Sixteen students, four teachers, thirteen hours, 7,804 Km... to Japan. As we stepped out onto unfamiliar ground when we arrived, there were grins and excitement, as this was the beginning of a ten day experience in what would become a great journey. A journey that immersed us in a culture so engaging it captured the heart, religions that touched the soul and a language that just can't be learned from a textbook. This was a trip in which friends bonded closer to each other, while new friends were made on the way. It was an opportunity to meet new faces and re-connect with familiar ones too. This was a trip in which we could all share our knowledge, laughter and joy, with whomever we encountered. A trip that we all will reminisce on, for many years to come.
Many would agree with me that our experience in Japan was absolutely, utterly breathtaking. The sites we toured around, all the temples, shrines and castles, held their beauty not only in themselves but in the numerous gardens that they held. Particularly Kyoto's Shinen Garden, in which a multitude of Japanese maple trees surround the glistening, soft rippled lake, home to an array of Japanese carp that swim elegantly in-between the blooming water lilies that softly float on its surface, creating an atmosphere of abundant tranquility. In my eyes, this was an amazing highlight of my time in Japan, a chance to relax, breath and take in the soothing splendour that Japan has to offer.
Whereas, being excited, filled with raging adrenaline was fine too, as the study group conquered the many rides of Universal Studios Japan, located in Osaka. This was a beautiful end to our trip, as we created many treasured memories, some of which may be filled with squeals of shock or excitement too...
However, in my opinion, the most treasured memory that I will hold for eternity, is that of experiencing a Japanese High School, along with its associated lifestyle. To do this, we visited and studied Japanese traditional and pop-culture, and language at Isahaya Commercial High school. This reminded me of my past days last year, becoming a host sister to Ayaka, who now hosted me. The school and family that I had encountered in my first days of arriving in Japan, were my favourite, all-time highlights of this trip overall. It showed me I am not a tourist on a study group, rather a part of a warm, hospitable family and school community.
Spending time at school allowed me to see familiar faces and meet and greet new ones in classes or after school activities. This has become an integral part of my cherished and beloved memories, as I now look back at the tour as a whole. Needless to say that after a beautiful six days with such a wonderful family, saying goodbye was definitely difficult, not only for me but all of my fellow peers, as tears of farewell streamed down our faces.
The Japanese study tour has proven to be a great and valuable experience for me. It has allowed me to continue my ongoing relationship with my host sister, while making new friends and educating me on Japan's culture, religion and language. I strongly recommend any student to embark on this experience of a lifetime, as they will be amazed at the endless happiness they will gain from such a trip!