School's Japan trip
lays foundation for ongoing friendships

Visiting shrines and markets, eating local delicacies and riding on the shinkansen (bullet train) were all highlights of a visit to Japan for 20 Year-12 and 13 Kapiti College students, but it was staying with local families and attending school in Tokyo that had the greatest impact on them, says teacher John Brunton.
The Kapiti College students gathered for a group photo in front of the Golden Pavilion shrine

A visit to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto was a highlight of the trip

The Japanese language students spent two weeks in Japan in September – a trip that the school has been taking students on every two years for at least the past 15 years. The Foundation assisted to make the it possible through a Japan study grant, funded by Nakashimoto Co Ltd.

The first week was spent in Tokyo, where the students attended Kapiti College’s sister school,Tokai Urayasu.

Mr Brunton, who led the trip with fellow teacher Ms Hannah Yeon and two parents, says the experience  allowed the group to encounter authentic Japanese home and school life and in the process develop their understanding of Japanese language and culture.

“They loved the food they were served, interacting with the family, and all the activities they did together.

"They loved seeing how a Japanese family functioned, and sleeping on futon, using the Japanese baths...”

It was a two-way cultural exchange, with the kiwi students doing a presentation about life in New Zealand for a group of Tokai Urayasu students who will be visiting Kapiti College next year.

The Kapiti College students practicing writing Kanji (Japanese script)

A week spent at Tokai Urayasu school in Tokyo gave the students the opportunity to experience school in Japan

Mr Brunton says after overcoming some initial nerves of staying with their host families the students threw themselves into the experience and by the end of the week tears were shed when it came time to say goodbye.

After an extra day in Tokyo due to a typhoon, the group headed south to Hiroshima by bullet train.

In Hiroshima they visited the Atomic Peace Park and spent a day at the famous island shrine of Miyajima, where they visited one of Japan’s most historic landmarks, theTorii at Itsukushima.

From there it was on to Kyoto and the historic temples and shrines of the old imperial capital.

On the final day of the trip the students headed off in groups to explore Kyoto without accompanying adults to complete tasks that would demand they use their language skills, such as navigating their way around the city, asking for directions and generally interacting with locals.

The Kapiti College students dining at a restaurant

The group sampled the local cuisine wherever they went

Mr Brunton says the group was all "super happy" that they could survive by themselves without any teacher’s input.

He says travelling to Japan not only gives the students a chance to put their four to five years of Japanese language study to use but also gives them insight into Japanese culture they couldn't get at school.

If previous trips are anything to go by, the friendships formed in Japan will likely extend well after the kiwi students have returned home, with many of the Kapiti students already planning return trips.