Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sunday 20th December

Although yesterday's posting was going to be the final for the trip, it was great to get back home today, and take one last photo.
A big thank you to all the parents who were at the airport and the kind words of thanks. The gifts were  completely unexpected, generous and kind. 
We hope that over the next few days families will be entertained by the many stories of what the group saw and did, as the memories come back. 
We couldn't have done this trip without the help of Mr Smith, whose Head-of-school skills, PE skills and navigation skills helped us on many occaisions. It was nice to know that Mr Smith could have the chance to finally go on a Japan trip, after missing the opportunity when he was a student in Mrs Smith's Japanese class some years ago. His words of encouragement to the group were most appreciated.

So here is the 最後の最後の写真。みんなさん、日本語の勉強をがんばってください。おげんきで。さようなら、さようなら、さようなら。

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Saturday 19th December

Just about over. We have now arrived at Narita Airport, checked in and doing a little more shopping before going through immigration and security. Boarding around 6:00 for flight to  Auckland. Most took the chance to get in a little snooze on the train to the airport.
See you all at Christchurch tomorrow. Hope you have found this blog of interest in supplementing your childrens' daily emails, messaging, and facebook posts.


Friday 18th December continued

More photos from Disneyland:
Amy and Riley with the cute hat.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Thursday 17th and Friday 18th December

On Thursday the group went to the Tokyo Sky Tree, at 634m the tallest free-standing tower in the world. Whatever the record, it is a very long way down from the observation deck to the ground. Although cloud covered Mt Fuji, we had great views of the whole of Tokyo, from the sea to the edge of the Kanto plain.
The tower visit was followed by free time around the shops at the base of the tower, and then we moved to Asakusa. The purpose was to visit the famous shopping street that leads to the temple and pagoda. We entered through the Kaminarimon gate and made our way through the lines of souvenir shops to the temple. It was very crowded as Asakusa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo.
We were guided around both sites by Kaoruko, who has just returned from a year studying at Cashmere HS. She was happy to give up a day of her holiday to help us. Kauruko lives about 20 minutes' walk from where we are staying. Her mother helped organise our dinner which was in a small Japanese restaurant where we sat on tatami mats rather than chairs. Following dinner, Kaoruko introduced the group to the nearest game centre, where Mr Smith won the drumming battle and others tried the photo-booths and other games on offer. 
We then headed back to the YH and said goodbye to Kaoruko, thanking her for a great day.
Here are photos of the day:

Tokyo Sky Tree.

Tokyo metropolis from the observation deck (the first deck in the photo above).

At Asakusa - Karinarimon gate.

   Asakusa Temple

   Lewis's birthday surprise cake, at dinner, on tatami mats.

   Kaoruko and Kate at the photo booth at the game centre.

   Two tuna heads outside a restaurant next to the game centre. 

   Adapting to the commuter lifestyle, riding the trains. 

On Friday, the last full day, the group went to Tokyo Disneyland. Although it was not crowded by TD standards, there were still a lot of people of all ages in the park. The groupmhad free time for the day, and were given money for food of their choice to keep them going. We stayed to see a spectacular electric light parade and Christmas fireworks display.
Today was also the first chance to get a look at Mt Fuji as the weather was cold but clear.
Here are today's photos:

   Outside the entrance.

    My Fuji from Disneyland. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Shibuya City Tourism Association feature

This link should take you to a page of the Shibuya City Tourism Association. the group were photographed and interviewed by a represntative of the association. The item was posted on their Facebook page last evening.
Also try:
This should show the article.

Wednesday 16th December

After the unfortunate doctor's visit in the early hours of the morning, our schedule was put back a little to allow the two concerned to sleep in and recover.
Today was the visit to the Ghibli Museum, out in the suburban city of Mitaka. Mitaka is hardly in the suburbs as it is really just an extension of the greater Tokyo metropolis. We were lucky enough to catch one train from the youth hostel station, then travel for 40 minutes, before continuing to station for the  museum, by transferring to the other side of the platform at Nakano. 
There were seats for everyone after the train had passed through Shinjuku, which made the journey quite restful.
We waited for about 20 minutes for the decorated yellow bus to take us, and several other passengers, to the museum, which was located in a large park in Mitaka city.
The Ghibli museum displays various works and articles associated with animation films and characters. It was an eclectic series of displays, in an odd-shaped building. 
Here are some photos from the visit:

We returned to Mitaka for lunch then decided to visit the Asakura House in Daikanyama, one of the wealthier suburbs in central Tokyo.
Although we made good time by using an express train with only two stops, and a quick change at Yoyogi,we arrived 9 minutes after closing time. Even though there were still people in the grounds, we were not allowed to enter the grounds for a quick look at the exterior, so we had to be satisfied with a restricted view from the gate.
We did have enough time to walk up the central street, where there are a number of ambasadors' residencies and embassies, and gaze through the windows of very expensive-looking shops and trendy cafes. We could also spot several high-end luxury sports cars parked along the side of the road. All the people were immaculately dressed and oozed chic refinement.  

The pedestrian cross-bridge at the end of the street could do with a cleaning up though, we thought.

Looking down the street to the poorer part of Daikanyama.

Following dinner, it was agreed by all that everyone was very tired and an early night was definitely needed. 
Tomorrow, we will be guided by Kaoruko Hosomi, a 2015 Cashmere international student who lives in the area.
Kaoruko will take us to the Sky Tree and to Asakusa.We are hoping that the forecast for mid-morning rain and cloud will be wrong, and that we can have a fine view from the observation deck of the tower, during the hour we have been assigned to be there.

Tuesday 15th December

Another busy day with some estimates of distance walked getting to around 16 kms, though that seems a little high.
The morning started with a short exploration of the Youth Hostel area, which was mainly finding the nearest convenience store, eating ice-creams at 9:00am, and then heading for the train to Harajuku. Harajuku's Takeshita-dori is the centre of young people's Tokyo, and famous for the cute, strange and popular. The demographic is teenage girls and some boys. Our early start meant we beat the crowds and had time to look around without being unduly crushed. 
By the time we left at around 10:45 the street had filled considerably. Many of the group found further ways to boost the Japanese economy.

At the start of Takeshita-dori

Shopping for ...


..candy floss !!!

Being photo-bombed by one very strange but amusing street performer (we presume)

What we were trying to do.

Then we moved on to Shibuya with the compulsory photo with Hachiko.

The crowds at Shinjuku and Shibuya were amazing and took some getting used to. Although we missed rush hour, we were still quite tightly packed in on one or two of the trains we took. 
At Shibuya the group had two hours to explore the area, and most found something to buy during that time. H&M and Forever 21 were the main beneficiaries, but as one boy commented, he couldn't get a pair of cool blue suede shoes for $65 in Westfield!
For a little more Japanese pop-culture, we moved on to Ikebukuro to find the "Pokemon Centre" on the second floor of what was the tallest building in Tokyo, before the turn of the century. Some of the group were in heaven, while a few others chose to sit the experience out, and keep their wallets and purses closed.

We left for Akihabara Electric Town, and searched for a retro-video and computer game store called "Super Potato", which proved a little difficult to find, being tucked in a small alley and up some stairs. Mr Smith re-acquainted himself with some of the games he played when he was a young teenager, quite some time ago. In the area were many "maid cafes" and similar businesses, and the group were approached by a number of young girls dressed in various costumes, touting for business. The streets and alleys were well lit, and the advances were very polite and non- threatening, and the costumes were colourful, but most were taken by surprise with this strange side of modern Japan.
On returning to the hostel, there was a small birthday celebration, with cake and candles for Keimpe's birthday.

Unfortunately, one of the group was taken ill around mid-night, and Mrs Tappenden took her to the after-hours clinic to be checked out. Luckily, nothing major was discovered and both returned around 2:30am. Wednesday's schedule will be slightly re-arranged when both the girl and Mrs Tappenden have had a few more hours of much needed sleep. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Monday 14th December

The last moving day.
All the group gathered at Kurashiki station for the final time, with host families and friends to say goodbye before leaving for Tokyo. There was a small ceremony of thanks and then personal farewells, and all agreed it had been a happy and succesful 5 night homestay and school experience. 

On the way to Tokyo we used two shinkansen, one from Okayama to Shin-Osaka, then another from there to Shin-Yokohama. At Yokohama we were met by Mr and Mrs Hyuga, the Vice-Principal of Kanto Gakuin, and the close friend of the late Rika Hyuga, after whom the scholarship awarded to Cashmere HS student,  Saskia Saunders, was named. Rika Hyuga was tragically killed in the CTV building collapse in the February 2011 earthquake while she was attending a language school. Rika was a graduate of Kanto Gauin school. In her memory, Mr and Mrs Hyuga established the scholarship so that young Christchurch people studying Japanese language can attend Kanto Gakuin school for one month to improve their language and experience Japanese life. Saskia was the second recipient of the scholarship, and made a lasting impression on those she met at the school for her Japanese ability, friendliness and maturity. Mr and Mrs Hyuga were so taken with Saskia, they wanted to develop a closer relationship with Cashmere by introducing this year's group to Kanto Gakuin for the afternoon.
Kanto Gakuin generously provided their school truck to take all our bags from Shin-Yokohama station to the youth hostel in central Tokyo for us, while we enjoyed the afternoon and evening with Mr and Mrs Hyuga, and Rika's friend, Sumica.
At the school Mrs Tappenden and Mr Smith met the principal and exchanged small gifts.
Below with Mrs Tappenden Mr Smith, are Mr Tomiyama, the principal and Mr and Mrs Hyuga.

The group were shown the tea ceremony, and the national champion Handbell club, who entertained us with and impressive medley of Christmas carols.

After that, the group performed their haka for some of the school's many clubs. The haka was the loudest of the three performances so far, and was warmly received by the audience.
The group was then split into three, and,  with a pair of Kanto Gakuin students each, were taken to explore the famous Yokohama "China-town".
Then Mr and Mrs Hyuga kindly took us to their favourite Chinese restaurant for dinner. 

Some of the group had a chance meeting with an apparently famous Japanese comedienne, outside the restaurant.

Mr and Mrs Hyuga, and Sumica, then escorted us for the hour train trip to the youth hostel in Idabashi, before returning to their homes.
It was an honour to meet such a selfless and generous couple as Mr and Mrs Hyuga, and we look forward to welcoming them both to Cashmere High School when they visit Christcurch again. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Friday 11th December

Today was another busy day. We all met at Kurashiki Minami at 8:30 and were taken to the Mitsubishi Motor Corporation car plant. We saw a brief video of the assembly process then went on a quick tour of the assembly plant. The plant is 95% automated with many different types of robotic devices employed in the manufacturing process. We were not allowed to take any photos.
After that we went to a factory that manufactured the material edging that is on the edges of the tatami mats. We tried our hand at edging small, rectangles of tatami. It needed concentration and a steady hand but everyone managed to produce something.
We then went to lunch at the "World Buffet" where we could enjoy a bountiful buffet of a variety of food plus a dessert range, including a chocolate fountain. It goes without saying that the group did not hold back on this one.
After lunch the group were put with 4 students from Kura Mina who had put their names into a lottery for the pleasure of guiding CHS students round the historic quarter of Kurashiki.
Here are some photos of the groups:

Then we returned to the school and went home for the weekend. Most were picked up but Bryn had the experience of riding home on a "mama-charrei" or mum's bike.

At least he didn't get the pink one.