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Japan - Tokyo

Day 1: 11 June 2017

We took off early on 11 June, Sunday morning (5.50 am) from Changi for Tokyo. Arriving in the afternoon (1.00 p.m. Tokyo time). We managed to stop at the busy Shibuya crossing on the way to our hotel. After the long flight and having to carry our luggage through the various stations and finally to our hotel, it was quite a relief to finally check in and rest. We have arrived safely in Japan and look forward to the rest of our twinning programme.

Day 2: 12 June 2017

Places visited

1. Meiji Jingu Shrine / Harajuku
2. Harajuku
3. Shizuoka City

Observations, lessons learnt and take-aways

Shauna, “At the Meiji Jingu Shrine, I learnt to appreciate silence in a busy city which usually rarely leaves any space for peace and tranquillity.”

Yi Ping, “Harajuku was the complete opposite of Meiji Jingu Shrine. Although located almost next to each other, the shrine was serene while Harajuku was filled with excitement and hype.”

Carmen, “Taking trains, I can see that the Japanese people are very quiet and polite. They are very respectful when speaking to one another.”

Jewel, “I found Harajuku to have a colourful and vibrant atmosphere. It was a bustling place where we saw many students going to relax and have fun with their friends.”

Chloe, “The Japanese have a very impressive work ethic. They are really diligent in performing their tasks and very patient as well. While we were struggling with our coins while purchasing an item at a store, the person attending to us waited patiently for us.”

Nadia, “At the Meiji Jingu Shrine, I saw Japanese visitors of all ages from the very young to the elderly. I was fascinated to see how peaceful these visitors were as they prayed at the shrine. I was also impressed by how well the shrine was maintained by the staff there.”

Ella, “Travelling on the trains during rush hour was an interesting experience. I learnt that silence is strictly observed and mobile phones have to be switched to the ‘silent mode’. Another observation was the manner in which the Japanese commuters had to push their way in and out of trains during rush hour and even though it felt ‘too close for comfort’ to us, they seem to take it in their stride.”

Gail, “Shizuoka was quite a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and was a welcome change to the busy life we have in Singapore too. I am looking forward to experiencing the relatively slower pace of life here.”

Nuha, “The trains in the morning rush hour are extremely packed and it is an interesting situation that differs from Singapore. While commuters in Singapore are unwilling to move in or stand close to one another to allow others to board the train, the Japanese are willing to squeeze in tightly to the point of being extremely uncomfortable to allow other commuters to board the train.”

Therese, “I found it interesting that train commuters do not use their phones, in fact I was surprised to see many people using the train journey to catch up on their sleep.”

Day 3: 13 June 2017

Today was the first day of school at the Shizuoka Futaba Middle and High School. We enjoyed a full day programme where we interacted with our buddies and their classmates as we took part in various lessons such as music, art, physics and sign language. The teachers and our buddies of the school also hosted us to dinner. It was a fulfilling and enriching experience for all of us.
Observations, lessons learnt and takeaways :
Gail, “During Math lesson, the teacher printed the worksheets out in English on one side and Japanese on the other side even though there were only 3 of us in her class. It was heartening to see that they would go out of their way to make us feel comfortable.”
Nuha, “Shizuoka Futaba High School is extremely clean and students take pride in ensuring a clean classroom”
Shauna, “The juniors in the school are all respectful of their seniors and will greet them. I learnt that in order to have a harmonious society, there had to be mutual respect established.”
Jewel, “We made pancake in Physics class today. It was an interesting way of conducting the class and the school has a really good environment for learning.”
Carmen, “The buddies who brought me around were proactive, welcoming and sweet. They always made sure that we were comfortable and included in class.”
Nadia, “Although we could not really communicate fluently, everyone took their time and patience to help me and understand me.”
Therese, “We learnt how to play the Koto (traditional Japanese instrument) and had a lot of fun with it. “
Ella, “When we were eating lunch, the students around me were very generous in sharing their food with me. Their bento boxes were very pretty and I could tell that whoever made them had put a lot of thought and effort into it.”
Yi Ping, “It was interesting to see the students do a prayer together before having lunch. They do this together in class and such a practise makes for very good bonding.”
Chloe, “The school has been extremely hospitable to us. A lot of effort has been put into taking care of us despite the language barrier. Thus, I feel they communication is key but appreciation is just as important.”

Day 4: 14 June 2017

Today marks the second day of school at the Shizuoka Futaba Middle and High School. We spent the morning taking part in lessons such as Gym lessons where we played volleyball and had a really fun time with our buddies and their classmates. Despite the short two days, it was a bittersweet moment when we said our goodbyes to our buddies whose friendship we have come to treasure. We took the Shinkansen to Yokohama and now look forward to our Programme in Yokohama Futaba Junior and Senior High School tomorrow.
Observations, lessons learnt and takeaways :
Jewel, “The school culture in Shizuoka is really a different experience from Singapore, so I have now become aware of the differences and is reminded of how to do better with this experience.”
Ella, “Shizuoka Futaba is an extremely warm and hospitable place. Even though I've interacted with everyone for a short one and a half days, I’ll treasure every moment spent here.”
Nadia, “The students took the time schedule seriously and would be anxious when they feel that they may be late for lesson. This deep respect for time teaches me to be more aware of how I manage my time.”
Carmen, “The students would bow and greet their seniors when they meet them. The culture of respect for one another is a valuable takeaway for me.”
Chloe, “Apart from the lovely students we interacted with, the teachers were also so welcoming. Every teacher we met made the effort to include us and made lessons great for us. I feel thankful for this experience in Shizuoka.”
Shauna, “Everyone in Shizuoka Futaba were extremely polite which made for easy interaction despite the language barriers. This made me understand clearly how the attitude of a person can affect others.”
Therese, “Everyone brought bentos which their Mother made for lunch. As there are no canteens in the school, students have their lunch bentos in the classroom during recess.”
Yi Ping, “I am amazed by the learning attitudes of the students here because they were so disciplined and attentive throughout the lessons.”
Gail, “In Japan, there is a culture where the Japanese students will change out of the shoes that used outside of the school into fresh school shoes that is meant only for use inside of the school compound.”
Nuha, “ Despite the language barriers, it always takes time for people to warm up to each other.”

Day 5: 15 June 2017

Today was an eye opening experience as we visited Yokohama Futaba High School on a twinning programme . As part of understanding the legacy that Mother Mathilde has built in Japan, we toured various places such as the cemetery where she and the other IJ sisters have come to rest, the Yokohama Futaba Elementary School and St. Maur International. 
Observations, lessons learnt and takeaways :
Therese, “Mother Mathilde is greatly honored and respected in the Futaba schools in Japan and this was a good learning experience.”
Shauna, “Upon arriving Yokohama Futaba High, it radiates the history of how Yokohama was a significant sea port in the past.”
Jewel, “It was a really good experience because I was able to meet up with my buddy who visited Singapore in Spring.”
Gail, “I learnt to be more appreciative of the sacrifices made by the IJ nuns. Like a grain of wheat, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. This was what our IJ sisters stood for.”
Yi Ping, “I learnt to appreciate all the thing has been given to me and how to make the best out of every situation.”
Ella, “ I've learnt that you may forge friendships with unexpected people.”

Day 6: 16 June 2017

Today was the final day of our Twinning immersion programme at the Futaba High Schools across Japan. We visited the third and final school of our Twinning trip - Denenchofu Futaba Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo, Japan. This is the first time that we have tied up with Denenchofu Futaba Junior and Senior High School and we were all very excited to learn from them. We followed our buddies for lessons during the second to forth periods, taking a variety of lessons including Math, Japanese literature, Home Economics, Science and Japanese history. During the fifth period, we were blessed with the opportunity to learn Kimono / Yukata lessons by Yinamasu-sensei. Dressed in our Yukatas, we performed Nihon Buyō, a Japanese traditional dance to the tune of Sakura. It was a lovely and enjoyable experience as everyone participated the dance with much excitement and gusto.

Gail, “During math lesson today, the sensei (teacher) was really thoughtful as he saw that he had a guest in class. Instead of teaching math in Japanese, he taught the class Japanese calligraphy and Japanese culture. It was really sweet of him to do so and I really appreciated it.”

“The Yukata lesson was really an eye-opener. It required a lot of balancing and coordination as it was hard to look graceful. Thus it was no surprise that the traditional dance, Nihon Buyõ took at least two years just to master the dance to a simple tune."

Ella, “I really enjoyed being in Denenchofu as the school culture feels very similar to Singapore even though we were in Japan. It was also interesting to see that there were Japanese literature classes which required the students to translate Chinese narratives into Japanese.”

Nadia, “In the chemistry lesson today, I enjoyed the lesson as I felt I learnt some content despite being taught in Japanese. The teacher rarely read off the textbooks, but instead illustrated the lesson by diagrams. It was really an enriching experience.”

Carmen, “During English lesson today, the teacher instructed the students to write about their favourite Japanese culture and the Singaporean students to pen it down on the same worksheet. At the end of it, he collected all the students write up and gave it to me. I thought that it was really sweet of him to give us these stack of information to learn about the Japanese culture. That made me felt really included despite only visiting for a day.”