Japan Tour 2018 - so many new experiences and flavours to discover.
Konnichiwa from the Kansai region of Japan! I write this to you from a Kyoto bound bullet train.
Well Day 2 started off with a 5:30am wake up call. I am very happy to report that everyone was eagerly waiting outside our Nikko Airport Hotel restaurant at 6:30am for the Japanese/Western style buffet breakfast. Not one student was late! Super proud of them, especially after such a long flight the day before. Judging by the happy grins on everyone’s face there was something there for every palate and no one left hungry!
Then we checked out, left our luggage in the hotel and caught some bullet trains to Himeji. When riding the bullet train no one thought that they were going fast. When standing at the platform and having one rush by everyone was speechless and stunned at just how fast they actually are. The highlight though was all of the vending machines with just too many drinks to choose from!! This is one thing your child will surely miss!!
Himeji is stunning with its wide streets, elegant statues and leafy sidewalks. Everyone commented at just how pretty it was and had fun playing with the leaves on the ground.
“We don’t see these colours in Australia”, “I’ve never seen a leaf like this before”, “It’s so kirei (pretty)”..., amongst other comments.
On our way along the long road leading to the castle we saw a couple dressed in traditional wedding kimono and we were invited to pose in one of their wedding photos taken by a photographer. After the professional shot I sneaked one in, and everyone applauded them on their special day. It was quite magical and a real honour for the group.
Then we entered the castle grounds and were quite taken aback by the sheer size of it all. We split up into small groups. Some went to the castle zoo (and saw, of all things, a kangaroo), others climbed to the very top (total 6 floors) of the main tower of the castle, and the rest enjoyed their time with the cats playing in the castle grounds. A few were even invited by a movie director to feature in a Canadian feature film, as location scouts scoured the grounds for the perfect location to film in. It was rather funny seeing the stars in our students eyes at the thought of potential movie stardom and no doubt they will be practicing their own personal autographs in their hotel rooms this evening! Gotta love Japan!!
Everyone had fun at the station exploring and buying goodies for the train ride back to pick up their luggage.
The weather today was just perfect. A nice sunny, rather warm at times, day.
According to Harry Sheehan (who is sitting right next to me now), today had two major highlights. First, when he reached the top of the castle and looked out over Himeji city, he felt not only that he had accomplished navigating the steep stairs to get to the top but that he felt a sense of relief that he had finally made it to Japan. Second, he had heard rumours about Japanese trains and about just how efficient, fast and clean they are and he was so happy to experience this first hand today and realise that the rumours are most certainly true!!
Well that’s all for today. Our stop is coming up. Next stop Kyoto. Look out cultural hub of Japan! Here comes A.B. Paterson College!!
Good morning from the seat of a Hiroshima bound bullet train. The weather outside is partly cloudy and the morning air is brisk. Although being officially the first day of Winter, it looks like Autumn is still stubbornly trying to stay and we are not complaining as the mountainsides are on fire with brilliant shades of yellow, red, orange, brown and green.
After reaching the cultural hub of Japan, Kyoto, we headed to our hotel and then, in just minutes, everyone was tired but keen to venture out once again on a night excursion to climb Kyoto’s tallest landmark, Kyoto Tower. From there we had a bird's eye 360 degree view of the landscape sleeping under the bright lights blanketing the city. We then stopped by a trusty local convenience store to get some yummy evening snacks before catching some well-earned zzzzzz.
Day 3 morning saw everyone once again up and ready for a delicious buffet-style breakfast at 7am before we made our way to the Bike Tour Company headquarters. Yes, everyone was up and ready for breakfast on time, super proud of them! We divided ourselves into six groups A-F, donned our helmets, adjusted our bike seats and then set off single file on a journey of a lifetime.
We got to see where Shoguns once reigned, walked over castle moats, touched wooden doors and walls that have stood the test of time and that have managed to stay standing, having survived many an earthquake. We ate one too many ice creams (but whose counting!?), we walked through bamboo forests, we rode through rice fields with grandmas tending to their harvests, we sat and had a zen moment contemplating life staring at rock formations (or some may have been thinking about eating even more ice-cream, but I’d like to hope that they were experiencing deep and meaningful thoughts! Hmmmm...), we witnessed the splendour of a golden palace peacefully set amongst pine and pond, with carp fish happily swimming.
Then, day became night and at 5:30pm, after riding all day long for around 30kms, it was time to check into a Japanese traditional-styled luxury hotel, with natural communal baths for those game to try, otherwise a private bathing option was available. After check-in everyone got dressed into formal attire and headed to a Kaiseki-inspired (traditional Kyoto set dinner) meal. Mr Taylor toasted the group and, as we sampled Kyoto’s delights, a 19 year old Maiko (Geisha in training) danced for us and answered questions on her life - the meaning behind her garments, traditional ornamental hair pieces, her family crest, and much more, as I translated. Students were keen to test out their Japanese speaking skills in whatever way they could. One inquired, “Makeup wa how long does it take desu ka?”, much to the Maiko’s amusement and funnily enough she understood! Well done, just a few more words to learn and you’ll surely nail it. :)
After dinner, some retired to their bedrooms, others faced their fears head on and headed straight for a steamy hot communal bath, whilst others ate ice-cream with, to their surprise, Cornflakes at the bottom (a common theme on this tour), talked about their day and some even had a go at using a machine to check their blood pressure and paid for a foot massage (don’t ask!!), ready for a big day ahead, Hiroshima.
According to Year 9 student Ellis Williams, sitting with me right now, the most surprising thing for him so far has been seeing the mix between modern and traditional culture and customs. So much technology and yet so much emphasis on tradition. He loved the bike tour the most so far and his favourite thing was seeing the outskirts of Kyoto, the mountains, the narrow streets, the rice fields and then having the contrast of seeing the bustling inner city streets.
According to Year 9 student Joshua D’Jekic, also sitting with me, he is impressed at just how efficient Japanese society is. For example, no matter where you go, all the staff are well dressed and everyone is busy doing their job, they are extremely organised. Customer service is truly valued and everyone takes great pride in all that they do, no matter the job. He loved riding through Japan’s narrow streets and seeing everyone move with purpose. “There’s no dawdling here!”
Next stop Hiroshima!
Welcome home Japan Tour 2018!
What a special moment - our students' flight was piloted by A.B. Dad, Captain Littlely who delivered our precious cargo home, safe and sound.
Sayonara for now.