2018 Trip to Japan

Eight students and two staff left Wellington on November 30th, arriving at Haneda airport at 5am on the 1st of December. We spent the first few days visiting sites in Tokyo including Meiji Shrine where we saw a Shinto Wedding procession, went shopping in the famous Takeshita-dori shopping street in Harajuku, and visited the Ueno area and the Ameyoko markets. We also went to Tokyo Disneyland, before heading North to homestay at Namiki Secondary School in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Our students enjoyed meeting up again with Namiki students who visited ŌC in July 2018, and thoroughly enjoyed their homestay experiences and school activities with Namiki students.

We then travelled South by Bullet Train (Shinkansen) to Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum, followed by a trip on the ferry to Miyajima Island before returning to Osaka via Himeji Castle.

From Osaka, we had a guided coach tour around sights in Kyoto and Nara, including the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji), Nijo Castle with its famous Nightingale floor (squeaking floorboards meant that even Ninja assassins could not enter the castle), and Nara Park where students fed the deer, and Todaiji with its monstrous statue of Buddha. We sent a day at USJ (Universal Studios Japan) theme park, and on our final morning in Osaka visited former Ōtaki College student Josh Minty at the Preschool where he is the Principal.

From Osaka, we returned to Tokyo again briefly for more sightseeing and shopping, before heading up to our sister town of Kanra in Gunma Prefecture where we stayed in the Furusatokan (Home-town Inn). Sleeping on futons on tatami floors and eating delicious traditional Japanese meals morning and evening was a highlight of our trip. From Kanra we went on a day trip to Nikko to see Toshogu where Tokugawa Ieyasu (1st Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty) is enshrined, escorted by Mrs Gordon and Ms Hagan’s old friend Kunie Machida (former REX exchange Japanese teacher at Ōtaki College) and Kanra Yakuba staff. We also visited the Gunma Safari Park and Natural History Museum. Our host the Mayor of Kanra Mr Shigehara invited us to join local dignitaries in a celebration meal, with a surprise visit from Kanra-chan the Mascot of the Kanra area. On our last morning in Kanra we were taken to visit the very impressive brand new Kanra Middle School and spent an enjoyable morning doing calligraphy with students. Our visit to Kanra made for a thoroughly enjoyable and fitting end to a very successful trip to Japan.