Day 14: Sayonara Japan!

Today we bid sayonara to Japan. The students brought their luggage to Inage to start the day. Then it was off to class in the morning – today Handsworth students attended Math, Japanese and History. Learning algebra was especially difficult with hiragana for letters! Around lunchtime everyone filled in a survey about his or her experience at Inage to help inform next year’s tour. Then, everyone’s luggage was loaded up on the truck and we took one last farewell photo on the steps of Inage. Tears were shed as the teachers encouraged the Handsworth students onto the bus. One last wave out of the bus window and we were off for the airport. One host family even surprised Alecia and Jessica by coming to the airport to say a final goodbye! Now we are sitting in Narita airport waiting for our flight home. What a remarkable two weeks!

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Day 13: Incredible Inage!

The students met this morning at Inage school filled with stories of their weekend homestay.  Shibuya and Harajuku shopping districts seemed to be a common location for many students on the Sunday.  But today it was Monday which meant it was back to school… Japan style!  First block of the day was either judo (martial arts) or kendo (sword fighting).  Second block was Japanese calligraphy.  After lunch, Handsworth students helped Inage students to study English.  And after school it was time for the farewell party.  Inage students and their families put on a buffet feast.  A few montage videos were shown and then there were speeches.  Alex K and Fiona W reprised their roles as deliverers of the welcome speech at Handsworth again as the farewell speech givers at Inage.  Handsworth and Inage exchanged gifts.  Handsworth’s gift to Inage was a beautifully sewn piece done by Ms. Marshall with the assistance of some of the Handsworth students.  Then it was performance time!  The Handsworth students performed a dance to Justin Bieber’s “All Around the World” and despite some last minute fears about the performance managed to pull off a great showing.  Tonight is the final night of homestay.  Tomorrow we spend the morning again at Inage in class before boarding an afternoon flight back to Vancouver!

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Day 11: Day at Disney!

Chiba is fortunate to have not one, but two amazing Disney theme parks. Right next door to each other are Disney Sea and Disneyland. This year, for our Saturday with the homestay students, we went to Disneyland. Students gathered at 9am at the gates of the park. We took a group photo together and then ran quickly into the park to enjoy the rides. Many students have now transitioned to their second homestay family’s homes and are getting their second homestay experience.   Tomorrow is a full free day to enjoy a variety of activities with homestay students, so there won’t be a blog update. But we look forward to gathering again early on Monday morning at Inage High School to share different stories from the weekend, and experience a day in the life of an Inage student. We’ll update you again on Monday night, Japan time!

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Day 10: Touring Tokyo

Today our hosts in Inage took us on a tour of Tokyo! We met at the school early in the morning and hopped aboard the bus to head over to the Edo Tokyo Museum. This museum chronicles the interesting history of the Edo or Tokyo region all the way from the Emperors and Shoguns through to present day. From there we bussed over to Asakusa, with its huge outdoor markets and temples right in the middle of Tokyo. Here the students had the opportunity to grab lunch and do some souvenir shopping. Finally we headed over to the far side of town to explore the Ghibli animation museum. We watched a short animated film and got to see how animators create their amazing works. Tonight students are once again enjoy an evening with their homestay families. Tomorrow we are off to Tokyo Disneyland!

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Day 9: Charming Chiba

This morning everyone met at Inage school after their first night of homestay. Everyone had stories about where they were staying, dinner with their homestay families, and the varying efforts and distances it took to get to school in the morning. All were dressed in the best attire to represent the City of North Vancouver today. We noticed that all of our photos now hung over the windows in the school. Our first stop on the chartered bus for the day was Chiba city’s version of Science World, called QiBall. Here the students tried out different activities and examined various exhibits related to all manner of sciences. From there it was off to meet Mayor Kumagai at Chiba City Hall. During a formal reception speeches were heard, gifts exchange and a commemorative photo was taken. In the afternoon students headed over to the Makuhari shopping complex for lunch and some time to shop. Around 4pm we returned to school for a flower arrangement class led by Inage’s ikebana teacher. Jacob, once again, helped translate for the teacher. At the conclusion of the class, she chose the best flower arrangements – and the big winner was Haddon! This evening, Handsworth students are once again with their host families. Rumor has it that many students are off to try out karaoke tonight. We look forward to sharing stories from the evening again tomorrow when we gather in the morning to begin our tour of Tokyo!

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Day 8: Reunited in Chiba

Today we travelled from rural Takayama down to Nagoya where we caught our final bullet train of the trip.  Heading north-east we past by a shrouded Mt Fuji.  The base of the mountain was visible, but the top half of the mountain was lost in mist and cloud.  Along the way Bowen continued his streak of speaking to anyone and everyone he could practice his Japanese on.  Fiona W joined in too, making friends with locals on the train. In Tokyo we were greeted by two Inage teachers who guided us all the way to the school.  There we held a welcome ceremony, replete with welcome signs and speeches.  Jacob helped serve as our translator for Ms. Marshall’s speech.  Nadia and Hannah graciously offered to give the Handsworth students’ words of welcome.  After the brief welcome ceremony, pairs of Handsworth students headed home with their host students and their families.  Tomorrow we begin our first official visit as ambassadors for the City of North Vancouver!

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Day 7: Tasty Takayama

Morning markets, parade floats, Hida beef, foot baths and grass houses were the order of the day.  After another delicious traditional breakfast in our ryokan we set out to explore Takayama by foot.  Students broke off into groups of 4 with maps in hand to discover this quaint hillside town.  Some took strolls through wooded paths, others through side streets to discover hand-carved wooden goods and delicious local delicacies, including the famed Hida beef.  At 2pm we met by the Takayama train station to enjoy a long and deserved rest in the steaming outdoor foot-bath.  Next we hiked up to Hida No Sato, a preserved thatched grass-roof community that has been maintained to demonstrate what life would have been like in Takayama long ago, and also to showcase the special roofs that were created.  Here students played traditional games, fed the birds and the fish in the koi pond and even had the opportunity to practice their performance piece for next week’s farewell party.  Tonight we settle in with our routine of dinner, journaling and enjoying the sento.  Tomorrow we take a long multi-train journey to Chiba to meet our friends and hosts from Inage school.

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