Location: New Zealand
Only one and a half months to go till we depart for our exciting trip and the girls can hardly contain their excitement.
Stay tuned to hear of our adventures as we go and post messages for your lovely daughters :)
This will be the last entry in our blog. We went back to school again today after the unexpected interruption of the typhoon. This was all over by lunchtime yesterday and we were unscathed although sadly several people lost their lives in a mudslide on an island off the coast of Tokyo. The underground was closed for the start of yesterday and this was the main reason school was cancelled. Today the students wrote letters in Japanese to their host families and then practised their skits. At 4pm we met the host families and the students 'graduated, receiving a certificate. We had a light afternoon tea and then the students performed their skits, all in Japanese, that they had written over the last 3 weeks. One was themed on Cinderella and one on James Bond. There was much laughter and clapping. Saskia gave a speech in Japanese on behalf of the Marsden students and the teacher in charge, Mr Iekki, commented how good it had been. Lastly we all sang a rather complicated song in Japanese that we had been practising as well. Tomorrow we all meet at school and then head to Joypolis at Odaiba on the way to the airport. The flight home leaves here at 8.30pm and the biggest problem for the girls will be packing their bags to keep underweight. See you all at the aiport on Saturday.
Back to school again after a lovely long weekend. The girls were all very happy and refreshed after lots of fun activities with their families ranging from Korea town to Disneysea to karaoke to bowling to visiting Hakone near Mt Fuji and experiencing a Japanese hot spring (single sex but all entirely naked-a definite culture shock) We had a good lesson this morning all struggling to remember the Japanese learned so far. Some students are getting very good. This afternoon we had a cultural festival where several women came to school and gave us all the taste of calligraphy, ikebana, playing a traditional instrument, tea ceremony, origami and then dressed us all in Yukata. I will put up some photos of this shortly. This was really fun and so we were a bit surprised to hear that clubs for the afternoon were cancelled (we were going to do japanese archery) and everyone was going home. School is also cancelled tomorrow as a large typhoon is predicted to come right through here in the next 24 hours and I think this means the transport system may have to shut down so no school. As I type it is about 5pm and it is teeming outside with the wind just starting to pick up a bit. Sadly this means we will miss the trip to the folk museum and the indigo dying that was scheduled for tomorrow. This also means we now have only one more day of school here, so the students have all been given their scripts for the japanese skits they have written and are performing at the graduation on Thursday. They have enjoyed preparing these very much.
This is our last day at school for a while (Saturday) as the students get this afternoon, Sunday and Monday off school. Monday is a national holiday that was instigated with the last Olympic Games. Yesterday morning we all watched a very funny movie in Japanese called The Waterboys. The students had a worksheet to do on the film. It was nice to have a quieter day after the three very busy days in Kyoto. In the afternoon we decorated traditional fans, uchiwa, in the design of our choice. The students then went to an English class to have conversations in English with the Japanese students. Finally we were entertained by the Toin Taiko group. This was very entertaining with energetic and athletic drumming, flute playing and lots of hearty shouting. It was LOUD. The students all got to have a go on the drums at the end and they did their best to emulate the noise level of the performance. The girls all seem to have busy schedules ahead for the holiday weekend with their host families, ranging from karaoke, even more shopping and DisneySea.
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Back to school today after three very busy, tiring, but enjoyable days in Kyoto. Yesterday morning we caught the local bus to the Yasaka shrine which is one of the more well-known ones in Japan as they hold a huge festival there each year. From there we walked to Chion-in which was the first real `working` temple we had been to, including a priest giving what sounded like an entertaining sermon. This temple has a huge bell that the Japanese people ring in the New Year with. It takes 17 monks to ring it and although there are 180 mortal sins they only ring it 18 times in deference to its age. We had a longer walk (and it was very hot and humid) to Kiyomizu which was, in my view, one of the more beautiful temples. It is in the hills above Kyoto and surrounded　by forests of maple trees and gave us an excellent view of the city. This is the love temple so there were quite a few couples. There are 3 fountains here that you can drink from to give, health, wealth or success in exams. We spent quite a bit of time here as the surrounding streets were very picturesque and crammed with tourist shops. A short bus trip back to the hotel and a bit more free time before we caught the bullet train home. All　home by 7pm and all very hot and tired. I have put up some photos of the students at a couple　temples in the last three days.
We leave Kyoto today but have what looks to be a very interesting, if hot(30 degrees predicted) day ahead. It is a humid heat so we have enjoyed the air conditioning on the bus in the last two days but today we are taking public transport and will be walking quite a bit. Yesterday we visited some beautiful places here in Kyoto. First was Nijo castle, which was a castle built by a shogun to impress, read suppress, the people. It was rather lovely with large traditional rooms of tatami flooring, sliding panels and beautiful murals painted on the wall. The garden was beautiful but unfortunately it was bucketing down so we were all armed with umbrellas. The rain was the edge of a typhoon and drenching. By the time we got to the next venue, Ryoanji , the skies had cleared. Ryoanji has a famous medieval Zen rock garden of 15 rocks which you are supposed to try and see all at the same time to reach enlightenment - sadly none of us were able to but I guess that is the point. There were also lovely gardens around a large lily pond here so it was good to have no rain. Next stop was Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion, which was absolutely stunning. By now most of us had tried the local sweets, yatsuhashi, which were on sale everywhere. After lunch we went to a local artisan's home and all made pictures in the traditional Yuzen style, which is a dying technique used for commoners kimono in the past. It is only found in Kyoto. Lastly we went to Sanjusangendo which was another Buddhist temple, the longest wooden building in Japan, and housed over 1000 very intricately carved statues which were covered in gold leaf. After a brief stopover at the hotel we all rode the subway into the centre of Kyoto for a lengthy spell of shopping and dinner. Generally the girls seem very well and happy, although a few have found the constant company over this trip a bit overwhelming. Many of the girls are collecting temple signatures in a lovely book which they are all very proud of. I think they will enjoy the long weekend ahead, as many are ready for a good rest. Saying that, some girls state they don't want to go home !!!!
Wow, we have had a fabulous day. We all caught the Shinhansen(bullet train) at 8.10am and it took 2 hours at about 250 km/h to get here. We had a good view of Mt Fuji on the way here. A bus met us at the station and we drove to Nara. We visited the Buddhist temple of Horyuiji ( oldest wooden building in the world) and then on the another Buddhist temple called Todaiiji which has the largest wooden building in the world housing a giant Buddha. This temple is in Nara park which has hundreds of tame sacred deer that the girls enjoys feeding, although one decided to nibble Arielle instead. We all walked through the park to the Shinto shrine of Kasuga Taisha which was really lovely, set amongst the trees and has 3000 lanterns. On returning to the hotel in Kyoto we walked across the road to the enormous shopping mall in the railway station and the students all went off in groups to purchase dinner? Toin provide cash for all these meals and if sensible the students can actually make on the deal. Tomorrow is looking good as the typhoon appears to have moved in a different direction so hopefully there is less chance of the rain we were predicting.
Back to school today again. School on Saturdays certainly makes the weekend shorter. We all spent the whole day at Toin on Saturday as we had school in the morning and a dinner with the host families scheduled for 5.30pm. In the morning lesson the students met with, and interviewed, students from Toin. There are many students here who have lived overseas or been sent to school overseas and many spoke good English with the accent of where they had been to school, for example the USA, UK or in one case, Zimbabwe. The school then provided three beautiful birthday cakes for Arielle and we feasted on cake. The students all had down time in the afternoon, playing cards and practising their items for the talent show. The dinner was very nice, a buffet, although it was interesting that they stood, rather than sat, around tables to eat.The students then presented their items. The Scots boys did an excellent version of their school haka (something they were asked to perform) and the girls followed this with waiata singing He Honore. The girls then performed Stand By Me with actions which got calls of kawaii (cute) from the appreciative audience. Justina played a lovely piece on the piano, a boy from Scots sang two songs, one in Japanese which went down very well and then Andrew Kelly (Isobel's younger brother) played an outstanding rendition of Hungarian Dance on the violin accompanied on the piano by one of his friends.
Yesterday was Sunday and the students all had plans of days out with their friends and hosts. There has been some homesickness amongst the girls but hopefully with all the excitement in the week ahead, as we travel to Kyoto, they will be too busy to dwell on this.
I think I have sorted how to upload pictures so have just put up one of the students today. we had a lovely day starting with a Happy Birthday song and candles for Arielle. Many of the girls had the traditional Japanese breakfast, though some opted for the Western style one. We started the day at Sensoji temple and then walked to the Tokyo skytower. The temple was lovely but we had to rush away to make out appointment in the queue for the tower. the Skytower was only built last year and is 634 m tall. It was a bit too cloudy to get an excellent view but it was still very impressive. Under the skytower was an equally impressive shopping mall and we spent about 2 hours here with many purchases being made. We then all jumped on a tourist bus back to Ueno Park and the National Museum (see picture) The collection here was beautiful and ancient. All trained home safely after this, negotiating the busy and very fast train system. Back to school tomorrow. The girls are performing in the talent show at dinner tomorrow night.
We have just had a good night in the Hotel Unizo in Asakusa. Disney land was hot but not too crowded for a big city like this. The girls all purchased paraphernalia, mostly Minnie bows and toys and the boys mainly weird hats and animal scarves. They looked most amusing on the train across Tokyo last night. Everyone was pretty tired as we didn't get back to the hotel till 9.30pm and had all met at 7.30am so a long but enjoyable day. About to head to the traditional Japanese breakfast (salmon and rice I think) ad then out to explore some of the sights of this interesting city. It is Arielle's birthday so it should be a memorable one for her.
Location: Yokohama, Japan
We had rain today but that has not dampened the girls' spirits. We had another intensive Japanese lesson this morning followed by the usual enormous lunch. This afternoon we visited a local pottery and all made and decorated cups on hand turned wheels. We had varying degrees of success with this and apparently won't see the finished product till 2014. After school Arielle, Saskia, Julia, Miria and I were lucky enough to attend the ballet, The Sleeping Beauty. This was performed here at Toin in their enormous auditorium by the National Ballet of Russia. This was a real treat, though some of the girls who had seen the NZ ballet production said the actual production, staging etc, was better in NZ :-) I expect touring brings limits to what props can travel but I felt very fortunate to get this opportunity. Tomorrow we all head by early train into Tokyo for a trip to Disneyland and to stay the night. We are all looking forward to the possible experience of being pushed into the trains by the hired train packers.
It was back to school today and the girls were full of the wonderful things they had done yesterday with their host families. Some had been to museums, some to theme parks and some out into the coutryside to an animal park with views of Mt Fuji. The morning was spent in Japanese lessons with the lovely sensei Tanaka. The Scot's boys have separate lessons but they all mingeld for a game at the end. The chidren have to perform a skit together in Japanese at the end of the visit for their host families so we watched last year's efforts which seemed like big shoes to follow in. Lunch was an event, as the girls got to select their order and write it it in Japanese script. They had huge meals of all sorts of hot rice and noodle dishes. In the afternoon we got a tour of the school which is huge. The hall is a similar size and set up to the St James theatre, with several layers of balconies. The Russian ballet are performing Sleeping Beauty there this week. Another interesting factoid was that the court room that the war crimes trials were held in has been moved and rebuilt in one of the university buidlings at Topin, though sadky we did not get to see this. All the girls seem very happy with their homestay families and all are fit and well.
We all arrived safely In Japan at about 6 am Saturday morning. The travel here was very easy with no delays or real issues which was a relief. After the 2 hour drive to Toin the girls had to introduce themselves in Japanese and were quickly claimed by their homestay families. The girls are now all with their homestays so we will have plenty to hear about when we all meet up again on Monday morning. I had forgotten just how talkative excited Year 10 girls are... and the boys seem very quiet by comparison. It is beautifully sunny and feels like it is mid-20s. The flight in to Tokyo this morning was breathtaking with the "land of the rising sun" giving us a beautiful sunrise out the window of the plane.