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Japan - Fukuoka

Day 1 (2 June 2019) Singapore – Fukuoka

Places Visited:
Fukuoka International Airport
Yame Traditional Craftwork Centre
Yame Tesuki Washi Shiryokan
Yame Chuo Tea Garden
Hakata Station

We landed at Fukuoka International Airport at about 8.30 am local time. We then had to take a long bus ride to Yame. After a long flight it was quite a magical experience, passing mountains, buildings and flora that we would never see in Singapore. We reached Yame Traditional Craftwork Centre at 11am and experienced washi paper-making at 11.30 am. We then took a short stroll around the neighbourhood to appreciate the architecture before heading back to collect the fruits of our labour. Afterwards, we headed up a large hill that overlooked the Yame Chuo Tea Garden and began a fruitful drawing session. At 4 pm, we reached Nest Hotel and deposited our luggage before walking to Hakata Station and spending the rest of the evening there. 

“I felt excited even before the trip started as it was the first time I would be attending an overseas school trip. We arrived at Singapore Changi Airport at 10pm on the first of June. With everyone bubbling with excitement, it was clear that there would have to be a system set up in order to get the whole group to be able to make the most of our time and participate fully. The entire thing was planned ahead of time in order to let us take our time during the process. Everyone had to cooperate and be disciplined to make sure that we would be able to effectively get through the entire thing. Although we had an early 1am flight, we managed to get through the airport customs quickly and easily.” - Laura

“After leaving the airport, we went to the Yame Traditional Craftwork center. Washi paper making is something I haven’t had a chance to experience before and I was pretty excited, knowing that it wasn’t something that we have easy access to in Singapore. The process of paper making was pretty simple, shown through a demonstration by the teacher. I was impressed how even the Japanese teacher was not fluent in English, she still tried her best and was able to communicate with us well. The process was simply placing the frame into the water filled with fibre in a scooping motion, then shaking it to drain out the water. We were then allowed to decorate the paper with dried flowers before going through a few more processes of layering and drying the paper. This was an interesting experience, which gave me a chance to explore something new, however I also did realise that I really wasn’t fluent in the Japanese language, stumbling over simple greetings. I hope that through the next few days, I will be able to communicate better with locals.” 

“While we were waiting for our Washi paper to dry, we decided to explore the surrounding neighbourhood. The streets were clean and there were always bright flowers sprouting from the ground, never failing to catch our attention to sketch them. We took some lefts and rights, ups and downs and we caught glimpse of a temple at the end of the street. The temple was abandoned yet its unique and traditional structure still stood strong. Gingko trees surrounded it and the handwritten notes still hung on the wire walls. It held an eerie ambience but left the group with a peaceful atmosphere as we left the neighbourhood.” -Rachel

“After a long bus ride on a winding path through a multitude of shops and houses, in the cool afternoon air, we sat in a pavilion atop a high hill that overlooked rows upon rows of tea plantations. I had never seen so much green in my life and was so completely awestruck by the sight that I didn’t speak for a good ten minutes, focused on drawing my surroundings. Our boisterous group of twelve suddenly fell into a pin drop silence as we sketched and painted furiously to capture the marvel of the scene. The scenery evidently brought out the true artistic nature of the others as I glanced at their sketchbooks. From this experience, I have gained the confidence to say that this trip will definitely be an enriching one.” - Claire

Day 2 (3 June 2019)

Places Visited: 
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Kawabata Shopping Arcade
Kushida Shrine
Hakata Traditional Craft and Design Museum
Hakata Machiya Folk Museum
Canal City 
TeamLab Future Park 

We woke up early in the morning after our first night’s sleep in the hotel, and went for breakfast downstairs at 7.15am. By 8.30am, we were on our way to Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, via subway. As we were early, we sketched the surroundings outside the museum such as the buildings around the museum and the city sights. We then met the current Artist-in-residence, Mr. Han Sungpil and attended the first part of a 2-day workshop on photography conducted by him. We learnt about the history of the camera, how it originated and how it evolved to today’s cameras. We also learnt how to build our own pinhole camera using common materials such as children’s stools, wooden planks and duct tape, showing us this simple and yet complex method. We also had the opportunity to use the cameras to take negative film photos which were developed in the black room using chemicals. This hands on activity allowed us to try out how cameras from the past were used and made us feel more aware and grateful of how developed society has became. Now, we can take pictures and capture a fleeting moment in time effortlessly with a simple press of a button from our phone, unlike 20 years ago, when humans had to leave a heavy and large pinhole camera in the sun for long periods of time just to capture a picture. Before the workshop, almost all of us had no experienced in the art of photography and thanks to this workshop, it gave us an insightful and enriching chance to experience and appreciate this different art form which we have never tried in school.
After stopping for lunch, we viewed the galleries on levels 7 and 8 which showed several artworks from many Asian artists in South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia etc. One of which depicted paintings of propaganda used during the Japanese occupation in World War 2. We then went to the shopping arcade where we strolled through the market to take photographs to capture the distinctively Japanese elements such as 100 yen shops, kimono shops and handmade shrines. 

From there, we went on to visit many different temples. We also took time out to sketch at the Kushida shrine, which was very calming due to its peaceful and relaxed atmosphere thus allowing us to fully capture the beauty of Japan’s traditional architecture, the crane sculptures and the statues. In addition, we went to several museums as well such as the Hakata Traditional Craft and Design museum where we played with traditional Japanese toys and knickknack, giving us the chance to experience the past. 

We walked to Canal City for TeamLab future park at Canal City where we experienced many different contraptions and interactive digital activities. One of which was a hopscotch. It is a digital projection of shapes in a river on the floor and as we jumped onto the shapes, it would disappear in a flash of light and leave a sparkling trail which was breathtaking and enthralling. The interactive elements such as the digital hopscotch made us think more about how technology has rapidly developed and how it is gradually intertwining itself with art. This lets us create digital art pieces easily without traditional art materials such as brushes and paints, edit pictures and videos on a software and interact with art on a different level- just like how we did today. Finally, we ended the day by having dinner at Canal City and walked back to the hotel room. 

Feelings: We are happy to have experimented with something new that is otherwise hard to come by, film photography. We are very grateful for the rare opportunity provided as we would not have been able to attend this workshop back in Singapore which was amazing. Additionally, visiting culturally rich locations such as the Kushida shrine allowed for us to immerse ourselves and gain wider introspective into Japanese history and culture, and more specifically the artistic aspects.
-Ashleigh, Renee, Christine, Claris 

Day 3 (4 June 2019)

Placed Visited: 
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Day 2)
Tochoji Temple
Shofukuji Temple
Hakata Station

It was surreal to wake up in an entirely different environment for the second time, for some it was hard to wrap their heads around the fact that we were in Japan. After a hearty breakfast our team headed towards Hakata Station. 
There, we were tasked to draw the working class that passed by the area, all rushing to get to work this fine Tuesday morning.

For some it was interesting seeing the different types of people walking past the group as we sat there in silence and soaked up the urban Japanese atmosphere while sketching. 
For others, they opted to sketch the flock of chubby pigeons as a passerby had thrown a handful of breadcrumbs onto the concrete for the birds’ breakfast. 

After spending about 40 minutes sketching, the group took the subway back to the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum for our second day of our photography workshop with Mr Han Sungpil.
Today he took a rather different approach to the workshop and had us come up one by one to present our chosen objects (that we had to decide on beforehand) that we value. 
Some of our peers brought items from their childhood, while some brought items that were given as gifts to them from various loved ones. 
It was a nice opportunity for the group to get to know one another even more as by sharing their personal items, we got to see a small fraction of their lives. Furthermore, this gave us a chance to build up on our self confidence and our oral skills as we had to speak to a group of people. 
After the sharing was the phototaking. People came up one by one to a professional and expensive-looking camera and placed our objects in front of it. 

Going up one by one was an interesting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience for all of us, considering the majority of us did not have background in photography. 
After painstakingly finding the right angle and adjusting the camera perfectly, all twelve of us finally got our photo of our object taken. We got an opportunity to experiment with cameras and photography — a media that a lot of us have not experimented with yet. Hopefully with this workshop, participants could learn a little more about the art form.
Lastly, we got to share not just the meaning behind the photo we took today but also the photo we took on the second day. It was a unique outlet to let others know more about our thoughts and feelings towards Japan and photography, also allowing us an outlet to share our thoughts in a safe and conducive environment. 

After bidding goodbye to Mr Han, we had to open our umbrellas and trek through the narrow streets and alleys of Japan in search of our next stop — Tochoji Temple. After much walking, we made it to a serene and out-of-the-way building which turned out to be the temple. It felt surreal to step into the compound of the area, which was extremely old and run down apart from a number of cats scurrying around past the bushes. 
As it was still raining, the group carefully maneuvered past raindrop laden bushes and muddy pathways. 
Personally, it was a way to escape from the hustle and bustle in the city we were just in, and I am thankful for that. The perfectly crafted spires of the temple buildings reflected our long to search for inspiration for our art, which in this case was out of our reach.
The second temple was no different, as we settled down and sketched our afternoon away. 

Our walk back to Hakata Station was long but sentimental, many of us, worn from our long day, made our way through the now less crowded city with thoughts of resting in our comfortable hotel rooms and getting something warm to eat for dinner. 
We eventually made our way to Hakata Station, where we spent our remaining time roaming around the area. 

Day 4 (5 June 2019)

Places Visited:
Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Hypocenter
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum
Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Shrine
AMU mall rooftop garden 

It was a long day of walking and reflection. 
We began the day by visiting the vibrant and majestic Hiroshima Castle and then the skeletal Hiroshima Bomb Dome. When we saw the dome, we thought:
“ It was honestly quite nice to see a real life memorial that remains in its original place from when the bombing happened. It really shows how real and severe the bombing was and the fact that it still remains till this days shows how the bombing has really affected the country.” - Laura And it had an eerie but calm atmosphere. 

This all changed when we visited the Hiroshima peace memorial museum. The haunting images and objects burned their stories into our mind. 
“I was shocked at the tragic stories and pictures of people who suffered and die due to the atomic bomb. I didn’t know the huge damage done onto the Japanese locals by the bombing. Many pictures of locals were too intense for me to actually look at it and it creeps me out thinking of how many people, especially children, were killed or affected by radiation.” -Cheryl 

“I remember uncontrollably sobbing when I saw the charred clothing of the children who were found, dead or alive, knowing that some of them were much younger than myself when the bomb dropped. However, I do believe that it is extremely important that both children and adults understand and see this artefacts to understand the mistakes that should not be repeated. The Hiroshima Bomb incident is horrific and it should be passed down as a warning for future generations of people of the devastation of war.” 
- Claire 

“After we visited the museum, we took the street car to the port to take a ferry to Miyajima island . On the island, we saw free roaming wild deers. They were extremely calm and it was obvious that they were used to human interaction. A deer was even brave enough to nibble on our discipline mistress’s clothes. We visited the Itsukushima shrine. We saw its tori gate which is unique for being built over water, seemingly floating in the sea during high tides. Though today, was Low tide. So, that was relatively strange. After we arrived back to Hakata, we headed to the rooftop garden at the AMU mall near our hotel to watch the sunset. The sight of the sun setting over the city illuminated by offices was beautiful, a great way to end the day.” -Rachel

Day 5 (6 June 2019)

Places visited:
Teriha Sekisu House Arena
Hakata Station

We went for Fukuoka Futaba High School’s Sports Day.
We all participated in one or two sport events. They were called Ball Toss and Teacher-Student race respectively. We also met our Japanese buddies today. Our thoughts on the day were:

“Seeing how inclusive the events were was extremely refreshing. Unlike Singapore’s competitive nature that focuses solely on achievements, the students displayed support for all the teams and unfailing resilience throughout all the activities. The teams cheered for other teams despite being at a battle against one another, picking up the spirits of those who had fallen. I feel that such humanitarian behaviour should be adopted in Singapore so as to deepen the bonds between one another as a society.”  -Ashleigh

“The Japanese buddies welcomed us with open arms and the feeling of warmth and joy is something I will never forget. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend their sports day event which was unlike anything I have experienced before in Singapore because of the immense hospitality and support they displayed towards others.” -Claris

“Today was such an exciting day where we got to learn so much more about the similarities between our two countries learning systems, more specifically, Sports Day. We really saw the participation of everyone and how every single person supported one another and cheered each other on. This warm and welcoming atmosphere was further amplified by the kind, caring Japanese buddies we each were introduced to that helped us to feel comfortable and so thankful for how much they watched over and took care of us. Overall, this happy, joyful aura created this conducive environment which we experienced today, cheering on every house and every person.”-Renee

“I loved seeing all the fun events during the Sports Day! There was such a lighthearted atmosphere to every event no matter which house won, and it was enjoyable to both watch and participate. It had a totally different feeling as compared to the competitive nature of the Sports Day we have in Singapore. Everyone pushed each other on, everyone participated with a high level of enthusiasm, and it just made me smile to see them so supportive of each other. I’m even more interested to find out what a day of classes is like in Fukuoka Futaba High School now, and excited to also see my buddy again.” 

Day 6 (7 June 2019)

Places Visited:
Fukuoka Futaba High School
Fukuoka Art Museum 
Tenjin Station

With heavy hearts we awoke for our last day in Fukuoka, Japan. After buying our lunches from the nearby convenience store, the group piled up onto the bus bound for Fukuoka Futaba. Along the way we all gazed out the glass windows of the bus, eyeing Futaba High students clad in their blue-black pinafores and collared shirts. 
Initially we thought that since Futaba was an IJ school, their uniform and classrooms would be similar, but how wrong we were. Upon arrival we not only took note of the difference in the uniform colour, but also the difference in the overall aesthetics of the school, such as the running track, the classrooms, and science labs. 
We got the opportunity to walk around the neighbourhood surrounding the school and explore it’s garden. As we made our way past the school gate, groups of students streamed in holding their school bags and sporting pearly white smiles in greeting. We were all greatly welcomed.The first lesson we had the chance to sit in with was a Secondary Two science lesson, in which the students and teachers there communicated in fluent English, much to our surprise. It turns out that since Futaba was a private school in Japan, they had certain classes conducted in English. For some the science class was a chance to make new friends and learn more about the country’s education system. For others it was a rather silent and serious affair in which we simply had to comply and follow the teacher’s instructions. We all noticed one thing however, which was that the Japanese girls were just as playful and rowdy as us. 

After the science lesson, the group made their way down towards the art studio, where we, with an art teacher in the school, used indigo dye to colour fabric. The process taught us that certain types of art takes time, and with enough hard work and effort, our results would be fruitful. 

In an hour or so we proceeded to lunch, where we met up once again with our buddies from the previous day. The period was spent bonding with our new Japanese friends as we enjoyed our packed lunches in the comfort of their classrooms. For us it was an alien experience, for we were used to rushing down to the cafeteria to purchase our meals and wolf them down within minutes. In this school, the students had their lunches in their own classes, and did not have a cafeteria in their school.

Bidding goodbye to our newfound friends was a bittersweet experience; with tears in our eyes and wide smiles on our faces, we exchanged handmade gifts and exchanged our final hugs and handshakes. The next lesson was art class, where we were tasked to make use of graphite to draw an eye in a class full of Secondary One art students. Drawing in front of a group of wide-eyed and curious juniors was a new experience for all of us, but eventually we got used to the occasional shy glance or careless whisper from the pupils. 

Eventually we piled onto the bus with bright smiles and bid goodbye to Futaba High, it was truly a splendid experience for all. The bus ride, bound for Fukuoka Art Museum, was a short one, and in no time we were getting off the vehicle and joining our tour guide for a slow walk around the museum of both Asian and Western art. Our guide’s insightful words truly gave us a new perspective on art that was both local and from the West. We then made our way to Tenjin station, which was simply a train ride away. There, we admired the building’s unique architecture and form. 

After a long week in a foreign country, the group of 14 finally spent our first dinner together, which was a wonderful and not to mention a delicious affair for us all. We will all no doubt miss Fukuoka, but we look forward to sharing our truly unforgettable experiences and memories we made in Japan with others in Singapore.