We departed, a very excited group, from Sydney on 24 September, on the 9pm flight. The
airport was crowded with groups like ours departing for holiday adventures so after a
quick goodbye to our parents, we moved to the departure gate. Our 10-hour flight was
spent eating, watching movies and sleeping (it we were fortunate enough to). We arrived in
Tokyo feeling not so refreshed, but very excited for the adventures that lay ahead.
Staff and students were greeted at the front of Omiya Kita High School on our arrival on
Sunday morning and then introduced to our hosts. Everyone was excited about the
experience and the students seemed to greet each other like old friends, partly because
they had made email contact prior to the visit and partly because they had made close
relationships with the students during their visit to Albion Park. It was funny to meet the
Japanese people wearing the t-shirts their children had purchased when they came to
Omiya Kita High School held a special assembly on Monday to welcome us visitors
with Ms Mayumi Hosoda, Principal, giving a short speech of welcome to the staff and
students of Albion Park High. The Omiya Kita student leaders then introduced our students
to the school and they gave a short self introduction to the whole school in Japanese.
The staff and students of Omiya Kita High were very gracious and polite at our fumbling
attempts at speaking Japanese. We were all presented with a blue tour t-shirt which had
been designed by one of the host students.
The timetable for the students this year was very busy with many programs and special
lessons offered demonstrating a wide variety of subjects from across the school including
Karate, Art, Science, Food Technology, English and Japanese Culture. The students
and staff were treated to lessons on the tea ceremony, kendo and many other cultural
lessons. We also visited the local Junior High School where we toured their school and
watched a few lessons. We also had lunch in the classroom which was served, eaten and
packed away by the students in only thirty minutes. Very impressive!!
On our final day at Omiya Kita High School a farewell party was hosted and this gave the
Albion Park students an opportunity to introduce their host families to their teachers
and thank them publicly for all of the opportunities and fun that had been offered to
them over their homestay. It was fun to look at the photos of all of the good times we have
had in Australia and Japan with our friends and host, but it was sad to say goodbye as
On Friday the staff and students from Omiya Kita High School meet the Albion Park
students and teachers at the Omiya Station to farewell them as they continued their journey
around Japan. It was a very emotional goodbye with lots of tears and photos to
commemorate a successful visit. After departing Omiya Station, we spent five
hours on a bullet train. They were so clean and spacious, and we enjoyed them very
much. We arrived in Kyoto excited for the adventures ahead. The water temple at the
top of Kyoto offered amazing views of the city and from there we enjoyed a cultural
performance in Gion.
We spent Saturday travelling to Himeji Castle which had been recently reopened following
renovations. It was huge! We climbed six flights of stairs to look down on the town
surrounding the castle, it was a great example of fortress building. We spent the afternoon at
the Golden Pavilion, which is covered in 24 kg of real gold!
Sunday was spent with animals. We hiked to the monkey park and hand fed the beautiful
and cute monkeys. In the afternoon we mostly remained unbitten by the deer in Nara.
Monday was spent in Hiroshima. The Peace Park is a tranquil, serene and emotional place
that holds the memories of a terrible tragedy. We hung our 1000 paper cranes (thank you to
all who contributed) at the Sadako Children's Memorial. The most valuable part of this
place; is the lessons we learnt, and the changes we want to make to the world. We
spent the afternoon at Miyajima, an island near Hiroshima which has a torii gate
(traditional Japanese gate commonly found in shrines) built so that at high tide the gate sits above the water. It was really tranquil and the ice cream for afternoon tea was delicious! We ate Okonomiyaki for dinner which we all agreed was Oishii! (yummy)
We departed Kyoto on Tuesday and headed for our ryokan (traditional hotel) in Tokyo. The
hotel specialises in being traditional and we slept on traditional bedding which is on the
floor. It was surprisingly comfortable. While we were in Tokyo we were flat out busy! We
conquered our fear of heights at the Tokyo Skytree, took selfies of us taking selfies at the
Imperial Castle, crossed the Rainbow Bridge, visited the animation museum for Ghibli
Studios, talked to other Aussies at Asakusa, wandered through Ueno Zoo and park and
chased Pokemon indigenous to Asia. It was awesomely busy and fun. We left Japan on
Friday night exhausted and excited to come home and share our stories.
We need to say a BIG, HUGE, ENORMOUS thank you to Miss Hutchins who was the best
organiser and tour leader ever! We would also like to thank Albion Park RSL
for their sponsorship. We used the money you gave us to purchase tour shirts which you can
see in the photos. Your sponsorship was very much appreciated so thank you very much.
Overall, our cultural exchange was a great success, and we consider ourselves very
fortunate to be included in the exchange.
Miss Poole, Miss Hutchins, Mr Poole, Mrs Horton, Mrs Keen.
Experiences from students
Today, we took a two hour train ride to Hiroshima where we placed our thousand paper cranes at the Sakado Memorial. It was touching to see how much effort is put in to maintaining
the memory of her. The next stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The
experience was simultaneously very confronting but also educational. There were accounts of
survivors, their families, technical workings of the bomb and recreations of the aftermath
among other interesting artefacts and stories.
After that we travelled to Miyajima Island by ferry, where the deer are abundant and liked
Jess's ice-cream heaps. From there we could walk to the Itstukushima Shrine which was absolutely
beautiful. We finished the day off with Okonomiyaki for dinner... delicious (oishii!) It was a tiring day but a great one!
Hope Van Vliet Smith