Cultural Trip to Japan
This Easter holiday, 20 very fortunate students from Chengelo travelled to Japan for a two-week visit. The trip encompassed a range of cultural, educational and recreational activities, and for many of the participants, it proved to be a trip of a lifetime.
Arriving late into Tokyo, there was chance for a quick sleep before heading out to meet the Zambian ambassador to Japan, and then taking the bullet train to Osaka where we would be staying for the next few nights.
The next day, we headed off on the bullet train again, this time down to Hiroshima, where students got the chance to learn about the history of the nuclear bomb dropped on the city, and were able to understand why Hiroshima has now established itself as a city of peace, campaigning for a world free of atomic weapons. The afternoon was spent in Hiroshima Castle, and then a dinner of ‘okonomiyaki’ (Japanese pancakes) before returning to Osaka.
On Friday, it was our chance to visit Kyoto – the ancient capital of Japan – where we got to visit Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizudera, before moving on to Uji, the home of green tea and the Byodouin (the Phoenix Pavilion) which features on the 10-yen coin. Green tea ice cream was a surprising hit here.
Early the next morning, we left West Japan, and once again via bullet train, travelled up to Ushiku City, Ibaraki-ken. The afternoon was spent at the Giant Buddha – 120m high, or three times the height of the Statue of Liberty – which features in the Guinness Book of Records. We also had a chance to enjoy the sakura (cherry blossom).
The following day was Sunday. In Japan, less than 1% of the population is Christian, so we felt privileged to join Midorino Chapel for their worship time. Some students helped with the teens ministry and others helped with the kids before the service. During the service, we presented three testimonies and a dance, as well as introducing ourselves in Japanese. After a tasty lunch, we took part in a sports outreach event, and then it was off to karaoke. The day was rounded off with a cake for Tayana’s birthday.
Monday was a day that everyone was looking forward to: Tokyo Disneyland, and it didn’t disappoint! We enjoyed the parades, the atmosphere and the rides. Mr Banda even went on a rollercoaster or two!
On Tuesday, we visited Tsukuba University for a tour, an archery workshop and a mini-symposium with African postgraduate students. We also enjoyed visiting the Japan Space Centre and the Institute for Integrative Sleep Studies, where we had a talk by Professor Yanagisawa, a world expert in sleep science. We were surprised to find out that university in Japan is very reasonably priced for international students and that the university offers courses in English. Some Chengelo students were very keen to find out more – Japanese universities are high in world rankings and therefore, can be a great alternative to other more common choices. Not to forget how safe Japanese society is!
Tuesday evening saw us taking the train up to Omika, where we were to do a homestay with students from Ibaraki Christian High School and Junior High School. We spent 3 nights with individual Japanese families, and, for most of the participants on the trip, this was the best part of the whole two weeks! During the day, we attended lessons and had other activities: dressing up in kimono, origami, learning etiquette, tea ceremony, kendo… We also got to present about Chengelo to some of the students and the Principal. We are very excited about the future opportunities for exchange that this trip has brought, and the schools are already planning for more. Watch this space!
On Friday, it was time to bid farewell to our families and take the train down to Tokyo, where we went to the Edo-Tokyo museum to learn about the history of Tokyo, and then Tokyo Sky-Tree, which towers over 450m above the city. This was an amazing way to see the city at night, if slightly terrifying to think that we were nearly half a kilometre in the air!
Saturday saw us visiting another Christian university, Aoyama Gakuin, in the centre of Tokyo for a talk from a NGO called Malaria No More, who aim to eradicate malaria worldwide. We also watched a Japanese drama about malaria, which was rather different to our usual experiences of drama. The afternoon saw us in a more active place: a taiko drumming workshop! After burning off some energy, we browsed the bazaars of Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, and then headed to Akihabara, Electric City for some retail therapy.
All too soon, it was the penultimate day, and Easter Sunday. After bilingual church at New Hope Narimasu, we moved to our final destination: Tokyo Dome Hotel. We enjoyed – and were terrified in equal measure – by the amusement park, which threw the rides in Disneyland into the shade, and then it was our Last Supper: a formal 9 course Japanese meal. By now, chopsticks had been mastered, but there were still some challenges in terms of giant crabs, and sashimi (raw fish). Still, most of us enjoyed even the more unusual food.
And then, it was Monday. After a reflective hour at the Meiji Shrine, we moved on to the chaos of Takeshita Street, Harajuku, and Shibuya, both teen shopping meccas of Tokyo, where there was a chance to buy our final souvenirs and really experience the pulse of humanity that is Tokyo at its finest.
Before we knew it, we were on the plane back to Lusaka. Due to the time difference (Japan is seven hours ahead), April 23rd was possibly the longest one ever, but we arrived back in Zambia tired but happy, after a plethora of new experiences and having made new friendships to last much longer than the two weeks.
Travel, we are told, broadens our eyes to new horizons, and teaches us in new and exciting ways. It enables us to become more resilient, more confident and more responsible, which is why Chengelo offers such experiences to our students. Will you join the next trip? Keep an eye out for the next one.