Adventures in Japan

I write this newsletter article from Yasufuruichi High School in Hiroshima, Japan. Our school trip leaves today bound for Kyoto after 5 memorable days with our host school. Students have relished the opportunity to immerse themselves in daily Japanese life. They have stayed with host families and experienced first-hand the unique culture of this magnificent country.

Each day students have brought with them Obento, traditional Japanese lunches, all superbly wrapped and presented in cloth and special boxes. The food is so different, raw fish, unique vegetables, sausages cut into shapes of an octopus and the egg rolls (so many different ways to present an egg).

We have visited the Hiroshima Peace Park and museum depicting so graphically the horrific bombing in 1945. The well-known story of young girl Sadako and the thousand cranes inspired Paige Johnstone to use her origami skills to create a 1000 crane display and place it with the many others at the Children’s Peace memorial. Another day was spent at Miyajima Island paying homage to the orange Tori Gates at low tide and making many wishes for happiness at the shrine. The cable car ride to the top of the island for a spectacular view of the bay was a highlight, as was the local delicacy of huge grilled oysters. Hiroshima is well known for Okonomi-yake, layers of noodle, egg, seafood, vegetables, pancake and special sauces and we have all walked away from the restaurants wishing we could enjoy those dishes back home!
Yasufuruichi High is an impressive school, and our partnership with them is very strong. Our welcome assembly was a wonderful tribute to that relationship. Our students all spoke at that ceremony to over a thousand students and performed in Japanese the song Let It go from the movie Frozen. We presented two beautiful works of indigenous art especially purchased by the Year 10 students when visiting the APY Lands. Our students have been involved in calligraphy lessons, cooking classes and Kendo demonstrations. A traditional tea ceremony served by students dressed in kimonos was another highlight.

An important outcome of the school exchange is for our students to appreciate the many differences with schooling in Japan. Classes are bigger, the routines and protocols make classes calm, highly structured and ordered, the teaching day is longer and courses are loaded with content. Lessons are not as interactive and very little technology is used and subject choice is not as vast. All Japanese students learn English, and Mathematics is a subject that they all do for the entire time at school. The competition for University places is high and the pressure for students to perform at a high level is always there. Yet the culture of the school is one of teamwork, care, support and friendliness. The teachers show the same passion and love for the students as you find at St John’s and the spirit and enthusiasm that students how for learning and life also parallels what happens in our school. This is a wonderful place and it is with sadness that today we farewell our international friends.