August 10, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 15 - Sayonara!

Richard here, just back from spending a good part of Sunday seeing off JE08 students at Tokyo's Narita International Airport.

With a little free time on my hands at one point, I was able to get a clear picture of the new Airbus AC380 double-decker airliner being flown by Singapore Airlines. I was thinking how it has actual cabins in the front, which led me to think how it must have felt seeing others board ocean liners years ago while friends and family waved good-bye from the docks.

In case no one knew which way to get to the departure gates...

Lawrence Sensei kindly gave up his Saturday to guide Bryce on the trains to the airport as Bryce had to leave a day early to make it back to Vancouver in time for a friend of the family's wedding. I believe his schedule was to arrive in the morning, throw on a suit and go straight to the ceremony. Perhaps he had a brand-new Japanese rice cooker for the lucky couple.

With the summer vacation time about to go into full swing like in other countries, the airport this weekend was a little busier than normal.

Here's the Kimura family seeing off Victor and Claudia before they caught their morning flight to Berlin via Copenhagen. I heard yesterday they got to spend 3 hours in a covered multi-purpose game center playing indoor soccer, basketball and other sports.

Here's Mrs. Hanai with her son Yoshinori and (l-r) Xenia, France and Shirlene. Shirlene was full of emotion when having to leave before the other girls, as she was next off on a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Xenia and France were both last on the same Japan Airlines flight to Vancouver, but they went through security early with Shirlene, which was a nice gesture.

Lastly, our Hong Kong group of Nicholas, Jocelyn and Karen have planned to stay over for one extra week to spend more time privately with both home stay families and friends. I believe their goals are attending a Japanese language school and exploring Tokyo even more. For sure the other students would like to do the same!

Tokyo at sunset, waiting to see everyone again...

To all the JE08 students, thank you for participating and being a great group. I hope you really experienced Japan from the inside out and that you got to do the things you had hoped to do. According to all your final day feedback forms, it seems JE08 went over very well with everyone, which I'm happy to hear.

For all the JE08 parents, thanks for putting your trust in Seiritsu, which I know must have been a little difficult to do due to the long distance. The many emails we received these last two weeks expressing your support, and keen interest in our daily website reports, were much appreciated!

And thanks to all the JE08 home stay families, Seiritsu staff and JE08 cultural activity teachers for putting on a world-class program. Please don't quit your day jobs, because you are all very good at them!

And a special thank you goes out to our regular International staff member Lawrence Sensei, who provided the program and myself with amazing support each and every day. The ever cheerful Lawrence deserves special mention for consistently going beyond what was required to make the JE08 run so smoothly.

In September I will be mailing all the JE08 students a DVD with the hundreds of photos we took, a 1 hour video of the activities plus a 2 minute video promo and a poster for next year's JE09 the students can show their friends.

Also, I'm already planning for next year and I hope to have an announcement up here in the next few days with tentative dates and the possible JE09 schedule, including new activities!

Again, thanks to everyone. I hope all the students arrived safely (I am awaiting your confirmation emails of a safe return) and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again one day soon.

Richard Mosdell
International Education Manager
Seiritsu High School

August 8, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 13 - Uno, "I Know Japan" contest, & Farewell Party

(front row, L to R) Mrs. Kimura & Mr. Kimura (Victor's home stay parents), Mr. Yohei Fukuda (Seiritsu High School Director), Richard Sensei (JE08 Manager), Mrs. Koyama (Nicholas' home stay mother), and Victor & Claudia's Japanese teacher. Japan Experience! 2008 students with their certificate in the back row.

Time does indeed fly when fun is being had. And considering how quickly the second week of the Japan Experience! has gone by, it would seem that the students were having the time of their life.

The last school-day of Japan Experience! 2008 was a great way to wrap up the experiences the students had, with one final Japanese class with Yano Sensei, an "I Know Japan" contest, a farewell luncheon (again prepared by Akakura-san), and a final meeting.

Before the Japanese class started, Masuda Sensei (who taught the students Japanese cooking) surprised all the students with a small, hand-made booklet summarizing the two menus (and their recipes) that the students prepared over the two weeks. That she made all 9 individually shows just what an impression the students left on Masuda Sensei.

In the Japanese class, the students played Uno with Yano Sensei. Except this Uno had a special JE08 twist- anybody who spoke English had to pick up an extra card! Afterwards, the students presented Yano Sensei with a gift and a card to thank her for teaching the Japanese classes.

Having warmed up their Japanese, we took that one step further with the "I Know Japan" contest. The contest is essentially a fun trivia quiz that consists of questions made by both Richard Sensei and I. The trivia spans from things written in the Japan Experience! 2008 handbook (an information booklet given to all the students at the start of the trip) to little tidbits of information any teacher or tour guide has mentioned throughout the trip. Some questions were easy (Which is the busiest train station in Tokyo? Shinjuku) while some questions were very difficult (What are the two gates in front of the Sensoji Temple called? Kaminarimon & Hozomon). Amidst lots of questions, lots of funny answers, and lots of laughs, it was Nicholas who emerged with one point more than Victor to win the contest.

After the contest, Fukuda Sensei presented each of the students a certificate signifying their completion of the Japan Experience! 2008.

With that done, we all headed upstairs for yet another superb lunch made by Akakura-san. Akakura-san has really been an unsung hero for this whole program, making lunches for all the students every morning, and each student made sure to thank him for his hospitality. During the lunches, each of the students gave a short speech about their two weeks here.

The final meeting of the day included a short questionnaire about what the students liked or would like to see changed, a short explanation of the program Seiritsu offers to foreign students, and a chance to write inside the Japan Experience! Memorial Album.

With all 9 students reflecting on their past two weeks, it was a very happy moment for Richard Sensei and I in that we got to see just how enjoyable this experience was for them all. As Richard and I told everyone at the luncheon, this program would have been a LOT more work had it not been for how great all the students were. Everyday they demonstrated that they were motivated, good humoured, and group-oriented. And being that what one gets from cultural experiences equals what one puts in, it's no surprise that these students got a lot from their time in Japan.

And while the program is at its end, this is merely the beginning for all the students as they all expressed an interest in discovering more of the world, Japan or otherwise.

So to Jocelyn, Xenia, Karen, Claudia, Nicholas, Bryce, France, Victor, and Shirlene.... it's not so much as "good-bye" but "til next time". And Gambatte!! (Give it your all!)

- Japan Experience! 2008

Masuda Sensei (middle) after giving everyone their mini-cookbook.

Remember, this is No-English Uno!...

The students with Yano Sensei (middle).

(L to R) Karen, Victor, Shirlene, Nicholas, and France dig through all the information their brains took in these past two weeks.

(L to R) Jocelyn, Xenia, Bryce, and Claudia double checking their answers...

Congratulations to Nicholas who scored 35 points to win the much coveted Yoshi stuffed animal.

Fukuda Sensei (left) presenting Victor with his certificate.

Victor's certificate.

Even those who weren't hungry became so after seeing what Akakura-san had prepared.

All the students made sure that everyone else was served before serving themself.

With all the students having given their speeches, Richard Sensei gave his.

(L to R) France, myself, Richard Sensei, and Shirlene with the very nice presents from France and Shirlene. Thank you!


August 8, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 12 - Tokyo College of Animators, Akihabara, & Kendo

Everyone got to test their swordsmanship with the Seiritsu Kendo Club.

On Thursday there was only 4 days left in the program, but that didn't mean the schedule was winding down. Instead, it was packed with another Japanese language lesson, a visit to the Tokyo College of Animators, a shopping trip to Electric Town Akihabara, and lastly a workout with the Seiritsu Kendo Club.

The Tokyo College of Animators has trained animators for over 25 years and it offers courses in nearly all aspects of animation including character design, voice actor training, and background/setting illustration. The College focuses on traditional hand-drawn animation in manga style, so the students can graduate to work in 'manga anime' Japanese studios. Like the tour of the Tokyo Design Academy, it was a great opportunity to see how future animators are taught and the students even got to watch a voice-recording session. Though in Japanese, visit their website for more examples of their work.

By chance, in the voice-recording studio one of the female Japanese college students our JE students bumped into was a Seiritsu graduate from two years ago AND a former Seiritsu Kendo Club member! Small world, especially since the JE students had a Seiritsu club kendo lesson later in the day!

Having piqued their interest in animation, we headed to Akihabara and its Electric Town, famous for selling all kinds of electronic, computer, and anime goods.

After exploring Akihabara, the students returned to the school for their third martial art's lesson of the trip. This time it was an intro to kendo with Sasaki Sensei. Kendo is Japanese fencing and the students were treated to a demo followed by a short lesson on the various kendo attacks. The students were then able to have a go attacking and smacking Seiritsu Kendo Club students who had all the protective armour on. A very special thanks to the Seiritsu Kendo Club for essentially standing in place and being targets for the students!

Tokyo College of Animators

The main College campus in central Tokyo.

Group pictures with some future animators (front row). Also note in the background the recording booth where some students were doing voice recordings. The girl in the multi-colored shirt in the front row is Ai, the former Seiritsu student.

Soul-Eater is a very popular animation created by graduates of the College.


Meet Rilak-kuma (Relax Bear). People in costumes are very typical of Akihabara and add to the overall atmosphere.

Everyone in front of Akihabara Station... with extra bags.

Seiritsu Kendo Club Practice

Sasaki Sensei explaining some finer points of holding the shinai (bamboo sword).

Before they got to strike a real opponent, the students practiced their form.

Seiritsu Kendo students demonstrating various attacks.

Karen with an overhead smash! Kendo practitioners wear wooden armour called a bogu to protect themselves.

The sword's a blur as Claudia aims for her partner's head.

Victor lands a strike squarely on his opponents "men" (face).

Sasaki Sensei helps Xenia on the left while France keeps practicing on the right.

Nicholas holding a training sword which is 4 shinai taped to the end of one more shinai. It apparently weighs about 3kg (6lbs), but its length makes it feel like much more.

Seiritsu Kendo Club and Japan Experience! after a great lesson.


August 7, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 11 - Japanese cooking & Manga University

Pencils and clipboard in hand, the students tried drawing Japanese manga (comics).

The fun just keeps coming and Day 11 included the students' second Japanese cooking class as well as a visit to the Japanime Manga University.

In the Japanese cooking class, again led by Masuda Sensei and Kadowaki Sensei, the students prepared a menu of somen noodles, tempura, and red bean shaved-ice dessert. It was also the first time many of the students tried bitter melon (goya, in Japanese), a cucumber-like fruit that tastes like its name implies. As each student tried a piece, many funny reactions ensued...

With lunch over, it was a short train ride out to the Manga University. A school teaching the craft of drawing Japanese comics, Manga University is also known for its award-winning series of books, Kanji de Manga, an instructional book that teaches Japanese kanji (written characters) through the use of manga art. We had a manga drawing class led by resident Manga University artist, Mr. Atsuhisa Okura. Okura Sensei has been drawing manga for over 20 years and he was very patient, teaching the students the finer points of drawing manga. The best part was that Manga University provided paper and pencils so everyone could follow along with Okura Sensei's examples or draw their own.

Well, everyone except me, since I was busy taking pictures. Enjoy!

Cooking class

(L to R) Victor, Jocelyn, Bryce, Karen, and Nicholas helping chop the vegetables to become fried tempura.

(L to R) Xenia, Shirlene, and Claudia preparing a part of their dessert.

France shows her muscles by shaving the frozen red bean ice.

Cold somen noodles, good on a hot day. The noodle dipping sauce is called tsuke jiru, made from sweet vinegar and soy sauce. A big plate of vegetable tempura. Tea. Red-bean dessert with tiny condensed sweet milk balls. And that's lunch! Students with lots of energy need lots of food.

Cheese!! Or should I say... Tempura!!

Manga University

Okura Sensei explaining how an understanding of the body's musculature can lead to more realistic artwork.

Karen hard at work. Gambatte!! (Try your best!)

Shirlene working on her manga character..

Xenia shows her freshly drawn picture.

Okura Sensei, the students, and their artwork.


August 6, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 10 - Sumo Museum, chanko-nabe, Edo-Tokyo Museum, & Ginza

(L to R) France, Xenia (her face is in the face hole of sumo's head), Shirlene, Claudia, and Richard Sensei may not weigh as much as sumo wrestlers, but they sure got the pose right!

The 10th day of the Japan Experience! was a great day out. The activities for the day included a Japanese class, a visit to the Sumo Museum, a delicious lunch at a local chanko-nabe (Japanese stew) restaurant, a tour of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and a visit to Ginza.

The Sumo Museum is located in the Ryogoku Kokugikan, an indoor sumo sports arena located in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo. The arena hosts 3 of the 6 major sumo tournaments throughout the year and the museum holds lots photos and memorabilia documenting the history of sumo.

In keeping with the sumo theme, we headed across the street to a chanko-nabe restaurant. Chanko-nabe is a type of Japanese stew which cooks all the food items in one pot. Sumo wrestlers usually eat large helpings of chanko-nabe to gain weight.

After that, just next door to the Sumo Museum was the Edo-Tokyo Museum which is a large building housing many exhibits of historic Edo (old Tokyo). Everything from a recreation of a traditional Japanese kabuki theatre to artifacts recovered from World War II can be found.

With the visit to the two museums over, the last stop was Ginza, a high-end shopping district in Tokyo known for glamorous store displays and extraordinary price tags.

Check back soon to see what we've got in store for the final stretch of the Japan Experience! 2008.

Sumo Museum

1, 2, 3, SUMO!!


Shirlene with her lunch.

(L to R) France, Jocelyn, and Karen eating their "non-sumo-sized" chanko-nabe.

Edo-Tokyo Museum

(L to R) Victor and Claudia exploring the museum.

"Night soil" was an oft used fertilizer and farmers collected it in buckets. This is Nicholas showing his muscles by lifting a pair of buckets (with weights in them...)


Bryce holding a square watermelon. Square watermelons are grown in glass boxes that force the watermelon to grow into a cube shape so that while they are easier to stack, the true purpose is to be used a present wrapped like a cake. They cost about ¥10,000, around $92US!


August 5, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 9 - Origami & Soba School

The group with Yogo Sensei (middle with black apron) and their origami.

Welcome to week 2 of the Japan Experience! We kicked off the second week with two very "hands-on" activities: folding origami and making soba.

Origami (literally, "folding paper") is an ancient Japanese art form dating back to the Edo era (1603-1867). It involves intricate and precise folding and can sometimes be difficult. Luckily, however, Seiritsu art teacher and professional artist Eikin Yogo Sensei was there to help the students through the class and by the end there were cranes, penguins, kimonos, balloons, shrimp and even Godzilla!

Then, after yet another delicious lunch courtesy of Seiritsu chef Akakura-san, it was off to the Edo Handmade Soba School, taught by Mr. Masao Ito. Ito Sensei was a chef and when he retired, he converted his living room into a classroom and has been teaching the art of making soba (buckwheat) noodles for the past 10 years. With our large group, however, we used a room in the community centre aross the street. All the students watched Ito Sensei expertly prepare a batch of noodles and then got to make their own. As a special treat, Ito Sensei invited us into his home and cooked everyone's soba so they could taste their creation.

The fun day made for some great pictures, too!


A big thank you to Yogo Sensei for helping the students.

The students all started with the crane. This is Xenia with hers.

By the end of the day, the students were making very creative items, like Claudia's tulip.

One of the more difficult origami was the kimono, but Shirlene seems to have figured it out.

Bryce and his tie are ready for his next formal dinner.

A penguin in Japan? Of course, says Victor.

All the hard work paid off with Nicholas' crane.

Jocelyn and Karen with their cranes.

France and her fish.

Soba School

Ito Sensei demonstrating the 14-step process required to make soba.

Ito Sensei's soba.

Victor flattening the dough to make it thin.

Nicholas uses a rolling pin to make it even thinner.

All the students got to use a special knife to cut the dough into the soba noodles. This is Claudia trying to see how thinly she can cut her dough.

Soba made and bellies full, this is our farewell group photo with Ito Sensei in front of his house.


August 4, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 7 & 8 - The Weekend.

Bryce, over the weekend, visited lots of different shopping districts with his new home stay, the Shign family, and this picture is from their time at Harajuku.

This weekend, all the students spent time with their home stay family and the activities they did ranged from having a party to going to Disney Sea (an ocean-themed Disney amusement park) to trying on kimonos.

As a sample of some of the things they did, here are some pictures that the students took.


This is Bryce with his home stay, the Mizuno family. Bryce actually changed home stays on Sunday and is now staying with the Shign family and Jason, a Seiritsu student from Australia.

Jocelyn & Karen

Jocelyn & Karen had an action packed weekend with the Arai family, hosting a small party both Saturday and Sunday. Nicholas, Richard Sensei, and myself stopped by on Saturday and it was a night filled with food and fun. In Tokyo, the summer is filled with festivals called matsuri, in which many people wear traditional Japanese summer clothing (yukata) and there are also fireworks displays. At its peak, there is a matsuri almost everyday somewhere in and around the Tokyo area and we all watched a fireworks display (hanabi) from the Arai family's balcony.

Victor and his home stay, the Kimura family, spent all Sunday at Disney Sea which is right next door to Tokyo Disneyland. I think it goes without saying that he had a blast.

Aside from the party at the Arai family's house, Nicholas also got to visit Kawagoe, an area in Saitama, north of Tokyo. Kawagoe is interesting in that buildings from the Edo period (17th - 19th century) still remain, lending Kawagoe the nickname, "Little Edo", Edo being the name of old Tokyo.

Xenia, Claudia, France, & Shirlene

The big event for the 4 girls at the Hanai family's house was the chance to try on a kimono. Hanai-san is an expert in the art of kimono wearing and on Sunday, she helped all of them try one on. Other things they did include visiting a seperate matsuri (festival) and, of course, some more shopping.

With such a wide range of activities, the home stay weekend is all part of experiencing Japan as the Japanese do. So a big thank you to all the host families for giving the students a great two days! Check back soon to see what we've got in store for the latter half of the Japan Experience! 2008.


August 2, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 6 - Tea Ceremony, Harajuku, Meiji Jingu Shrine, & Shinjuku Towers

(L to R) Xenia, France, Shirlene, and Victor at the outer torii (Japanese gate) at the Meiji Jingu shrine.

Time certainly flies when you're having fun, doesn't it? It's already Friday and the students are half-way through the program.

On the menu for Friday was studying Japanese, attending a tea ceremony (known in Japanese as, sado) hosted by the Seiritsu Sado Club, visiting the Tokyo Design Academy, shopping in Harajuku, and watching the sunset from the Shinjuku Towers, which is the Tokyo city hall.

Sado, or Japanese tea ceremony, is the art of making and serving tea. It is very intricate and requires the practitioner to study each aspect in order to perform the ceremony properly. The attention to detail covers everything from how the guests are seated and how the ladle is held to the proper method of mixing the tea and even the number of times the bowl should be wiped. The students got a chance to watch a ceremony be performed and then got to make some tea on their own.

With the ceremony finished, the students headed upstairs for lunch prepared, again very kindly (and deliciously!), by Akakura-san.

Just before 1pm, we all left the school for Harajuku, a very trendy Tokyo district famous for wild youth fashion and home to the Tokyo Design Academy. The Academy, established in 1966, offers programs in nearly all types of design like jewelry, interior design, illustrated art, computer generated art, and even Japanese manga and animation. The tour was really well prepared with the teachers having laid out various samples of student art all over the school and the students really enjoyed browsing through the amazing works.

After the tour was finished, the students had some free time to shop in Harajuku. Also near the shopping area is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji. Some of the students were interested in seeing this, so I took them in. The large shrine is surrounded by a 700,000 square acre forest that feels like a world entirely separated from the busy, high-rise-filled urban Tokyo.

Once we had met up at 5:30, we all headed to the Shinjuku Towers, two towers that serve as the Tokyo metropolitan city hall. On the 50th floor of both towers is a free observation deck which we used to watch the sun set over Tokyo.

So while the day was long, the students got to see and do lots of different things.

I should also note the students spend their Saturday and Sunday with their host family, so there will be no posts until Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures from Friday and have a great weekend!

Tea ceremony

A Seiritsu Sado Club student demonstrates the proper way of preparing tea.

Group picture! The Sado Club instructor, Nakamura Sensei, wore a very nice kimono (front row, right side) for the demonstration.

Tokyo Design Academy

Nicholas (left) and Claudia (middle) flipping through some sample manga created by some Design Academy students.

"Look like you're designing something!", was the theme for the picture...

Harajuku shopping

Takeshita Street, the main street in Harajuku known world-wide for its wild fashion and people dressed as anime characters.

(L to R) Shirlene, Claudia, Xenia, France, Bryce, and Victor outside one of the many shops.

Meiji Jingu shrine

The torii (traditional Japanese gates commonly found in front of Shinto shrines) in front of the Meiji Jingu.

Shinjuku Towers

Joined by 3 Seiritsu students, the group was all smiles on the 50F of the Shinjuku South Tower.

The sun sets on yet another great day. See you in a few days!


August 1, 2008

Japan Experience! 2008 - Day 5 - Sophia University, Shibuya & Judo

It's Day 5 and the fun just keeps coming!

This past Thursday July 31st, the students got a chance to attend the Sophia University Open Campus, shop in Shibuya, and try their hand at judo.

Sophia University, also known as Jochi University, is one of the top private universities in Japan and has an extensive international program with a large foreign student body. This open campus was a great opportunity for the students to see what a Japanese urban university campus looks and feels like as well as to get lots of information on the programs available. Also on this tour were 5 members of the Seiritsu English Conversation Club, helping guide the Japan Experience! students around campus.

After the open campus, it was off to Shibuya for some shopping. Shibuya is a district in Tokyo well-known for its youth culture. It's also home to the world's busiest pedestrian crossing (which is visible in the background of the first picture) and the statue dedicated to Hachiko, a dog who, between 1925-1935, waited everyday at Shibuya Station for his deceased master to come home.

But it didn't end there. The students got a short break after returning to school before heading to their judo class with the Seiritsu judo coach, Kijima Sensei, and judo club members. Like the karate practice the day before it was a great introduction to the sport, giving the students a chance to practice rolls and throws.

Sophia University

Jocelyn and Karen with their Seiritsu guide, Haruka.

(From L to R) Nicholas, Bryce, and Victor with their guides Misaki and Ai, in the library.

(L to R) Claudia, Shirlene, France, and Ayano. Ayano showed them around to various information sessions.

Hmm........ perhaps Xenia will be a future Sophia University international student...

Japan Experience! 2008 and Seiritsu students in front of the Sophia University entrance.


(L to R) Monami, Ai, Karen, Jocelyn, Misaki, and Haruka. It turns out "SHOPPING!!" is an international word.

Xenia, Shirlene, and France, with a few new bags in hand...

Loyal Hachiko waited patiently for us to finish shopping before we gathered for the group picture.


Meditating before the class in order to clear one's mind and focus on the training ahead.

Victor demonstrating a basic Judo throw, the "ogoshi" (big hip; named so because the thrower uses the hip to toss the opponent)

Special thanks to Seirtsu student/Judo club member Yuki Mizuno for letting everyone throw him... twice. Extra special thanks to Yuki for also being Bryce's home stay brother. This is Jocelyn getting ready to toss Yuki.

Bryce, with his martial arts background, got the hang of it really quickly.

Claudia said afterward that the Judo lesson was a blast!

No injuries and big smiles meant it was a great lesson.




about Seiritsu

Seiritsu Gakuen is a private co-educational high school created in 1925 and it is located in Tokyo, Japan.

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