strength!