August 8, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 10 'Sayonara!'

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This year's Japan Experience has finally wrapped up successfully with all the students on their way home or onto their next traveling location.


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Here's Jordan with the Nakamura family about to see him off at Terminal 2.


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Here's Lizzie (Sarah J.) attempting to check-in. Even though the check-in computers decided to 'check-out' the moment it was her turn to step up to the counter, after a bit of a wait she handed in her luggage and was ready to leave with boarding pass in hand!


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Here's Bruce and Binita with the Hanai family, Mrs. Hanai and her son Hide. Bruce said he feels like he has a 'Japan Mama' now, which made Mrs. Hanai quite happy to hear. And Binita's Japanese sounded like a native when she thanked her hosts for being so kind to take her in.


As mentioned before, the Hanai's have hosted for us every year! And when we started, Hide spoke no English, but now he's almost fluent, as he said he's studying hard so that he can communicate as much as possible with the JE students each summer and help them have a better experience here.


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Here's Sarah E. and Adele just about to go through security. It took them all of 10 seconds to check-in which was quite impressive!


Sorry, no picture of Kalani because she hasn't left Japan yet! She's now traveling to Kyoto to visit relatives there, and her hosts, The Ono's, are traveling with her to make sure she arrives safely. The Ono's will then be traveling onward to Osaka while Kalani stays in Kyoto. Mrs. Ono called me from Tokyo train station just as they were about to board the bullet train (shinkansen) simply to let me know all is well and for me to speak to Kalani one last time. I could tell she wants to stay in Tokyo, but she's going to have such a great experience in Kyoto that I hope we don't fade too fast into her memories...


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The big departure board at Terminal 1. Every time I come here to see students off at the end of their visit, I always think where to would I like to travel... hmm...


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The new Skyliner rapid express train just started running between Narita Airport and Tokyo in an amazing 39 minutes! Well, with everyone gone, it's back to Tokyo for me.


The students all gave us great feedback, and asked if in future a trip somewhere in Japan riding on the bullet train can be added in. To make the program run smoothly, the Seiritsu International staff actually start preparing for next year's Japan Experience program from September! We're thinking of the following improvements; beginning with the original 3 days in Narita learning about 'ancient Japan', then a bullet train ride to Hiroshima for a 3 day visit to see the famous Peace Memorial and the surrounding islands, followed by riding the bullet train back to Tokyo to spend 9 days with host families, to participate in cultural activities and to have a little more free time for students to explore extra places of personal interest.


No decisions yet, but this is what we'll start working on so please pass the word around!


At this time, I also want to send out a big 'thank you!' to all the student's parents and guardians for entrusting us with your precious children, or really I should be saying young adults, even though we are so far away in Japan.


And lastly, Bruce, Adele, Binita, Jordan, Sarah E, Sarah J./Lizzie and Kalani, you were all wonderful by being a great, cohesive, polite and positive group of people, so thanks! Each of you really made the program enjoyable for the staff, the Japanese students, and the host families! Don't be strangers, keep in touch. Japan is always here waiting for you!


Take care!
Richard & Nick


ps The DVD with pictures and video should be ready for mail-out by the end of September.


pss The International Office will be closed for summer holidays from August 10-29 so if you need to contact us, the office will be open from August 30.

August 7, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 9

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It’s Day 9 already! Where to begin… but at the beginning! The students arrived a little earlier to prepare for the Higashi-Jujo Festival and today’s Sayonara Party.


As soon as thank you cards to each other and staff were scribbled on with happy feelings and little pictures, everyone put on ‘happi’ coats worn for Japanese festivals.


While a lead drum was pulled by local families through the back streets of the Higashi-Jujo area where Seiritsu is located, a large ‘mikoshi’ and kids ‘mikoshi’ portable shrines were heaved and hoed through the streets by enthusiastic revelers, from high school students to very energetic senior gentlemen.


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The Japan Experience students did a wonderful job of lifting both mikoshi around the streets to much shouting and cheering, all designed to scare away the demons, call out to the gods, and to bless the homes it passes. At each rest stop during the two hour journey, groups of neighbors had already set up tables covered with fried chicken, sausages, cut up fruit and vegetables, not to mention huge coolers stocked with drinks chilling in ice.


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The Seiritsu Kokusai Kyoikubu (International Department) staff Richard (left) and Nick (right)


Upon returning to the school, first to bless it, then walk the mikoshi around it before finally coming to a rest in front of its storage shed. But before it could finally be lowered, the revelers had to shake it madly and shout at the top of their lungs to prove they were good and done with the blessing of the area. As soon as it rested down, copious amounts of curry and rice was brought out of the school by even more neighbors and staff for everyone to eat, and of course refreshments were liberally passed around.


But no, that’s just the morning, because before the students could even finish their meals (as the mikoshi were late getting back), the kitchen staff had completed preparing for the Sayonara Party and the home stay families had gathered around the long tables. Principal Fukuda handed out the completion certificates, Binita received her stuffed Japanese cat award for winning yesterday’s "I Know Japan!" Contest and then everyone dug into lunch. The party ended with Jordan’s toothpick disappearing magic tricks, followed by all the students giving thank you speeches.


Being the last day the whole group was together, it was warm and touching, all too short, but like Nick said, ending on a high note is important. The students completed program questionnaires and their anonymous responses were glowing about the positive experiences they had during their stay which was comforting for our staff to hear.


Now everyone has gone back to their home stays for one last, enjoyable night. We’ll see everyone tomorrow at the airport at different times for a final good-bye, except for Kalani who’s going to visit relatives in Kyoto.


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Final picture from our Soubetsu kai (Farewell Party or "sayonara party")

August 7, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 8

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Day 8 started with quiet meditation in the school’s peaceful karate dojo with the high school club members, but being karate soon the students were all exploding with energy playing ‘karate tag’ with each other! As Richard Sensei led everyone through an introduction to punching and kicking, the Japanese students each paired up the JE10 kids for personal one-on-one instruction.


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Taking a quiet moment to reflect before the karate lesson.


After finishing with our patented karate club memorial photo where everyone has to go from being lined up together to change positions with someone else by the time the cameraman says ‘San!’, we all gathered back at the meeting room for the Japan Experience’s annual ‘I Know Japan!’ contest.


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Our American and Hong Kong representatives from the "I know Japan!" contest.


Each student represented their country, or in case of several students from the same country they picked their city or neighborhood as well. The rules are simple. First the teachers ask questions related to anything that has happened to the whole group, either something they experienced or learned. Then the students quickly write down their answers on a piece of paper and when a teacher says ‘Answers Up’, everyone holds up their answers for checking and comparison.


After 65 minutes of fierce competition, we finally had a winner. Here are some of the 80 or so questions asked;
-‘What was the name of the Japanese Inn we stayed in?’ (Kirinoya Inn)
-‘When did Japan become a modern country?’ (1868)
-‘How many times does the bullet train stop at school’s Akabane station? (none, it’s a trick question to see if everyone’s paying attention)
‘What are the words needed to complete this popular, Japan Experience-related phrase…
_____ ______ ______ not _____ ______ picture, _______ were ________ there!
(If you were not in the picture, you were not there!)


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Congratulations to Binita who had the most answers correct!


Following the contest was another delicious lunch of yakisoba, beef chahan, salad and okinomiyaki, plus CAKE for dessert (which everyone still ate even after Jordan dropped it – 3 second rule!).


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A painting of a sumo wrestler inside the Ryogoku train station.


The afternoon’s field trip started with a visit to the popular Sumo Museum inside the Rogoku kokugikan Sumo Arena. This year’s students quite enjoyed watched famous old matches of yokozuna, top ranked wrestlers, on a big television.


After buying lots of cool sumo stuff in the gift shop, it was just a short walk to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which is a massive modern building suspended in the sky yet inside it contains a huge areas depicting different eras in Tokyo’s history, from the ancient, to the pre-war to today. Always a big hit with the students, this year was no different as everyone wondered around checking out numerous cityscape models, geisha houses and bombing of Tokyo relics.


After that, we called it a day and the students had a few hours to explore the city accompanied by one of the long-term Seiritsu international students before heading back to their host families.


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On the way to the Edo-Tokyo museum.


Tomorrow the schedule calls for participating in the Higashi-Jujo ward area matsuri (festival) and then the Sayonara Party!


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Striking a pose in front of the sumo mural

August 5, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 7

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Day 7 of JE10 started off with the ancient swashbuckling art of the sword, kendo! The Seiritsu Kendo Club, lead by 7th dan Sasaki Sensei, taught the students how to hold, swing, thrust, parry and most of all strike with commitment using the shinai, bamboo training sword. Bruce seemed the most impressed, wanting to start training in kendo immediately.


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The kendo club members were kind enough to put on the sparring armor and allow the JE students to whack away at them as per Sasaki Sensei's instructions. But in the end everyone looked pretty happy, which might also be due to the fact the kendo dojo is air conditioned!


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Up next was a hands-on lesson in Japanese taiko drumming with the local community group, the Higashi Ju-jo Ippon Taiko team. The JE10 students walked to the group's practice space nearby and they were led into a storm of furious drumming by the taiko team members.


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Here's Sarah intently striking away, trying to stay in sync with everyone.


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Jordan exclaimed taiko was his highlight of the program so far, also commenting he would like to search out a taiko group back in his home town in New Zealand.


After taiko everyone had a lunch of spaghetti, salad, fried chicken, rice with mixed vegetables and fruit jello for dessert.


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Tottoro taking our tickets!


Then we were off to the world famous Studio Ghibli Museum, an absolute must-see location for everyone who comes to Tokyo.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghibli_Museum


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A refreshing blast of cold, misty air! Several of these fans were located at the museum.


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While no one is this year's group is a serious otaku like last year, for sure the most amount of shopping done in one place so far has got to have been done today at the wondrous museum gift shop that seems to have something for everyone!


Tonight the students were going to visit a few different places on their own, then be back at their host families early to spend time with them as well.


Tomorrow we are having a karate lesson, followed by a quiz contest to see who has absorbed the most of Japan on the trip. In the afternoon we'll going to the Sumo Museum and then exploring the cavernous, hands-on Edo-Tokyo Museum.

August 4, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 6

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It is already day 6 of this year's Japan Experience and we can hardly believe it has gone by so fast! Everyone is having a great time learning the ins and outs of Tokyo. Yesterday this year's participants got to taste the electronic district of Akihabara. Having checked out a maid cafe, visited more than a few shops, and spent some time at a game center, everyone felt that they had tried a good piece of what the area has to offer.


Today we got right back into gear with a Japanese history lesson, Origami lesson, and field trip to the youth districts of Shibuya and Harajuku.


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As with previous years, Richard Sensei took everyone through a power point presentation on the important points of Japanese history from prehistoric to modern day. A big thanks to Richard Sensei for providing some perspective on the Japan of today.


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After a half hour computer break the JE10 participants joined some of Seiritsu's junior high school students for a lesson in Origami (the Japanese art of folding paper into various animals and objects). As was expected, the junior high students were bursting with energy and extremely excited to be working with fellow students from other countries. Many of this year's participants were able to produce some beautiful Origami by the end of the lesson due to Seiritsu's art teacher, Yogo Sensei, providing a big helping hand.


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After enjoying a great lunch provided by the school's chef, Mr. Akakura, everyone prepared to head out for the day's field trips. The first stop on the agenda was Shibuya, famous for having one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world and numerous skyscraper shopping centers. Our participants had a blast checking out cutting edge fashion and fighting their way through the crowds.


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Next was Harajuku a major youth and young adult shopping district that is also beside with Yoyogi park and famous temple, Meiji Jingu. The students began by exploring Takeshita dori, a street well known for having the latest teen fashion. Following that was a stroll down Omotesando, a road which attracts a slightly older crowd to its more upscale cafes and shops. Our day ended here, but we look forward to seeing everyone again tomorrow!


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August 3, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 5

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Day 5 of the Japan Experience was another action filled day!


Also last night (day 4) everyone had another great evening with their respective home stay families;


-Jordan and his host family attended a lesson on Japanese fan making and produced some unique fans by the end.


-Kalani played the board game "life" but this time with a twist, it was all in Japanese.


-Bruce spent the evening working his way through an enormous dinner prepared by his host mother, Ms. Hanai.


-Adele and Sarah strolled through the interesting shopping and restaurant area near their house in Nishi Kawaguchi.


-Binita's host family researched her favorite Japanese idols and then tried to find them on TV and in magazines.


-Last and certainly not least Lizzy (Sarah J.,) attended a festival with her family where the focus was on transporting massive portable shrines known as Mikoshi.


Now here are the picture's from JE 10's Day 5 activities!


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The first cultural session this morning was learning to converse in Japanese. Yano Sensei taught the intermediate level students and Richard Sensei led the beginner level students. Here's Richard Sensei's group learning about counting and buying.


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Binita and Kalani went with Yano Sensei to talk about transportation in Kyoto, in Japanese of course. Specifically they talked about Kyoto and how to navigate the many overlapping systems of public transportation (buses, trains, taxis etc).


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Everyone crowding around the takoyaki


From there the JE10 participants were off for our Japanese cooking lesson led by the same great team as last year, Kadowaki Sensei, Masuda Sensei, and Kohara Sensei. Today we made sushi pockets, rice, yakitori (skewered chicken and vegetables), and takoyaki (breaded and fried octopus balls). Everyone got to try their hand at preparing the food. A good time was had by all! Probably the biggest surprise was that the food that was just prepared was to become lunch! It was alright however as everything turned out to be delicious.


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The JE10 group with their accomplishments at the end of the cooking lesson...


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...and of course the food itself


Following a short break the group moving to Seiritsu's washitsu. A washitsu literally means a Japanese style room. It generally contains rice straw mats, sliding rice paper doors, and traditional decorations. Today we went to the washitsu to participate in chado (Japanese tea ceremony) led by Nakamura Sensei. The high school Chado Club had already practiced very hard to deliver the explanation and demonstration entirely in English for our participants! Then all the JE students enjoyed special sweets and trying the tea.


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Nakamura sensei, the Chado instructor.


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Sarah and Kalani partaking in the tea ceremony.


Finally, there was the highly anticipated field trip to Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics and anime district. Akihabara not only has a plethora of huge chain electronics stores, but also an incredible number of small shops catering to a seemingly infinite number of bizarre interests. Where else in the world can you find stores that specialize in all types of vintage cell phone parts or stove fan blades? Akihabara is most famous for its many anime and manga related stores and is considered to be the 'otaku' center of Tokyo.


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An Akihabara "maid" advertising for her cafe.


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The group in Akihabara with some friendly older gentleman who was kind enough to say hi!

August 2, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 4

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Kalani with the manga version of herself. Drawn by Mr. Okura of Manga University


Yesterday, on Day 3 of the Japan Experience! 2010, the participants spent their first night with their home stay families. Upon arriving at Seiritsu this morning, everyone had lots of interesting things to discuss about their stay.


Just to give you a taste of a home stay experience, here are some of the activities the students enjoyed last night. Adele and Sarah went to a festival in Kawaguchi and watched a traditional dance performed by senior citizens in kimonos. Bruce was taken to a lively kaiten sushi (conveyer belt sushi) restaurant where you can either grab whatever looks good or shout out your order. Lizzie learned how to make origami and played with the kids in her home stay family. Jordan’s home stay family played cards with him until midnight! Binita and her home stay sister checked out a video rental store and settled on an anime called Prince of Tennis, of which they are both big fans! Kalani received a tour of a nearby river bank from her home stay family where there are many running tracks and sport’s fields.


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Today during Day 4, JE10 participants began with our first Japanese conversation lesson! Today’s Japanese instructor was the always energetic Yano Sensei, a teacher at Seiritsu and Japan Experience program veteran. After a short break it was off for a Shodo lesson with another Seiritsu teacher, Maruo Sensei.


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Shodo is the art of Japanese Calligraphy which involves drawing Kanji (the Chinese symbolic characters used in writing Japanese) in a very fluid and artistic manner. Maruo Sensei has trained for many years in Shodo and showed our students some excellent techniques to produce beautiful Kanji. Assisting Maruo Sensei were six high school members of the Shodo. Each student received several copies of their own art work, some made on huge pieces of paper!


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We rounded off our day with an excellent Manga lesson taught by master artist Mr. Atsuhisa Okura and explained by Mr. Glenn Kardy from the Manga University (link). Manga University publishes manga-themed educational materials in several languages. Books teaching the Japanese writing system and how to draw Japanese cartoons are a part of their repertoire. Mr. Okura has been drawing manga for over 20 years, he has won many awards, including awards for his history of manga exposé published in Wired Magazine two years ago.


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Everyone is looking forward to spending another night with their home stays and then coming back tomorrow for the next exciting day of the program!

August 1, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 3

We awoke to a slightly cooler morning, and again found breakfast already prepared by the friendly inn staff. Sweet omelettes, perfectly grilled salmon, rice, miso soup, pickles and juice all in copious amounts were soon devoured.


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Then many pictures and signings in the guest book happened in a blur before the inn staff whisked us to the Keisei Narita train station and said good-bye.


From there we rode two trains into Tokyo central. The scenery was slowly changing from rice paddies and small villages to progressively more and more suburban buildings until finally we arrived, smack dab in the world’s biggest city!


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Getting off at Okachimachi station in the old part of Tokyo, Mrs. Hanai and her university-aged son Hide met up with us to then guide us to the exquisitely elegant Suzunoya Kimono Shop. Several staff led by Narihara-san wrapped up our international student travelers in some unbelievable beautiful kimono, transforming the girls into delicate summer flowers, and the boys into impressive men oozing with aristocratic charm.


After many good-byes, we darted across the street to the upscale Matsuzakaya Department store’s 7th floor for a quick lunch where students could choose from spaghetti, cold noodles, hot noodles or a mix of Chinese noodle and seafood dishes.


From there we finally made it to the school by taking two trains for a short 20 minute ride. After a brief tour of the school and some time for the students to check their emails, the home stay families arrived at 3pm and we had our opening ceremony with the school’s Director, Mr. Fukuda, and the International Department Director Mr. Sono. Once quick introductions were done – each student did a fine job introducing themselves in Japanese! (we did a little practicing in the morning), we went over details of how to get to the school each day (home stays will all go with them tomorrow and come get them), and then it was time for the students to be on their way, off to their home stay’s homes and new adventures in Japan!


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August 1, 2010

Japan Experience! 2010 Day 2

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After a fit full sleep, Katsumata-san and his staff at Kirinoya Japanese Inn had prepared a wonderfully large breakfast of sausages, egg, rice, miso soup, pickles and juice. Then the staff drove us to Buso No Mura Museum, which is a large property containing many feudal Japanese homes, stores and farm fields. It was a great chance for the students to experience ‘Old Japan’ before they entered Tokyo’s ‘New Japan’.


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Here’s Bruce and Lizzie in mock samurai combat!

(We have two Sarah’s on this trip who both have Elizabeth as a middle name so Sarah J. volunteered to be called by her nickname Lizzie!)


After a refreshing lunch of summer season cold somen and udon noodles with vegetables, tempura and pork, we went back to Narita City and ventured around the wonderful temples and traditional stores on Omotesando Road.


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Here are the students standing near Shinshoji Temple, one of the oldest in Japan!


Around 6pm everyone gathered back at the Japanese Inn for a wonderful dinner of fish, tempura, broiled chicken, rice, watermelon and miso soup, plus ice cream! After dinner we did a short hike to the very convenient ‘Japanese konbini’ or convenience store which sells almost everything, especially cool sweets and treats!


Goodies in hand we returned, and everyone hit the showers and hung out in their traditional Japanese tatami rooms putting an end to a hot, but wonderful day!

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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