Over a two month period, six Swanwick Hall School students of Japanese took part in an exchange programme with Japanese students from Toyota, Japan. In September, students from Japan came to stay with our students (ranging from year 10-12) and experienced 3 days of a student’s life at Swanwick Hall. They were welcomed with a party at County Hall, Matlock. At the weekend of their homestay, students were taken to places such as Bolsover Castle, Chatsworth, Meadowhall and Alton Towers. On their first day they were all welcomed with a mini party at lunchtime where Japanese students were able to interact, ask questions and eat muffins! Throughout the week, many Swanwick Hall students were also interactive with exchange students and even got chance to take a few selfies with some of them.
It was sad to see them go and a leaving party took place at Kirk Hallam Community Academy, where many tears were shed. Luckily, it was under a month until the students would see them again. In October, Swanwick Hall students went back to Japan, as part of the exchange. They travelled across the country going to many fascinating places including Kyoto and Hiroshima. After a week, students travelled to Toyota, Aichi and took part in a homestay that lasted 6 days. Throughout their stay, they attended Takaoka Junior High School, went to Nagoshima Spa Theme Park, sang in a culture festival and on their last day, they even got chance to take part in a tea ceremony and go around the school in Japanese kimonos. As part of the exchange, the students took part in the annual Children’s Conference in which this year they talked about multiculturalism. All of the students enjoyed the experience of going to Japan and to prove it, here is my experience of my time in Japan.
The lifetime dream
Hands shaking nervously as I got onto the sky blue plane. This was it. This was my lifetime goal about to be completed. I was astonished that it’d only been one month since I last saw my exchange student, Risako. It was so hard to say goodbye to my best friend, to me she’s like a sister and when she left (after 10000 hugs and lots of tears), I felt like half my heart wasn’t there anymore and my heart had fallen apart. I admit, I was emotionally distraught. We bonded so closely and did many things together! We gave each other presents, we had many hugs over the week, she taught me “Let it go”in Japanese and I taught her “Do you wanna build a snowman?” in English. That was a very memorable experience indeed, but the second part of the exchange would be something I’d never forget.
We had a quick stop in Amsterdam but after the long but worthy 11 hour flight, we met Miwa, our guide leader and then got on a coach to Kyoto from Osaka International Airport.
First off, we went to the Bamboo forest and also saw the streets of Kyoto. It was very fascinating and even though all of us were quite tired, we slowly took everything in.
In Kyoto, we stayed at the Utano youth hostel for a couple of days; the view was beautiful and the Japanese room I stayed in was great. Over the next couple of days we visited Buddhist temples and also went to the Golden Temple (in which is made out of pure leaf gold). We also visited Nara and got chance to go through the Buddha’s nose. Jeannine became a deer whisperer, when the aggressive deer attempted to steal our lunch and all of us attempted of getting a selfie with a deer in which Miss Wynn was very successful; I failed miserably.
We then left Kyoto and took the Shinkansen (bullet train in Japanese) to Hiroshima in which we visited the Peace Park (in memory of Sadako, the girl who tried to make 1000 cranes in exchange for a wish) and then went to the Bomb museum. Hiroshima hit me right in the heart, the history was tragic and unforgettable. I wrote a note in the official guest book saying “In this world, there should be no war, no conflict but peace. Peace should be the only thing that exists.” Afterwards, we travelled to Miyajima and for a few hours we walked, took cable carts to the highest peak in Miyajima. The whole day for me was emotional, I absolutely was silent as a mouse on the ferry back to the main island.
The next day we travelled on the Shinkansen again and then took a coach to Toyota in which we met our host students. I stayed with Mizuki, who was so nice and warm-hearted. The next day we attended Takaoka Junior High school and all of us received a school badge and tag, furthermore we got to meet the principal, the vice-principal and Bryan (an English teacher). I took part in judo, in which I had a splendid and funny time. That same day, we went to Nagoshima Spa Theme Park and went on many roller coasters and it was so hot I literally passed out. The next day, we attended a culture festival at the school that included a talent show, a big singing contest (in which my class won for their grade) and we also took part in singing “Rather be” and me singing “Let it go” in two languages (Japanese and English). Saturday night, I went for a meal at a sushi bar with Risako, Mizuki and Yuki. I really enjoyed my time and so did my Japanese friends. I definitely missed Risako a lot! Sunday morning, me, Mizuki, Yuki (her sister) and her parents went on a road trip to Mt. Fuji in which was an amazing experience for me. I also saw more of the Japanese culture whilst travelling through the Fuji prefecture as I briefly took part in a random Japanese wedding, ate Soba and put my Japanese speaking skills to the test. On the Monday, I tried kakigori (which is a bit like a slushy), showed of my singing skills in Japanese karaoke and went shopping.
Tuesday was the day where I would meet Risako again. First off we went to Toyota stadium and afterwards we travelled to the Children’s Conference in where I had lunch with Risako and exchanged gifts to each other. We talked about multiculturalism, there were many opinions that were discussed in the meeting and I loved how we all interacted with each other throughout. It was hard saying goodbye to Risako especially so I said to her that I would see her later. This wouldn’t be the last time that I would see her. On our final day at Takaoka and with our exchange students, we took part in a tea ceremony dressed in kimonos. The Japanese sweets and the green tea were interesting, I liked the Japanese sweets more as they were Halloween themed! Jordan was also taught on how to be more manly by the vice-principal who also made us walk round the whole school in the kimono that I could hardly walk in and what was more hilarious about the whole experience was that all of us were randomly asked to sing “Shake it off” with a Japanese class. What fun we all had!
Then it was time to say goodbye to our host students and for me, it was hard to say goodbye to Mizuki. We both cried and gave each other a lot of hugs! At some times in your life it is easy saying goodbye, but when you’re 6000 miles away from each other on this very Earth, it is not at all. My Japanese friends may be far, but the memories are still shared a lot by all of us. I hope to see them face to face again, be able to give them a hug and that day will be a day hopefully in the very near future…
Lucy Crisp 11BW