Six inspired Corowa High School students and one student from Oaklands Central would like to share their amazing adventure to Japan with all the Free Press readers.
Their amazing adventure started at 4.30am on one October morning when the students and three brave chaperones left Corowa to experience life in Japan and build relations between the communities of Miki City and the Federation Council.
After a short stopover in Cairns and a squishy plane ride, we landed at the Kansai International in Japan.
After a restful night, we were excited to meet the generous families that we would be staying with while in Japan.
It was these families that allowed us to experience genuine Japanese culture.
Miki City is famous for its traditional blade-making factory where we were taught how Japanese blades were made.
We then visited Himeji Castle where we learnt the architectural strategies which were used by Japanese castle makers to defend the castle.
During free time with our host families they took us to many places.
We were able to experience the Fall Festival, which celebrated the beginning of Autumn and some of us went to Universal Studios, experienced a traditional Japanese archery class, a Karate class or simply experienced some Japanese retail therapy.
On the following Monday we went to Shin Kobe station to catch the Bullet Train to Hiroshima and stayed there overnight.
While visiting Hiroshima we caught a ferry to Miyajima where we spent time sightseeing around the island.
We also had the opportunity to interact with a survivor from the Hiroshima bombing, followed by a tour around the Peace Museum.
After practising Zen at a Japanese temple with a Monk, we drank traditional Japanese green tea in the temple.
On return to Miki City we were able to experience school life in Japan.
We were able to visit three schools while in Japan.
We visited Shijimi Junior High, Miki Senior High and Yokawa High School.
At Shijimi Junior High we enjoyed the student’s creative performances and participated in some of their New Year’s traditional activities.
We ate typical school lunch with the students before saying farewell and driving to Miki High.
Then we participated in the English class where the students included us in a Japanese board game.
Then the boys went out into the schoolyard where they taught the Japanese boys to kick the football and shared our AFL culture with them.
We then participated in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with the students in the Tea Ceremony Club.
After tasting traditional Japanese sweets and a green tea, we were given the opportunity to try making our own green tea and learnt how to drink Japanese tea properly.
While in Miki City students were able to share their thoughts about their experience with the local community through a variety of media – Bailey Minogue, Danielle Harris and Annie Martin were interviewed by the city’s radio station, Miki Radio Station and talked about their Japanese experience.
The local newspaper interviewed Nykia Butler.
The next day was spent in Yokawa, a neighbouring town.
At the Yokawa Community Hall we took a Japanese painting class where we learnt traditional Japanese painting styles and painted our own Japanese fans.
Later we went to Yokawa High School where we participated in learning traditional Japanese calligraphy.
We learnt how to write the Japanese Kanji character for heart and tree.
A Miki City participant who visited Corowa last year – Masaki Toda – introduced us to some amazing traditional Japanese food at his own restaurant.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this delicious opportunity.
Upon arrival back to Miki City we all attended a farewell Japanese ceremony where we were able to celebrate our time in Japan with our new friends and host families.
At this ceremony we were dressed in traditional Japanese clothing.
The Kimono dressing professionals dressed us for the occasion, providing us with a traditional Japanese hairpiece.
After a lengthy dressing ritual, we enjoyed a Japanese performance of traditional Taiko Drumming, Japanese singing and in return we shared a performance of Waltzing Matilda.
Before long it was time to leave our new friends and host families and return home to familiar settings, customs and faces.
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and appreciate the fact that it was made possible by the efforts of many people in both Corowa and Miki City.
We are all looking forward to seeing our new friends later this year when Miki City representatives visit Corowa.
It is a great experience and we would recommend it to anyone contemplating broadening their horizons and opening their minds and lives to the amazing culture, language and people of Japan.