Austin: I’m actually sad to be leaving. Japan feels like home now. Everything here is awesome.
Justin: I’m definitely coming back. If I could, I’d stay. The thought of it gives me something to work toward since a college degree would allow me to return to Japan and teach English.
Nik: Though I’m known for being a picky eater, I’m really going to miss the food. Unbelievable. And the people--even if we were being stupid Americans--were so nice.
Anya: I miss my family and my mom a lot and am excited to go home, but I’d like to return and stay for a longer time.
Shade: Can’t wait to get back home.
Matt: It was nice seeing all the culture, but I’m ready to go back to America.
Dakota: It was great. Just experiencing the culture was a wonderful experience. I liked Japan a lot--the people were so nice--it was cool.
Ben: Dang. I should have worn a mask which would have prevented me from catching the flu that currently has me out of commission. Looking forward to sleeping on the plane for the next 10 hours. Other than being sick coming home, Japan was amazing...a lot of fun.
By Austin Shannon, Nikolas Curi, Ben Rogers, and Justin Enlow
Going through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was intense, but awkward. To witness the A-bomb Dome firsthand brought the devastation to life.
At first, we couldn't but help but feel what felt like blaming glances from the Japanese. But then a pleasant surprise opened the Japanese culture to us in a way we never expected.
Experiencing history through pictures offers a small impression, but we weren't prepared for the power of actually standing beside the building that remained near bomb's detonation site.
Some of us had visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., which prepared us for images of human suffering. But the Hiroshima exhibit included fingernails, hair, removed keloid tissues, and even building tiles and melted glass besides the requisite photographs. Seeing this was brutal.
The museum was broken into three parts. The first focused on Hiroshima’s history leading up to the war and the development of the atomic bomb, while the second addressed the global situation involving nuclear weapons.
The last part was the most gruesome because it made me realize the extent of devastation. The story of Sadako and the thousand cranes particularly affected me.
Although most of us were already familiar with the tale, the museum’s pictorial timeline, along with the memorial and the thousands of origami cranes to spread world peace animated it.
Walking through the museum, we couldn’t help but feel like the Japanese looked at us differently because we were from the U.S — like we were responsible for the events of August 6, 1945.
But this feeling dissipated when three junior high school students started following us. We turned around when we noticed they were interested, and they asked us if we were American, if we loved Japan, and if we spoke Japanese.
They thought we were cool because we were Americans. This seemed odd since we did drop the bomb, and if the tables were turned, we’re pretty sure the reaction in the States would be much different.
Once we all met up again outside of the museum, we attempted to fold paper cranes before we walked over to Sadako’s memorial. Suddenly, elementary and junior high school students swarmed us.
All of them seemed to know how to fold the tsuru, and girls actually moved our fingers to show us how to make the folds.
We were celebrities in a city that marked the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in warfare. Amazing.
By Anna Van Zile
It has been interesting to watch our group of high school students experience the Japanese culture and acclimate themselves with this basically homogeneous society, working together as one.
Although it may be an overgeneralization, the Japanese, despite their population density, live with each other in harmony — their actions complement each others’.
The best illustration of our students’ adjustments was during our day and night at a hostel following our trek up and down Mt. Fuji.
Hostels, in themselves, provide a unique experience with their shared showers, toilets, and basins. This particular hostel also provided a kitchen and dining room for us to use as needed.
The night before, we stayed at a traditional Western hotel. So, the first real opportunity the students have had to demonstrate their understanding of Japanese tradition was by removing their shoes as they enter and putting on slippers.
Shoes are stored on shelves out of view, and wearing slippers helps keep the floors clean. Though the hallways were carpeted, we stayed in were Japanese-style rooms: tatami mat floors made of woven rice straw. Each room has a step-up to the tatamis. People leave slippers in the room entry and avoid wearing them while walking on mats. The students have worked hard on mastering this skill.
Signs throughout the hostel reminded the students that they had to keep others in mind: “Please clean up after yourself so that the next person doesn’t have to;” “Please limit your Internet use to 20 minutes.”
I am happy to report that after we prepared breakfast for the students, they all pitched in to clean up afterwards, without complaint. The day after tomorrow we head to a ryokan on Miyajima Island.
In many ways, the hostel was good practice for them as they should be able to apply what they have learned in the process.
Walking around Tokyo and Kyoto, I have noticed the absence of litter on the grounds. People generally dispose of their trash in order to facilitate recycling.
Though the Japanese are constantly buying drinks and foods from the many kiosks and vending machines around, the trains are clean, and so are the streets. Bringing this to our students’ attention required a lecture, and even reminders since then, but gradually, they have become one with the culture and learned to clean up after themselves. Hopefully, this will continue once we return to the States.
Yesterday, when we were trying to find our way to the shop that would dress us in kimonos and treat us to a tea ceremony, I asked an older man watering his flowers for directions.
A few minutes later, he pedaled up on his bike to make sure we had found our way. There have been countless similar experiences demonstrating the overall courteousness of the Japanese people. I think our students will be better off because of their travels in this country.
Right now we’re riding in a silent car on the Hikari Shinkansen. Surprisingly, the kids are not their typical loud and boisterous selves. Either they are exhausted from all the walking we’ve been doing, or they have accepted the Japanese way.
By Justin Enlow
July 4-5, 2010. After a brief separation from the rest of the group, we talked to a random man in the train station, and I actually got to practice my Japanese.
Through him we had the chance to talk to a couple of Japanese high school students who contributed some to the conversation. Eventually, we rode a bus in the pouring rain to the 5th station on Mount Fuji and began our ascent to the Goraikoukan hut, the highest hut among the hut houses.
We started at 5:00 a.m., and it seemed easier than our practice hike up Humphrey's Peak because I was so enthused about being in Japan. But, it was very steep, and by the time we reached the third number 8 station, it started becoming much tougher.
In the dark we found our way to the hut, and I was surprised to find a hamburger patty awaiting me for dinner. Though not what I had expected, it was good.
It was served with rice and picked daikon radish, all of which I ate with chopsticks, of course. The hut itself was pretty crude, but I thought it was cool: two levels of planks of wood that ran across the room and offered a thin pad on the bottom and a futon on top. I could hear the wind blowing through the cracks in the walls all night long.
Wake-up was 2:30 a.m. to travel the remaining 40 minutes to the top to view the sunrise. We stood in the blustery cold until the sun came up and then walked quickly down the mountain.
Though I was glad to have done it, there are many other things I'd like to see in Japan before hiking Fuji again.
By Anya Klausner
July 2, 2010. I stepped off the plane and was immediately struck by the clothing of Japanese women. The jeans and tee shirts typically found on most teens my age was replaced by women in high heels, skirts, and dresses. Every man I’ve noticed in Japan is not only shorter than I am but slighter in build, too. The Japanese, as a whole, are tiny in comparison to Americans. Riding the Shinkansen, or bullet train, to the airport, I noticed how vibrant and green everything was. The forests were like millions of sprigs of tightly bound broccoli.
July 3, 2010. For our first full day in Tokyo, we hopped on this busy city’s very efficient surface local rails to Shinbashi Station, the oldest in all of Japan, to rendezvous with the guide for our bike tour of this bustling city. Though I have many memories to take away from that six-hour ride, I was most wowed by Zojoji Temple.
Through our guide I learned the difference between a temple and a shrine; temples are part of the Buddhist religion while shrines represent the Shinto faith. I was amazed by the traditions and symbols of Buddhism.
The temple gate is the oldest wooden gate in all of Japan. Once past the gate, I purified my hands and mouth before entering the temple itself. The first thing I noticed was the massive oak door, more than ten feet tall.
I couldn’t believe how thick they were. Stone pillars so fat that I couldn’t put my arms around them supported the ceiling. Next, I was amazed by the raised platform over which hung intricate golden “chandeliers” that hung, maybe, ten feet long.
They were so shiny and pretty that they cast a reflection of the little bit of light entering into the dimly lit area. In the middle of the altar was a throne-like chair from which the monks could kneel and pray. On the wall hung a gold “bas-relief” of Buddha himself, creating a special place suitable for a resplendent emperor.
In the courtyard of the temple were bamboo trees decorated with wishes of good fortune tied to the branches in preparation for Tanabata, or the Star Festival, which recognizes two celestial lovers who can see each other only once a year. I wrote my wish on a pink paper decoration and tied it to my branch where it will blow in the wind until July 7th.
It was an amazing day!
Meet Payson’s Hike and Ski Club
Since 2007, the sponsors of Payson’s Hike and Ski Club have talked about organizing an excursion overseas. After obtaining approval from the principal and superintendent, they researched and planned an educational program allowing students to experience the rich culture and history of Japan.
Included in this trip is a hike up Mount Fuji, Japan’s most sacred mountain that draws people from around the world for a two-month hiking window, beginning July 1. Afterwards, they travel to Kyoto, the country’s former capital, then to Hiroshima and its peace memorial, checking out many shrines, temples, and castles along the way.
The eight Hike and Ski Club members are Anya Klausner, Austin Shannon, Nik Curi, Shade and Dakota Eckhardt, Ben Rogers, Justin Enlow, and Matt Bullard.
Anya will be a junior this year. Though this is one of the larger trips she's ever taken, it is not her first time experiencing international travel. Anya has always expressed a deep interest in Japanese culture, and is particularly excited to sample native cuisine, as well as seeing traditional Japanese apparel.
Austin is sixteen years old. This is his first time leaving the continent. He is excited to be immersed in the rich Japanese culture.
Nikolas is 16 and is entering his junior year. This is his second flight ever, and he has never traveled beyond the West Coast.
Shade is also entering his junior year, and this is his first international trip. He is looking forward to hiking Mt. Fuji.
Dakota will be a freshman at South Mountain Community College this year. His mother lived in Japan for several years when she was a child, and he wants to experience the culture of her childhood.
Ben will attend the University of New Mexico to study mechanical engineering. Though he has traveled extensively, across the country and internationally, including a trip to China, this is his first time to Japan.
Justin, a new graduate, has traveled internationally and has prepared for this trip by learning to speak, read, and write Japanese. He plans to work in town to save for music college.
Matt, a 2010 graduate, is a competitor in state, national, and world archery competitions, which have taken him all over the world. The president of the Hike and Ski Club, Matt was one of the driving forces behind this trip.