Welcome to Japan!

DAY ONE:

Our school has been invited for the second time to participate in the Kakehashi Project, a program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. The purpose of the program is to promote understanding of Japan through school visits, hands-on cultural experiences, lectures, and a short, 2-night home stay experience. Twenty-two students and four teacher chaperones were selected for a nine day, fully funded study tour of Japan.

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Everyone survived the 11 hour and 30 minute flight from Denver to Tokyo.

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Our students having dinner at the hotel!

Stay tuned for more updates...

DAY TWO:

Updates from Ms. Minckler:

Hello Everyone,

Our first full day in Japan was jam packed full of adventures.

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We began our day with a stacked breakfast buffet in the lobby of our hotel.   Anything from scrambled eggs, potatoes, ham, sausage, miso soup, dumplings, pastries toast were on the menu and our students dove right in and tried new and old things all on one tray.

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After breakfast, we joined the 3 other schools in the Kakehashi program for a whole group orientation where we went over the expectations of the trip and enjoyed a 2 hour lecture on the history and culture of Japan.

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All that sitting and listening helped us work up a healthy appetite for our lunch at "Hokaido" which is a teppan style restaurant.

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Teppan style where food is cooked in tin foil on a hot plate in the center of the table.

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We then ventured to the Edo-Tokyo museum where we learned all about the history of this amazing city we are staying in.

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From there, we visited the Sensoji Temple which is in the heart of the Asakusa district of Tokyo.  Think Times Square in NYC, but less crowded and with Japanese souvenirs instead of I Love NY t-shirts. 

We ended our day at an all you can eat shabu shabu restaurant called "Nabezo".  The students really enjoyed cooking their own meat and vegetables in the center of their tables.

It was a marathon of a day, and our suitcases are now stuffed with souvenirs, but everyone is happy and loving all the new experiences thrown their way.

Enjoy some snapshots from the day and stay tuned for our next update in approximately 24 hours.

DAY THREE:

From Mr. Grantknight:

Greetings from beautiful Nagano! 

This morning we all had to wake up very early so that we could check out of our hotel in Tokyo and board a bus headed to Nagano. Some of us got up early enough for a Tokyo sunrise jog! 

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Once again, breakfast was a huge buffet in the hotel lobby. Very shortly after breakfast, we boarded the bus for our trek to Nagano. 

We stopped for lunch at the Alpine Village restaurant which was about an hour away from our final destination:   Hakuba.

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After lunch, we continued our journey.

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Upon our arrival in Hakuba, we went to the ski jump station where the 1998 Olympic games were held. 

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The students rode a ski lift up to the first level of the station, then took an elevator and some really scary stairs to the very top of the ski jump.   

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For those of us with a fear of heights, this was no easy task, however, many of us faced our fears today and trekked all the way to the top.   In the end, it was worth it, because the views from above were incredible.

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We were greeted by the hospitable Vice Mayor of Hakuba. Shout-out to Kaiwen for delivering a beautiful thank you speech, in Japanese to boot! 

By early evening, students met their host families and were off to the next part of their Japan journey: home stay. 

Tomorrow, we look forward to finally meeting students at Hakuba high school, where students will partake in many different traditional Japanese activities. 

In order to help us document and promote enthusiasm for Japanese culture, find and follow the East-West Kakehashi Facebook Group. 

Stay tuned for the next update in 24 hours!

Day Four:

From Ms. Minckler...

Hello Everyone,  Last night our students met and stayed with their host families. Many of them spent the morning exploring the beautiful city of Hakuba.  When they returned to us after lunch, they all were smiling from ear to ear and talking about the fun they had the night before.

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We traveled together to Hakuba High School (only 150 students total) where some generous students and teachers gave up their summer vacations to do some cool activities with us: badminton...

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basketball...

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tea ceremony...

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origami folding...

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archery...

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and bouldering...

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Our students were able to engage with not only students from Hakuba High School, but also students from another school in the Kakehashi Program from Alexandria, Virginia.

 

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Kakehashi Project group photo of students from Hakub High School, Thomas Jefferson High School and East-West.

From there, our local guide, Sato San, took us to visit a beautiful park with more gorgeous views, a river and small waterfall, and buildings that were over 150 years old.

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Finally, the students returned "home" to their host families for the evening.   We visited one household, just before the students were sitting down to eat dinner as a "family".   

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More from beautiful Hakuba tomorrow.

Day Five:

From Ms. Minckler...

Hello Everyone,

This morning, our students spent one last morning with their host families before leaving them to join us at the hotel.  Many of our students explored the beautiful alpine gardens area of the city, (which is actually what all the chaperones did as well).  

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After lunch, they said their goodbyes and checked in to their hotel rooms here.  We then all walked to a local gymnasium where we learned how to create a single flower vase using dried straw from the rice fields.

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Many of our students have quite a talent for weaving.

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Afterwards, we swept the straw off the floors and our local contact, Mr. Sato, arranged a special surprise for us:  Bon dance lessons with yukatas for all to wear.

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We learned how to dance to a song about mining coal.  After our dancing and weaving lessons, we headed back to the hotel for a buffet style dinner.  We then boarded a bus to a neighboring city where we participated in a local street dancing festival.

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We were one of many groups participating in a giant parade of dancers.

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The students learned 3 more Japanese dances as the parade progressed down the main street of the town.

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We are all back in our hotel now and preparing for our final day and farewells to this beautiful city.

Final Countdown in Hakuba:

From Ms. Minckler...

Dear All,

Today was another jam-packed day in Japan. Immediately after breakfast, we headed to the beautiful Daio Wasabi farm.

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Here, we learned how authentic wasabi differs from what we taste in the United States. 

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We learned how wasabi is farmed, and even tasted Wasabi ice cream! Afterward, we got a few shots of the Matsumoto castle,

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where we took a nice afternoon stroll,

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followed by lunch at a local miso company.

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We learned how miso is fermented to perfection, and were treated to a hearty lunch. Our night ended with a farewell party to our host families, filled with touching performances from both schools and the host families themselves.

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Although it was difficult to say goodbye to our newly formed families, it's great to know that our East - West community extends so far across the globe. 

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Tomorrow, we head back to Tokyo!

Goodbye Hakuba, Hello Toyko...

Hello Everyone,

Well this is it.   We are in the final hours of our time in Japan.   This morning we left Hakuba.  Everyone was pretty sad to leave because it is such a beautiful place with such amazing people.

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As we were finishing dinner, our Kakehashi guides announced that our host families had arrived to say one final farewell. The students were so surprised and so elated that they had one last opportunity to see their families.

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We boarded the bus and made our way to the nearest Shinkansen (bullet train) station.

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Everyone enjoyed watching the train glide in and then feeling it accelerate to unbelievable speeds.

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When we arrived in Tokyo, we rejoined the other schools in the Kakehashi program for a group reporting session.

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Representatives from each group gave an 8 minute presentation describing what they learned during their days in Japan and how they would share their new found knowledge with others.

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Danish, Zhenyi, Andy, and Katie did an amazing job representing our school!  After checking into the hotel, we walked to a nearby shopping center where we had dinner and explored the area around our hotel.

and we're back...

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