The Japanese Study tour commenced on the 29th of June and we travelled through five cities in Japan before the tour ended on the 10th of July. The tour was both an enjoyable and educational experience. The entire trip, starting with the departure from Sydney has been met with an array of discoveries and experiences that have helped define the trip including travelling, tourist destinations, Japanese customs, and perspectives while travelling. The study tour was separated into three main parts including the earlier days of the trip which include the departure, the homestay, and the last days of the trip.
Starting with a stopover in Hong Kong, after a nine hour flight to Asia that was not particularly comfortable yet not extremely terrible, everyone on the tour was able to rest and recuperate on the ground at the Hong Kong International Airport. Everyone could sustain themselves again with a meal from one of the numerous fast food restaurants or enjoy window shopping and the free internet for several hours before the next flight to Fukuoka, Japan. Arrival was met with overcast weather although nothing extreme and after resting at the hotel, the actual Japanese experience was able to start at Canal City. Everyone’s first meal in the country was at Canal City on a floor that was dominated by ramen shops. Later, there were opportunities to look around the shopping complex before meeting up and walking back to the hotel. The next day was the day in which everyone would go to Isahaya in Nagasaki and meet their host families which everyone was nervous about. Before arriving in Isahaya however, everyone visited the Dazaifu Temple which was our first tourist destination with historical and cultural significance on the trip. It was a new experience to be in a temple so everyone readily bought good luck charms from the souvenir stall. After that we were officially on the way to Isahaya Commercial High School and all the students concentrated on the speech that they were to give to the entire school. Despite the nervousness and doubts, everyone was excited to meet their host family and see the rest of the high school.
The next part of the trip revolved around everyone’s individual experiences with their own host families. Meeting at the school which was different but still held some similarities to an Australian high school was fascinating despite our unfamiliarity with the layout of the school, rules, clubs and how the classes worked. However, everyone was able to still meet up and talk about what they did at the school and as a school we were able to see the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park, Martyr Museum and Chinatown despite the strong weather. The entire day was very surprising and served in contrast to the rest of the trip as being very serious, educational and sentimental. However, it was also very interesting and was an event that could be recounted to my host family. My stay with the host family allowed me to experience everyday customs of Japanese culture. These included the fact that it wasn’t a necessity to wear a seatbelt, bathing customs, the food and overall different rules around the house. Other places that I was able to visit with my host family were a mall in Isahaya, two more bigger malls in Nagasaki city and an Onsen on my last night.
After the homestay the entire group headed to Osaka via Shinkansen which was a new experience as it gave resemblance to a train with the interior of an airplane. After arriving we visited the Osaka Castle which was very interesting though tiring to reach due to the steep climb and Dotonbori, a shopping district in downtown Osaka. After eating dinner, which was at an Okonomiyaki restaurant, we caught a train to the hotel in Kyoto. The next day was much more productive as we visited four more sites, which were the Heian Shrine, Clear Water Temple (Kiyomizu temple), Sanjusangendo Hall and Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji) on a full day bus tour. The long day ended with a visit to Kyoto where upon reaching the top everyone was able to enjoy the view above Kyoto at night. The last full day in Japan was another enjoyable experience that was filled with a lot of freedom as it was mostly spent at Universal Studios in Osaka. At USJ I was able to go on all the rides and take numerous pictures before going to the main district outside the amusement park in the evening. Since the restaurants were expensive, most of the students bought their last dinner in Japan from the convenience store which was cheap yet enjoyable and filling. On the last day everyone spent the first half of the day in Nara to visit the Todaiji and Big Buddha as well as taking pictures of and with the numerous deer around the area. Upon arriving at the airport however in the afternoon, none of the students were very happy to have reached the end of the long trip but considered it to be incredibly enjoyable. There were many discussions planning a trip back to Japan in the future!