On 2/6-10/6, I went on my school’s student exchange trip. This program with Tokyo Jogakkan, a famous all-girls school, has been going on for 20 years. 10 of them and 10 of us go to each other’s school every year. I’m very lucky to be able to grab a spot for this Japan trip, especially that this year is the 20 years anniversary, we received more gifts than those in the previous years. During the trip, we get to stay with our host families for a few days and hang out with them, attend classes in school and make friends with classmates. We gained lots of memorable experiences and unforgettable memories. It was sad for us to part with them when we leave but we did promise to keep in touch.
Our flight was at night, we had dinner and snacks on the plane. Two of our friends’ birthdays were on 3/6 so we wished them ‘Happy Birthday’ when it was midnight sharp. I was planning to watch a movie before going to sleep, but I was very tired as I had woken up early for school activities and had been sick for a few days. Eventually, I fell asleep when the movie was halfway through. I had a really comfortable and cosy sleep, with pillows and a blanket. My friend even snored beside me (muahaha). But we were woken up at 4am for breakfast, while everyone was still sleepy pandas, trying hard not to feed the breads into our noses. I don’t even remember what I ate.
We arrived at Kansai International Airport at around 8am local time and went to Nara and Kyoto. We visited several temples, including Toidaji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple and Heian Shrine. Our schedule on this day was really really really rushed. The tour guide said it was a two-day squeezed into a one-day schedule for us. What?!
We also went to a sushi school and had a little sushi-making lesson. Our teacher said that we were the luckiest as it was the first time this was included in the schedule. We even had a birthday cake as a celebration for two of our friends. For the sushi, we had to grab 20g of riceball so that it doesn’t end up too big or too small. Many of us ended up grabbing too much or too little rice. The teacher was such an expert that she didn’t even need to measure to get them perfectly every time. However, after making a bunch of sushi, we were getting pretty good at it and all of us managed to get the perfect 20g riceball in one shot for the very last sushi hooray! So we ate our own handmade sushi plus udon, tempura, miso soup for lunch. We had little time to eat such a big and full set of lunch, many of us couldn’t finish it (sorry for wastage).
At night, we had dinner and enjoyed shopping at Shinsaibashi, Osaka. We even tried to get on screen when there was a live news reporting on TV.
I shared a room with my best friend in the hotel. The hotel is very small that with our luggages opened, we barely had places to stand, but it has everything you need. You can always find bathtub in Japan’s bathroom no matter how compact it is. But the bathroom went kinda flooded after we bathed. And my friend accused me of causing an earthquake because I accidentally knocked over a bunch of things and made lots of noises (hahaha). After settling down, we went out for a walk nearby and went to buy plenty of snacks from the marts. We even visited a subway station.
Tokyo Jogakkan and Welcome Party
The next day, we took another flight to Tokyo. We arrived at Haneda in the afternoon and headed straight to the school, Tokyo Jogakkan. They held a welcome party for us and we were all very excited to meet our hosts. We parted ways from this day onwards and followed our host families back home.
My host family was very kind, cheerful and nice. They took very great care of me. I tasted many delicious food and snacks, and learnt some basic japanese. I was happy and enjoyed my time hanging out with them. My host student was 14 years old. She tried her best when communicating with me although her English wasn’t good.
Sunday was the only free day we had, with no arranged schedule. Everyone’s host family brought them to different places. Some of them went to Disney Sea or Tokyo Tower or somewhere else. My host family brought me to Yokohama. We went to the Cosmo World, World Porters Shopping Mall and Ramen Museum.
The next day, I woke up early and went to school with my host student. We took the train and switched a few stations. The train was really squeezy and I could barely move. After getting off the train, we had to take a long 15mins walk to the school. Those of us that had to walk that same uphill road were damn tired and we were like “I feel your painnn” when we met each other.
They had a welcome ceremony in the auditorium for us, where they gave speeches, sang their school song and presented gifts for us. We also had a short introduction for ourselves on stage. After that, we had uniform fitting and went for a school tour. Their school was big, beautiful and organized. We were all like “Oh we gotta take a picture of this, this, this and this, and show it to our headmistress as reference (laugh)”. We all loved their cafeteria and stationery shop so much that we kept going there a few times every day.
We also practised for our presentation in the auditorium. We had a slideshow and video presentation about Malaysia and our school. For dance performances, 5 of us chose Malay traditional dance and 5 of us chose Chinese traditional dance. My friend and I also prepared a piano duet – https://www.instagram.com/p/BF8fjhtDI7W/?taken-by=jasminelim_jm
Then, we attended classes with the Grade 10 students. We were assigned to different classes. Some were 2 in a group and some were alone. I was assigned to Class C alone and the classes were Biology and Maths. Pretty boring, especially when I’m an Art stream student.
The class students were very enthusiastic and welcomed me warmly. They were very nice and couldn’t stop talking to me and asking me a bunch of questions. At lunchtime, I sat around and ate with them. I was amazed by how nicely and cutely the bento lunch was packed by my host’s mother. I wondered how early she got up to prepare it for me.
In the evening, we attended their club activities. They had more than a hundred clubs in their school and the clubs were amazing, professional and trained diligently. I was interested in the Kendo club the most. We even had a chance to experience it ourselves, where we used a stick and hit the dummy on its head while yelling mannn.
The next day, we went to the teacher’s office, had a little speech and left for Disneyland. However, it was a race against time for us again as we had less than 5 hours in Disneyland. My friends and I were the most successful group, having played 10 attractions. And that was also why we were the most tired when we came back. I wished I can go to Disneyland again sometime where I really have a day or two to walk around slowly and enjoy everything there.
Presentation and Harajuku
This was our first day to wear their school uniform to school. I wish I get to keep it because I loved it so much. But we only get to keep the school badge, which is really pretty too. We only wore the uniform for a short time as we had rehearsal and presentation in the auditorium for the Grade 10 students. The students from my class even cheered and waved at me after the performance. We also interacted with the students when we sang the ost from Doraemon and had a little Q & A session where we tested them on some of the basic greetings in Chinese and Malay we taught them earlier, and awarded them with little gifts.
After that, we had another race against time againnn. We changed into our casual clothes and went for shopping in Harajuku. The main attraction there was the big Daiso shop which had 4 floors. My friends and I were speedy shopping and put everything we like into the basket without thinking more than twice. Well, we didn’t spend lots of money compared to the fellow shopaholics for the past few days.
At night, my host’s mother let me try on kimono and we had a tako-party. I was surprised that they weren’t very good at making takoyaki too, so we were literally more like playing with the balls. But we did managed to make a few very nice and round ones. We also ate okonomiyaki. After dinner, we played fireworks at the balcony and took a family photo. After finally undressing the kimono, my host and I were like slugs on the floor, we could feel the takoyaki swimming in our stomach.
Yukata and Farewell Party
It was our last day in school. We played games with the students in our own classes. My class played a game called Fruit Basket, where the person in the centre says a statement and the matching students has to change their seats. I also took a class photo with them. The class teacher even specially printed out the photos she took and gave it to me personally.
After attending another 2 classes, which were Social Studies and Physics for my class, we get to try on Yukata. It must be quite hard to wear it because the teachers spent 10mins on each of us. I wondered if they ever tried wearing it on their own without any help. We took plenty of photos around the school, especially with their school’s photography teacher asking us to pose like this and pose like that for him. It was quite hard to walk down the staircase with those wooden shoes.
My bento lunch was super cute, it was the last bento lunch my host’s mother prepared for me so I guess she put even more effort into it. The class students were busy taking photos with me as they won’t be seeing me again. I also left my contact information for them and my LINE has kinda exploded because of everyone adding me. They even drew the whole blackboard for me.
After attending music class together, where the songs they sang were so high pitched we literally got dizzy (laugh), we had a farewell party with the host families in the evening. We performed our traditional dances again at the cafeteria.
At night, we had sushi for dinner at home. My host family prepared lots of fish and other ingredients. We handmade our sushi with a little gadget they have, that helps roll the sushi nicely.
The next day, my host student and I took a taxi to school and it literally costed more than 4000 yen. When we bid farewell to our host students, many of us and them cried. My helping students from the class and my host family gave me many gifts. I was really touched by the letters.
I learnt and experienced a lot from this trip. Not only making new friends but also learning japanese culture and lifestyle. I was really grateful and touched by their enthusiasm and cheerfulness. I spent happy moments with my host family and still keep in touch with my host student till today. Japanese’s politeness, cleanliness and diligence are something that we should all try to imply in our daily lives.
Goldfish Pattern by 1dogwoof