We have arrived safely back in Boston and are happy to report that the BHS Japan Exchange Program was a great success! The students gained new confidence in their language and travel skills, developed new friendships and tried many new foods. Here are a few photos from our last day at Nijo Castle. It was a pleasure traveling with them for two weeks!
Today was our last full day in Kyoto. We spent the first half of the day in English classes at KGN, learning about Model UN and new ways to do self-introductions in Japanese. We then headed out to Northern Higashiyma and had a beautiful afternoon at Ginkakuji and Nanzenji. We walked the Philosopher's Path and bought last minute souvenirs for friends at home. The weather was glorious and it was a great last full day!
Today we had one English class at KGN and then headed off to learn about Zen mediation and mindfulness from Mr. Kawakami, the head Buddhist priest at Shunkoin Temple. See his TedX Kyoto talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDMOc_WCTW0 It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from a mindfulness master. In addition, we had a vegetarian Buddhist lunch at Shigetsu restaurant in Tenryuji Temple and walked through the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. It was a busy and meaningful day!
Today was a day full of learning! We had art and English classes at Kyoto Gaidai Nishi High School. BHS students met and made friends with their KGN counterparts and enjoyed classes together. In the afternoon, we learned how to make yatsuhashi, a traditional Kyoto sweet made out of mochi and red bean paste.
Our first day at Kyoto Gaidai Nishi School was full of making new friends and learning about how this particular private school works. It was actually the first day of classes in the new school year for the KGN students and teachers so we are thankful that they let us observe their first day! BHS students were split in to various groups to observe everything from math, chemistry, English, earth science and Spanish or Chinese classes. We then headed off to explore Fushimi Inari Shrine in the afternoon. It was a busy and fun day!
It was a beautiful day in Ai-no-kura, visiting the small gassho-zukuri style homes and meeting a washi paper maker. He let us enter his studio/home and it was a special treat to see him painting masks and view his art. We then headed to a washi paper making studio and had the chance to make washi postcards ourselves. The highlight of the day was lunch in a gassho-zukuri house and a folk music performance by one of the family members. We even got to light potassium nitrate in the hearth, which is made in the village for fireworks. After leaving the village, we headed to Kyoto on the train and met up with our host families. The students were nervous and excited but were ready for the next part of our adventure! Next blog post won't come until Monday night, as students are with their individual host families for the weekend.
We spent the morning on the bullet train from Tokyo to Toyama and were met by our tour guide, Ms. Tomoko Nishimura. We then drove to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, a working village nestled in the mountains in Gifu Prefecture. There, we had a delicious lunch and toured the Wada House, which is the most important house in the village. Students explored the village on foot and took in the snow covered mountains, cherry blossom trees and daffodil flowers. It was truly spectacular weather and special to see the sakura in bloom. We are staying in a traditional inn and enjoying beautiful meals together. What a special day!
Our second full day in Tokyo was full of long-lasting memories! We started off in Shinjuku at the Metropolitan Government Building Observatory, taking in Tokyo in full-scale. We then headed to Isetan Department Store to enjoy their amazing food floor and buy lunch for our picnic. We had a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen (Imperial Gardens), enjoying specialty foods and the scenery. In the afternoon, we spent time in Akihabara (Electronics/Anime district) and some of us tried our first cat cafe! In the evening, we took in a Tokyo Giants vs. DeNA Baystars baseball game and even made it on to the Jumbotron! It was a full and fun day!
We had a fantastic day trip outside of Tokyo today to the historical city of Kamakura. The weather was glorious and spring is in full bloom in Japan. We visited the Great Buddha and Hase Temple, as well as Hokokuji Temple's bamboo grove (FYI-any students wearing face masks are for allergy protection from pollen). We then returned to Tokyo for dinner and some karaoke. Who knew we had such talented singers in our group!?!
We spent our first full day in Japan exploring the many sites of Tokyo. We started off enjoying the peaceful scenery around Meiji Shrine and then spent the middle of the day exploring the teenage paradise of Harajuku. Crepes for lunch was a highlight! In the afternoon, we headed to Studio Ghibli, the museum designed by Hayao Miyazaki to learn about his life and work. We topped off the day with a ramen dinner and exploring Shibuya at night. What a fun-filled day in Tokyo!