Day 6: Train to Takayama

Tucked away in the hills of Gifu is the small but well-known town of Hida Takayama. Famed for Hida beef, sake and wooden lacquerware, Takayama is also host to one of the greatest semi-annual festivals in Japan. With the spring festival happening next week, the town is already starting to gear up in anticipation of the throngs of visitors. Our journey today, however, started back in Hiroshima with a 5:30AM wake up. Although we had a long day of travel ahead we wanted to first take the opportunity in the morning to see one of the three greatest views in Japan – Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima. This famous floating Torii Gate has been the subject of many famous paintings and photographs. Today, however, it was the backdrop for our annual ‘Street Fighter’ photo! From Miyajima we headed back to our hotel in Hiroshima to grab our bags. It took two different bullet trains to go from Hiroshima to Kobe and then Kobe to Nagoya before getting our final 2-hour train to Takayama. This ride is one of the most scenic train rides in all of Japan. The weather today was outstanding, offering great views of the river valley below the train tracks. Upon arriving in Takayama our luggage was picked up by the local innkeeper. Tonight we stay in another traditional Japanese Ryokan. Dinner is traditional Japanese style, served on low tables with everyone sitting on tatami mats. We are excited to explore Takayama’s morning markets, shops and side streets tomorrow!

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Day 5: Hiroshima Highlights

There were two very important groups in Hiroshima today. One was an international gathering of the G7 Nations for a global summit, featuring foreign ministers from the most important industrialized nations in the world. The other (more important group) was us. We arrived in Hiroshima from Osaka having taken our very first shinkansen, or “bullet train”. With speeds of up to 300 km/hr it took us no time to head south to the famous city of peace. Once in Hiroshima we dropped off our bags at our hotel and immediately headed out towards the Hondori shopping arcade for lunch. From there we walked together through the city towards the Peace Memorial Park. En route we passed a group of protesters. With the G7 summit happening in town, groups are using it as a backdrop to draw attention to their issues. Inside the park we paused at the children’s memorial. Mr. Barrett gave a quick lesson on the context of WW2 as it pertained to the events of Hiroshima, and told the story of Sadako Sasaki. Ms. Marshall taught the students how to fold their own paper cranes in order to leave them at the children’s memorial. From there we walked over towards the Atom Bomb Dome where we were fortunate to hear from an actual in-utero survivor of the 1945 atomic bomb attack. He has been giving talks to students for years now, and is 70 years old! Finally, students had a chance to ring the peace bell before we all headed over to the Peace Museum. Despite the ongoing renovations, the museum was still a heart-wrenching reminder of the horrors of atomic warfare. In the evening we headed back over towards the train station where we got to try a local favourite dish for dinner – okonomiyaki. Tonight students are writing in their journal about all they’ve seen and experienced… and then heading to bed early. Tomorrow’s wake up call is extra early at 5:30AM, as we’re headed to see one of the three most famous views in all of Japan before taking a series of trains towards rural Hida Takayama.

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Day 4: Oh, Osaka!

Today was our Universal Studios Osaka day. It also happened to be Jacob L’s birthday! We took 3 quick trains, including our first rapid reserved train, on our way to Osaka from Kyoto today. We arrived to the park early and sung Jacob happy birthday outside the park. Once inside, the students had the full day to enjoy the rides, parades, shows and other attractions. The weather was outstanding and everyone had a great time! As some of the only foreigners in the park, many of the students made easy friends with curious locals waiting in line for rides. There were some great roller coasters here, including one brand new coaster – the Flying Dinosaur – which just opened 2 weeks ago, and whose lines were over 3 hours long at one point in the day! With the full day to enjoy the park, however, most students were able to enjoy a number of different attractions – including the new Harry Potter World. Tomorrow we switch gears, heading south to Hiroshima where we’ll take a glimpse into the tragic atomic history of that famous city.

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Day 3: Konnichiwa and Sayo-Nara!

Today was a beautiful day in Nara! It looks as though we may have gotten our weeks worth of rain yesterday, because today was nothing but sunshine. Today was also our first chance to try using our JR train pass. After a quick breakfast around the train station, we hopped on a rapid service train out to Nara. From the Nara train station we had to take a packed bus ride out towards Nara Park. Here we got to feed to the famous, and famously impatient, Nara deer. Students bought packets of crackers to feed the deer, some even feeding them from their own mouths. Adjacent to the park was the giant wooden temple structure, Todai-ji. Inside this temple is housed an enormous seated bronzed statue of Buddha. Students lit incense, purified themselves with the available waters and headed inside to see the statue. Inside students were also able to purchase a roof tile and write a personalized message on it – Bowen and Carson took the opportunity to do so. In the back of the temple was a pillar with a small opening through which tourists were encouraged to crawl. The space was meant to be similar in size to the nostril of the bronzed Buddha, and those who could make through are thought to be able to achieve enlightenment! From Nara we headed back towards Kyoto on a local train, stopping part way on our return journey to check out the countless Torii gates of the Fushimi Inarii shrine. Dinner this evening was had around the Kyoto station area. Tonight the students have the chance to use the sento one last time, write in their journals, and pack up. Tomorrow morning we bid Nara ‘sayonara’ and head to Osaka and Universal Studios!

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Day 2: A Rainy Day in Kyoto

Today it rained… And then it rained some more… It rained all day. But we had a great time!  Today we explored Kyoto by bus and by foot. At 7am we all got up and reviewed the plan for the day. We went through a couple of different maps of Kyoto to plot out our destinations for our “Amazing Race” day. First stop was the golden pavilion of Kinkakuji. Throngs of tourists were not dissuaded by the rainy day as the temple was quite busy. From there we moved onto the Zen rock garden of Ryoanji Temple. Lunch in the Gion district of Kyoto was followed by a walking tour up through the Higashiyama district from Yasaka Shrine all the way to Kiyomizu Dera temple. The streets were packed with umbrella toting tourists. We escaped the crowds momentarily to take in the views above the city from a quiet cemetery. On our way back down through the busy streets some of our students took the opportunity to buy their souvenir samurai swords. We did quite a bit of walking today – over 15km! This evening students are working on their journals, and enjoying the sento baths in our traditional Japanese Inn. Tomorrow we head to Nara.

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Day 1: Vancouver to Kyoto

We arrived this morning extra early at YVR to check in for the first leg of our journey today to Tokyo. And it was a good thing we did! There was an enormous group of Japanese students who lined up right behind us for the same flight. After a short time we recognized that it was the music students from Asahikawa who had just been to Handsworth on Friday to perform – what a coincidence! Our international flight took 9.5 hours, and in Tokyo we sent one bag ahead to Inage School and boarded our second flight to Osaka. This was another full flight. Some students got to chat with locals who were interested in finding out where we were from and what we planned to see. Another hour bus ride took us from Osaka to Kyoto, and to our Hotel Sanoya just outside the Kyoto train station. This is a traditional style Japanese Inn with tatami mat covered rooms. We’re exhausted after a long day and half of travel – it’s 6am Vancouver time, so we’ve been in transit for roughly 20 hours! Tonight we have a good nights rest ahead of our Kyoto ‘Amazing Race’ day tomorrow! Oyasuminasai / Good Night!



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Japan Upcoming!

Welcome to the weblog for the grade 9 Handsworth trip to Japan for 2016!  This site will be updated daily as we travel across the country between April 5th and 19th, 2016.

Before we leave you may want to brush up on your Japanese, or learn a little bit more about the places we are going and things we’ll be seeing.

April 5th we will meet at the JAL counter of the international departures area of YVR airport at 9:30am.  We will NOT be meeting at that school that morning.

In the meantime, here’s a few sites for you check out.  Click on the links above to see information about language and some of the locations we’re going to.  Here are two guides on Japan from Japan Airlines and All Nippon Air.



And finally, here’s a look back at last year’s Japan blog!:

Mr. Barrett, Ms Marshall & Mr Burtt

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