日本への旅行 (trip to Japan)
If you are studying Japanese, I’m sure you plan to visit Japan one day. Even if you are just an anime lover or a travelholic, you probably dream of taking a stroll while admiring the beauty of traditional architecture, shopping for anime figures and manga or even enjoying the much different culture and its beautiful traditions.
We are Andra and Ioana from class 12G and in October we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Japan. Not only did we get to experience the daily life of a high schooler, we also visited some wonderful places and participated in an International Summit.
I’m sure there are some of you wondering how we even got this opportunity. Well, for those of you who do not know, our high school is partnering with Ehime University Senior High School from Matsuyama city. Fortunately, this year we could finally sit for the Japanese exam and interview in August. After getting the best scores, we began preparing. Of course, there was no way we could go unaccompanied. We had the pleasure of going on this adventure with French teacher Daniela Gorgon. At first, we were a bit hesitant of going so far away without a teacher we knew beforehand, but as time went by, we got closer and discovered how thoughtful and caring she is.
If you ever thought of visiting Japan, or any East Asian country for that matter, you probably hesitated for a bit because of the long plane ride. We felt the same way. The flight was long, but unexpectedly comfortable! We enjoyed the view and nervously waited to land in Japan.
We arrived at our final destination after 23 long hours. We were exhausted, but we immediately felt better when we were greeted by our host families and coordinator teachers. We then went with our hosts, while teacher Daniela was escorted to the campus. We were a bit shy, but everyone was really friendly and hospitable, so we immediately felt like home.And just like that, our first day in Japan ended and we enjoyed a (not so) peaceful sleep due to the 6 hour time zone difference.
Our second day started early in the morning, with a Japanese traditional breakfast. Even though we stayed with different families, we both enjoyed freshly cooked food, made with local ingredients and spices we didn’t even know existed. After making sure we didn’t forget our obentō’s (lunchboxes), we got in our families’ cars and went to school. We arrived early at the school so we could greet the teachers and the students. On Thursday and Wednesday, we experienced the daily life of a high schooler. We attended several classes, spent time with the students (we made a lot of friends!) and exchanged information about our countries. We had the pleasure of going to such an unique high school; Ehime University Senior High School is an agriculture oriented high school and it encourages its students to grow and harvest many different plants on their own! Another activity we really enjoyed was our private keigo (formal speech) lesson with teacher Takahashi at Ehime University. We learned a lot and also got a taste of university lifestyle!
On Thursday, we went sightseeing in the beautiful city of Matsuyama. We experienced the medieval atmosphere while visiting Matsuyama Castle, one of the twelve Japanese castles to still have its original architecture, even though it was built in 1603. A really spiritual opportunity for us was our visit to Ishite-ji, a spectacular Buddhist temple. We were taught the many do’s and don’t’s and we enjoyed a “divine cleansing” while praying for health, prosperity and good luck in our upcoming exams! We took part in many activities, such as calligraphy lessons, tea ceremonies and origami workshops, as well!
Now we will go on to the most important part of our trip, the reason for our visit, the International SDGs Youth Summit. This event was held on Saturday and Sunday and its goal was to bring international and Japanese students together to discuss the theme of Sustainable Development Goals. We participated in all kinds of team activities such as building beds and walls out of cardboard, a wallpaper design contest with prizes, exchanging traditional candy, English lectures so on and so forth. We were assigned to the English presentations group along with students from Kongo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Israel, the Philippines, and Japan. Each team had to present the SDG objectives in their respective country. As for Romania, we chose to talk about the 4th SDG "Quality education" the 11th, "Sustainable cities and communities", the 12th, "Responsible consumption and production" and the 15th, "Life on land". The speeches were very interesting and eye-opening, and we got to know many differences in terms of perspective on change in different countries. Also, this allowed us to take into account other nations' problems, not only ours. An insightful learning experience that we won't ever forget.
On the next day, another activity concerning the summit took place at the school in which we concluded the event by writing the pledges. These documents consist of the promise of implementing the ideas presented in real life, in our society.
After saying our goodbyes to the people from the school that grew dear to us, it was time for some more visiting. We visited the Dougo Onsen and the numerous souvenir shops in the area from which we bought many, many things. (This was our main problem: we had more than enough money on us, but we could not spend too much because there was not enough space in our luggages... painful... we know...). We also had the opportunity to experience the festival vibe as that shopping district was preparing for one and there were representations of dances and taiko. (As a side note, considering this and the fact that the weather was excellent all the time -even though the weather forecast indicated bad climate- I'd say we were pretty lucky :D)
Later we went to Okaidou, a bustling shopping street where we finally experienced the Animate shop and other anime and manga-related places which were amazing of course. Also, as we got hungry, each of us spent the last evening with the host family dining at kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi).
Overall, this journey proved to be very beautiful and meaningful as we got to experience Japanese school life and of course, the day-to-day life of a Japanese family. After spending a week in Matsuyama, we concluded that their lifestyle isn't that different from ours, it is the social rules, people's behavior, and mindset that make the difference. The people we met were very welcoming and hard-working. The teachers were very friendly and, along with the students, very curious about our culture. As we blended into the community, we were quite compelled to constantly speak Japanese but this is exactly what made us get better at it. We managed to break the language barrier that separates us and got to discuss several interesting topics such as our country's culture, the differences between Romania and Japan in food, traditions, social norms, our hobbies etc. (As a little tip for future applicants, anime, especially One Piece, is a really good conversation starter :))) Speaking about future generations, we highly recommend you give your all at the exam as it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you don't wanna miss out on. And I know it sounds out of reach but believe me, sometimes, things are not as far as you think they are. And yes, you might think that the whole process is too complicated and yes, there were times when we got slightly lost in translation or confronted some bureaucratic problems but it was manageable and all worth it. Also, the time spent with the people you meet and the friendships you obtain there are priceless. If there are any questions you want to ask about the Ehime Program experience, please contact us on Instagram at @_iwannaa_8670 and @andrq_0 (Even though we will graduate soon, we are happy to answer your questions anytime :))
And last but not least...