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Spring Break international excursion

Anthony Shaw/Adobe Stock

Over spring break, 20 students participated in a school trip to Japan over spring break, revealing a beautiful culture and allowing the students to experience and learn firsthand about the country.
The travel group, led by World History teacher Devon Knadle and chaperone Alec Sant, toured the country with a guide, Kaori, who gave overviews of the places visited and enhanced the understanding of the foreigners.
“I really enjoyed [Kaori’s] touring,” sophomore Sara Heffernan said, “but I do wish we had more time to do our own things.”
Following the 10 hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, the students experienced some jet-lag.
“When I was [in Japan], [the jet lag] didn’t affect me,” sophomore Helena Heshmatipour said. “But when I got back from Japan, after the trip, I slept really late for 3 days after.”
After settling down, they got to explore the surrounding mall and the convenience store, leading to the first few purchases in this new country.
Among the many culture shocks experienced, the most significant was the silence everywhere and the currency change, with 150 yen equating to one United States (U.S.) dollar. Food, snacks, and drinks are far cheaper in Japan than in the U.S. and usually cost no more than a few dollars.
“I think one of the biggest culture shocks was how quiet everyone was,” Heffernan said. “While I expected it, the silence was completely opposite to what I was used to.”
Another new experience was the toilets, with features not generally seen in the U.S., including bidets, background sounds and automatic seat heaters.
In the following days, the group traveled around Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, visiting many shrines and temples daily. Some of the most fascinating religion-based locations were the Meiji Jingu, a shrine in Tokyo dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a famous Kyoto Shinto shrine featuring the 1000 torii gate climb and the Kinkaku-ji Buddhist temple, which included the beautiful golden pavilion.
“I really liked the shrines and temples,” sophomore Suriya Joseph said. “They were all beautiful and had so much symbolism.”
The group experienced the cleanliness of Japan which had only been heard of until then, a primary factor of which Japan is the lack of trash cans.
“That was pretty shocking, how clean it was, considering there were no trash cans around.” sophomore Alexis Charbonneau said.
In Japan, public transportation is a primary source of travel. In addition to going city to city by bus, students took a two hour ride on the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto. They had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the walkable streets and public transportation, as they were allowed free time to roam specific areas in groups, something that was very enjoyable. “My favorite part of the trip was when we got two hours to walk around Kyoto and Osaka and spend our free time eating snacks,” sophomore Shreya Shetlur said.
The hours of free time were used by students to explore the country on their own and find small shops and areas they normally would have passed over.
“It made the whole trip less stiff and more enjoyable,” sophomore Benjamin Langlois said.
During their stay in Japan, the students especially enjoyed Kyoto, a far more quiet and immersive experience.
“[I liked Kyoto] not just because of the cherry blossoms, but because of the overall vibe it gave off.” said sophomore Abigail Prendes.
One of the highlights of the entire trip was the visit to Nara Park in Kyoto, where deer roamed in the areas surrounding several shrines and temples, and could be fed.
“My favorite part was definitely Nara Park,” Hashmatipour said, “when we went to see the deer and feed them.”
The students enjoyed their incredible experience in Japan despite their limited amount of time there, and they are sure to treasure the memories from that trip for years to come.
“Having experience being in a foreign country…is really helpful.” Langlois said. “Being able to look back and say ‘I did that’…is actually mind blowing.”

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