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Japan



Day 1

Places visited

Haneda International Airport
Harajuku 
Meiji Shrine and Garden

Observations, lessons learnt and take aways

Ho Yun Ye, “The train stations are very confusing as there are so many of them.”

Arianne New, “Japanese people are really different from Singaporeans, they are very polite and often smile a lot.”

Lim Yi Jin, “The Japanese still honour old practices with dignity and respect despite society constantly changing due to the younger generation.”

Carina Leong, “I learnt more about the culture of Japan at the Meiji Shrine and Garden, especially about the emperor Meiji and how the people still worship him till today.”

Kyna Chew, “The smiles of many of the Japanese people we met made me smile too.”

Vanessa Low, “The Japanese are very sophisticated, polite and graceful. They bowed in greeting to each other and were very generous with their ‘thank you’s.” 

Sonia Chee, “Japanese children are very independent, I saw a young child of about 7 years, taking the Japan Railway with ease and confidence despite it being complicated.”

Nicole Jean Wong, “I noticed that the Japanese were allowed to eat on their trains, which demonstrates their discipline in keeping their country clean as they could be depended on to clean up after themselves.”

First impressions of Japan

Yun Ye, “It was Amazing! I was impressed by the technology they have. Harajuku was quite crowded and walking around we found many shops to visit. Then we went to the Meiji Shrine and Garden which was a short walk from Harajuku but the difference was between the two was great. At the Meiji Shrine, it was so peaceful and quiet with only the crunching sound of the gravel under our feet. It was so nice just walking there especially with the clean and fresh air.”

Arianne, “It was the epitome of perfection. The moment we set foot on the streets, people treated us kindly and politely, no cutting of queues, waiting patiently and greeting and smiling at us as we bought items in the course of our activities.”

Yi Jin, “The streets are very clean, despite there not being many dustbins around. People keep their litter with them until they find a rubbish bin! I am really fascinated by the respect and care they give to Japan. They seem really proud of their home an country. Their culture is so interesting.”

Carina, “I find Japan a really helpful and friendly country. When the Japanese are serving their customers, they are always friendly and smiling. Although some of them cannot speak English well and are not able to communicate with us, they try their best using their body language to explain or show us what they mean.”

Kyna, “At the airport, I accidently bumped into an elderly Japanese lady. Knowing how polite and gracious they were, I expected that both of us would just apologise to each other but her actions surprised me. She stopped, bowed and with the sweetest smile on her face apologized for the incident. It may not seem like much, but it was such a beautiful and genuine smile that it really made my day a lot better. How often do we forget to make simple gestures like that?”

Vanessa, “My first impression of Japan is that it is a very clean and litter free country. What was even more interesting was the minimal presence of rubbish bins along the road side unlike Singapore where we have many bins and yet rubbish is strewn almost everywhere. This clearly shows the difference in discipline and attitude between the Japanese and Singaporeans and how we should learn to have better discipline like the Japanese.” 

Sonia, “Japan is a very well put together and cohesive society. Most interactions I witnessed on my first day here were all positive and pleasant. For example, at the Meiji Shrine and Garden, I saw a woman’s scarf fall off her child’s pram and three elderly women behind her rushed forward to retrieve her scarf and pass it to her. With warm smiles all around, the lady thanked the elderly women and I thought it was a very sweet sight.”

Nicole, “The Japanese are extremely polite and courteous to each other and foreigners. I noticed that when they spoke to us at the train station, they used words like ‘please’ and bowed their heads many times. I hope to be able to treat foreigners who come to Singapore with the same kindness as the Japanese have shown us.”



Day 2

Places visited

Tsukiji Market
Asakusa Shrine
Yokohama China Town

Observations, lessons learnt and take-aways

Ho Yun Ye, “The Japanese are very considerate. At lunch, I ordered a rice set while Arianne ordered some ‘gyoza’. When my dish arrived, they gave us an extra bowl and spoon even without us asking for it because they anticipated that we were sharing our meal.”

Arianne New, “Japan has really hi-tech vending machines, they even have one that dispenses strawberry milkshake.”

Lim Yi Jin, “I was impressed by the efficiency of the fish market. It was a bustling place with people everywhere. There was very little time to stop and take pictures as we would disrupt the flow of traffic.”

Carina Leong, “I learnt how to plan our journey around Tokyo today with the train map and it made me confident of getting from one place to another.”

Kyna Chew, “The experience at the fish market taught me that we need to be considerate towards others especially if they are engaged in important matters.”

Sonia Chee, “I learnt to be more open to trying new things. I had expected the Tsukiji fish market to be an unappealing place. However when I arrived, I realised that there was a unique beauty about it. The silent understanding between those who worked there which made everything run smoothly despite the apparent ‘chaos’ with people and machines transporting food stuffs was quite impressive”

Nicole Jean Wong, “The fruits and vegetables at the Tsukiji fish market are quite ‘perfect’ but this was done through a process where farmers prune their crops to ensure that those which look the best would grow to maturity.”

Impressions of Tokyo / Yokohama

Yun Ye, “The Tsukiji fish market was a fascinating and interesting place with its wide variety of seafood. There were different types of fishes and they came in various sizes. All the sights and sounds of the place made my time spent there, very enjoyable.”

Yi Jin, “I always thought that Tokyo was a modern city which relied heavily on technology and machinery. I never expected that there would be a fish market where the fish mongers cleaned and sliced the fishes by hand. I was impressed by the cleanliness of the market as well as with the immense amount of skill and passion displayed by the fish mongers as they carried out their activities.”

Carina, “It was raining this morning and we had to make use of our umbrellas, however that did not dampen our spirits as we were quite excited to visit the fish market were we witnessed the process of preparing live fish for the shelves in the supermarket.”

Vanessa, “The visit to the Tsukiji fish market left a deep impression on me and it was also a great eye-opener for us. We got to witness how fish were slaughtered on the spot and the fish mongers made the process look so simple with their skill and experience.”


Day 3

Places visited

Futaba High School Yokohama
Mother Mathilde’s grave
Shizuoka City

Observations, lessons learnt and take aways

Ho Yun Ye, “Everything I have seen in anime is actually true. The students have their names written on their PE attire, they change their shoes and they bring bento boxes to school and eat in class during their recess.”

Arianne New, “The students at the school are just like us, noisy, funny, cute and excited about visiting students. The school is so clean that the floors even seemed to shine.”

Lim Yi Jin, “The students all ate together in their classrooms and they had 2 different bins for the cartons and general waste. It is amazing that they take every opportunity to recycle.”

Carina Leong, “I learnt a lot from my buddy about a typical student’s life in Japan as well as how they evacuated the building if there was an earthquake. I also learnt more about Mother Mathilde, where she was born, when she died and a lot more of what she has done for IJ in Japan.”

Kyna Chew, “I learnt today that anything is possible when you have a passion for it.”

Sonia Chee, “I learnt that Mother Mathilde is not only dear to us but very dear to the Futaba schools in Japan as well. Her impact on lives is far greater than I first thought.”

Nicole Jean Wong, “Being able to speak the basic phrases of some languages is very important as it will make the process of communicating much easier.”

Impressions of Futaba High School Yokohama and the Gravesite of the IJ Sisters

Yun Ye, “It is a beautiful school. The place is very clean and quiet, sometimes cool due to the wind. The students were very friendly, always smiling and waving at us. They were so cute. The teachers were also very nice, speaking in English with us so that we could understand them better.”

Arianne, “The school is really a lovely place with good facilities and really nice teachers and students too! The time given was too short for interaction.”

Yi Jin, “The students seemed really happy and lively and when I heard that they had to take 16 subjects, my jaw dropped. I had no idea that at 13 years of age, they had to juggle with 16 subjects while we only had 10. This taught me to see the positive things in life and to be grateful for the blessings we have.”

Carina, “The students at the school were very warm and welcoming. They tried their best to use English to communicate with me. At lunch they ‘flooded’ me with questions as they were very curious about my life in Singapore. When they could not understand what I was saying, they would check their dictionaries. I was really impressed by their hospitality as they made me feel very welcomed.”

Kyna, “Today we met the principal of the school, a man who has a great passion for the IJ sisters, especially Mother Mathilde. When I heard from the vice principal that a recently completed documentary on Mother Mathilde was ‘made possible because of his passion,’ I thought to myself that in the future, I too hoped to find my own passion and achieve it, like him.”

Vanessa, “The students of the school were extremely warm and friendly. When we entered their classroom to have lunch with our buddies, they decorated the board and wrote welcome messages. Even though it was less than a day with our Japanese friends, we had already forged new friendships and it was a memorable exchange at the school.”

Sonia, “The teachers were approachable and patient, making us feel like important guests as they treated us very well. They even let us introduce ourselves in front of several classes.”

Nicole, “I liked the principal very much as I could feel the passion he had for Mother Mathilde in the way he spoke. I also appreciated how he took time off from his busy schedule to give us a tour of the IJ sisters’ graves. Through his sharing, I felt an even greater sense of ‘closeness’ to Mother Mathilde as I now know more about her than what we learnt in Singapore.”



Day 4

Places visited

Shizuoka Futaba High School

Observations, lessons learnt and take-aways

Ho Yun Ye, “The students and my buddies are very considerate, always asking if I was okay.”

Lim Yi Jin, “I learnt to be more hospitable and more considerate to my guests, especially if their native language is not English. There are still many was in we can show our hospitality.”

Kyna Chew, “The students learned very enthusiastically, they were well mannered and the classrooms were very neat and well-organised.”

Vanessa Low, “Japanese students go to school by public transport or by walking and almost none of their parents drive them to school.”

Sonia Chee, “Today I learnt how to sew in Home Economics. I can now sew my belt buckle and shirt buttons.”

Nicole Jean Wong, “Punctuality: I learnt from my Japanese buddies that to be on time or even earlier is good as it is a sign of respect.”

Impressions of Shizuoka and Shizuoka Futaba High School

Yun Ye, “It was a very fun day. My cheeks hurt from too much smiling as my buddies were very nice and sweet to me. I discovered they had similar hobbies, like enjoying the same anime and so we had a good talk over our common interests.”

Arianne, “When I first met my buddies, I was a little worried we wouldn’t be able to get along as they were really quiet and shy but they were very helpful and through the day’s activities as well as visiting places together after school helped us to grow closer. By dinner time, we had become really good friends.”

Yi Jin, “I admire the students here for their immense amount of self-discipline and control. During the tea ceremony, my legs went numb as we had to kneel for a long period of time. We started to fidget but the Japanese students next to us remained still until the end of ceremony where we all breathed a sigh of relief. I was surprised that they felt the same discomfort as us but did not show it. This suggests that they were well disciplined and had immense amount of control and tolerance.”

Carina, “Shizuoka Futaba High School is a very clean and organised school. I was able to see where the students changed their shoes before entering the school compound. It was amazing to see how their school shoes were stacked so neatly as compared to how we stack our shoes in Singapore.”

Kyna, “Throughout the day, I noticed that the girls communicated with much positivity. They only said nice things about each other which helped make everyone around them feel better about themselves. They are such nice and happy people who put others before themselves. I am really thankful that they filled me with their positivity.”

Vanessa, “I learnt much more of a student’s school life in Japan through the time spent with my buddies, who were extremely friendly and hospitable. The students in the class even decorated the board to welcome us and the Math teacher took the effort to print out worksheets in English for me and Sonia.”

Sonia, “The students are very supportive of each other. Today they put up a play, it was just a small performance without tickets but after class, many students rushed down to the auditorium to watch the play. I thought that the support they showed was very sweet and I was touched by the effort put in by the English Drama Club girls for us.”


Day 5

Places visited

Shizuoka Futaba High School

Observations, lessons learnt and take-aways

Lim Yi Jin, “I learnt through the science class here that if we have the freedom to explore what we are curious about, we learn better and we enjoy learning.”

Carina Leong, “I was able to see how energetic the students were during PE lessons. All of them participated enthusiastically, even those who were ill. I also heard how beautifully they sang their morning hymn and saw how much they enjoyed singing.”

Vanessa Low, “The Japanese students are very innovative and creative. They made a ‘school bag’ out of sweets and packets of biscuits as a gift for their classmates on their birthdays.”

Sonia Chee, “My buddies as well as their friends put in a lot of effort to host us, so we should do the same for our guests too. Their hospitality is something Singaporeans should adopt.”

Impressions of Shizuoka and Shizuoka Futaba High School

Yun Ye, “During my first lesson which was religious studies, the students in my class made an amazing choir of 3 parts and sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah and it was very good.”

Arianne, “During Home Economics, we did sewing and the teacher (my form teacher) was really nice and spent her own time to help us complete our work by making it into a lunch bag for each and every one of us!.”

Yi Jin, “The reading for the religious class about ‘loving your neighbour like yourself’ was demonstrated to me in the one and a half days spent at the school. My buddies without complaint would run around to help me even when I insisted that there was no need to do so. I was really touched and appreciated their kindness and hospitality.”

Carina, “I got a chance to experience a PE lesson today. My buddy and her friends were very inclusive and they tried their best to explain the instructions of the game. Their PE lessons are very tiring compared to those in Singapore. The students here are very fit as they attend PE lessons three times of week.”

Vanessa, “I noticed that the Japanese drive rather slowly, are constantly looking out for pedestrians and most of the time would slow down and give way to us.”

Nicole, “I think that I am really going to miss my buddies because they have been so nice and helpful to me. I also feel that we in Singapore should learn to be more hospitable like them.”


Day 6

Places visited

1. Osaka 
2. Kyoto

Observations, lessons learnt and take-aways

Lim Yi Jin, “There were many people at the Kiyomezudera Temple at Kyoto wearing traditional outfits such as kimonos and yukatas.”

Vanessa Low, “Kyoto maybe very traditional but it has its own unique charms.”

Nicole Wong, ”On the way back to Osaka, I noticed that there were women-only carriages and I managed to board one of them.”

Impressions of Osaka and Kyoto

Yun Ye, “Kyoto is a very beautiful place. I like how it looks a bit ‘old’ at most places. I learnt that bus passengers boarded the bus at the middle and exited at the front door where they would pay their fare.”

Yi Jin, “It is our last night in Japan and I feel extremely sad. The days have been enriching and I will never forget the memories made here. I got to know my friends, group mates and teachers better and I don’t think that I can get this experience anywhere else.”

Carina, “The temples in Kyoto are decorated with many red lanterns. They are also surrounded by many shops selling interesting items and local snacks. The scenery was beautiful with many ladies dressing up in kimonos despite the warm weather.”

Kyna, “I realised that many of the shopkeepers are very generous. The lady at a wasabi store in Shizuoka gave us free samples even when she saw that we were tourists and were leaving the city. Furthermore, she not only gave the samples to those who had bought items, but to the rest of the group as well. I felt touched by her gesture because it I could see that it came from kindness and generosity.”

Sonia, “I saw many young people visiting the shrine at Kyoto, even on a weekend and I thought that it was a very sweet as usually in Singapore, not many people visit places of worship on a regular basis.”