Final day – on our way to the airport

The girls met at Atomi Gakuen for our final farewell before hopping on the bus and heading to the airport.

We said goodbye to Michelle, who is staying until the end of January as our first longer term exchange student.

Lucy and Nina have also stayed on to enjoy Japan with their families.

The rest of us will be arriving home tomorrow (Sat am) on QF62 at 5.30am.

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Day 16 – From a student’s perspective

5:45am: we crawled out of our beds, exposing ourselves to the crisp cool morning. Today officially marked our third day of our homestay, and we were loving it (excluding the early mornings). With breakfast in our stomachs (ranging from French toast to rice and fish) and over 4 layers of thermals on, we set out into the cold, eager to, and I’d never thought I’d say this, go to school on the holidays.

Three train rides later, during which “Neko Atsume” was played and explained to our host sisters (only the greatest game ever introduced to us by Katie), we arrived at Atomi: our home away from our Japanese home. Here, we were escorted by our host sisters to our own private room, where the Rita’s girls and our Lithuanian friend, Kotryna, would chat and unwind between classes.

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And for some of us, that was our first lesson, where we would chat in Japanese (or try to) to Kotryna (she could speak English, Japanese and Lithuanian). So we discussed the essential issues of Japan, such as the explanation of Pavlova to Kotryna and the review of last night’s season final episode of ‘The monk who loved me from 9-5’ (or something similar to that); mostly done in Japanese.

After a while we realised a swarm of Japanese students were waiting outside our room, so of course we accepted their requests for photographs and autographs (which some did actually ask for). Most were previous host sisters who had stayed with us at St Rita’s, and all were eager to test their English with us, as we attempted our Japanese with them. We discovered this period was referred to as a ‘reunion’ lesson.

So after reuniting, Kotryna lead us to our Japanese lesson, where we gathered into groups with the Year 9 Japanese students, who explained to us the dishes they eat on New Year’s Day. In return, we discussed with them the course with which our Christmas lunches take place. After our Japanese lesson, we got geared up into mint green/baby blue “active wear”-a.k.a. typical Kath, Kim and Kel exercise gear, complete with the zip up jacket and tight shorts that go to your waist-for our English conversation lesson.

Our English conversation lesson somehow evolved into a game of soccer with 30 Grade 8 students, where our competitive alter egos blossomed. The soccer game proved to be more challenging than yesterday’s swimming lesson of floating. Atomi and Rita’s girls combined to form two teams. Our soccer game consisted of Team A vs. Team B; 40 girls, three matches; one chance to prove ourselves; and one winner. After a tough match, that winner ended up being Team A with the Team A Rita’s girls scoring some incredible goals (must have been the outfits).

We reluctantly changed out of these sports outfits, and joined our host sisters for lunch, where we felt like celebrities. Multiple people would take photos with us and shriek out when we would say “konichiwa” to them. Not to mention, all day, we were described as “kawaii” (cute). The paparazzi was after us as we ate our fried rice, omelette rice and potato salad from our obento boxes.

Yet we managed to escape from our fans and made our way to our music lesson, with one of our favourite teachers at Atomi, Mr. Tsuzuki, who gave us Christmas cards and sung Christmas carols with us and his class of Year 10 students. He was hilarious, and we all remembered him from when he came to St Rita’s with the Atomi students last year. He had made us want to join his choir. In a musical mood, we arrived to our last lesson of the day, where we listened to the hypnotic tune of the koto, a Japanese harp (of which we discovered was played during the game of Fruit Ninja). Our koto sensei taught us the Sakura tune on the koto, and we played it using long teeth-like picks placed on our fingers to strum each string of the koto.

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Our school day was sadly over, and our backpacks were emptied of koala souvenirs as we headed towards the train. My host sister and I caught the train to the Christmas markets, which was a Japanese/German festival. We were quite hungry (as at Atomi there is no time for morning tea), so we managed to each eat a German sausage, a churro, several ball-shaped spherical pancakes, a hot chocolate drink and a few cheesy potato crisps. Our stomachs full and eyes drooping, we headed home.

We ate our nigiri for dinner whilst watching authentic Japanese game shows-possibly one of the best ways to end the day.

Nina

Day 14 – Homestay begins

Today started very early as the girls packed up and left the Youth Hostel and headed to Atomi Gakuen to meet their host families.

The girls were excited and also nervous but the hand over went well.

Hopefully there will be some updates over the next few days from girls in homestay but we will see how we go.

Please see the photos below for the girls with their host families.

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Day 13 – Odaiba

KONNICHIWA!! Today was our last day together as our St “Tita’s” group. We had a fabulous day at Odaiba (another shopping district in Tokyo).

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After riding the monorail, we went to the Toyoto Mega Web show room and interactive area. We went on the simulators and tested our driving skills – many of us found driving within the lines difficult.

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We were then met by Shoko, one of our past student teachers and language assistant. It was so lovely to see her and catch up after our 2 years apart. We then went on the famous Odaiba Ferris wheel and had some Chinese food for lunch nearby at the Venus Fort shopping centre that looks like Venice, Italy, when you enter. (The photos below are from the 2nd floor of the centre, there was a floor above it – although it looks like the sky)

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Afterwards we met up with another past student teacher, Atsuko, and went shopping at Diver City Mall.

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After a long and strenuous day, we returned home with lighter purses and heavier bags! To top the day off, we saw a cat being pulled along by its owner on a skateboard. It was dressed up in an R2D2 costume- only in Japan!

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It was a nice way to spend our last day before home stay.

Oyasuminasai,

Elita and Sofia 🙂

 

Day 11 – Harajuku and Ghibli Museum

Today we were lucky enough to have a little bit of a sleep in, as breakfast started at eight. We came up to breakfast, and I think we were all happy to see some familiar food – toast, cereal and eggs. By 9:30, we were at the train station experiencing the crowdedness of Tokyo peak hour. I don’t think any of us will soon forget the experience of being crammed into an already crowded train so much that we were all physically squashed together.

Soon enough, we arrived at Shibuya, the famous crossing in Tokyo, and we’re happy to have some breathing room again. As we walked out of the train station and caught our first real glimpse of a shopping street in Tokyo. The visit was, however, quick and after a photo with the statue of Hatchi (the dog who famously passed away at Shibuya station waiting for his owner) and a walk across the crossing we were off to Harajuku.

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In Harajuku, which is the ‘trendy’ shopping district in Tokyo, it soon became apparent that the shops would not open for another hour so we popped into Starbucks for a coffee. After an hour or so at Starbucks, sipping our Christmasy coffees, we were let out on our own to explore the shops. I think we all agree that the shopping experience was one of the best of our lives and we had to all restrain ourselves from spending all of our money at once!

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We all reluctantly left Harajuku – with the promise of returning later for dinner – and headed to the Ghibli museum. As we arrived out front the excitement and wonder filled the air. The large museum structure loomed above us as smiles began to form on our faces. After collecting our tickets and our movie screening passes we headed forth into the museum to discover how Japan’s most famous animated movie studio spreads their magic into the lives of their audience.

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Models of Ghibli characters were abundant in the museum making every moment inside one that we would never forget. After exploring for a while, it was time to enter the cinema room to view a short film called “Koro’s big day out”. The film followed a day in the life of a curious puppy by the name of Koro who gets lost whilst trying to follow its owner to school. By the end some tears of happiness were shed and we exited the theatre feeling as though the magic of studio Ghibli had touched all of our hearts. After another quick exploration and a trip to the gift shop it was time to head back to Harajuku for another round of shopping.

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By 6pm, we had a much-needed dinner and were treated to the famous Harajuku crepes for dessert. With our stomachs full, we headed back to the Youth Hostel and are now excited for a full day at Disneyland!

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Much love, from Bella and Katie xx

Day 7 – Hiroshima

The morning began with an early start to finish packing and have breakfast before meeting in the hotel lobby at ten to eight. We then walked ten minutes to the train station and waited in anticipation for our shinkansen (bullet train) to arrive. Although the outside looked like a bullet train the inside could have been mistaken as a plane.

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After a two hour train ride to catch up on some much needed sleep we arrived in Hiroshima. After a quick stop in at the hotel to drop off our luggage we were back at the train station ready for an adventure. The half an hour before our train arrived was used to get some lunch and snacks for the day’s trip. After a 30 minute ride to Miyajima we boarded a ferry to Miyajima island where the clear water temple waited.

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It’s big orange gate stood tall in the water, barely affected by the erosion of time. After a couple of quick photos we were free to explore the island. The souvenir shops were plentiful and had various items just waiting to be bought. The island also held an aquarium for us to visit. If that didn’t peek your interest there were also many food stalls and also deer around to play with.

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After about 2 hours we headed back to the hotel in Hirishima. Once there we settled in before meeting the group down stair ready for some Karaoke. The songs ranged from Single Ladies by Beyonce to Let It Go from Frozen. We had a blast and got a couple of interesting, and some would say embarrassing, photos and videos from it.

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Once our hour was up we headed to the Okonomiyaki Mura for dinner. After a salivating 45 minutes of watching the chef prepare our savoury pancakes in front of us we were finally able to dig in. The pancakes were delicious and consisted of a thin pancake base, cabbage, sprouts, bacon, squid or vegetarian, double yolked eggs, noodles, lots of seasoning and okonomiyaki sauce to top it off.

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After we had demolished the amazing meal we headed back to the hotel to get ready for bed and catch up on our beauty sleep in anticipation for what tomorrow would bring. All in all it was another amazing day on our Japan Trip 🙂

Sam

Day 6 – Nara and Gion Corner

Today we headed out at 9 after a much-needed sleep for another day in beautiful Kyoto. Our first destination was the city of Nara. Here we had the opportunity to explore the incredible Todaiji Temple, witness the enormous bronze Buddah statue housed within it, and attempt to wriggle through a small rectangular hole in one of the columns with the promise of enlightenment.

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Afterwards, we had time to take photos with and pat the many deer which roam the surrounding parklands. Many seemed very eager to get to us, especially when they noticed one of us with food!

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When we were all worn out from fending off the deer, it was time to buy some lunch from the station supermarket (which happened to have a delicious and extensive donut section…) and catch the train back to Kyoto. A quick rest at the hotel and we were ready to head out again for some shopping, and later, with purses a little lighter than before, to Gion Corner, where we watched a performance of traditional Japanese arts.

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This included a tea ceremony, ikebana, dancing, comedy and harp playing. We even got to have our photos taken with an authentic geisha. A unique Japanese experience we all thoroughly enjoyed.

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After the performance, we were a little peckish, and left in search of dinner. Eventually we stopped at at a small but cosy restaurant serving traditional Japanese set menus. Here we enjoyed a delicious selection of foods such as yakitori (chicken skewers), udon, tofu and tempura. A quick trip to a cute lolly shop nearby and and a train ride later, we were back at the Dormy Inn Hotel. Just as we were about to walk in, we had a bit of a laugh as a man on the street turned around and looked up at Sophie, exclaiming, ‘sugoi!’ (Wow!) in amazement.

Clearly, an enjoyable and surprising day was had by all.

Good night,

Lucy