Excitement coursed through our veins as we stepped off the plane into Fukuoka Airport, eyes wide with wonder.
We felt both excited and nervous as we boarded the 'shinkansen' (train), on our way to meet our first set of host families in Hiroshima.
Murmurs of 'I wonder what my host family will be like?' and 'how am I going to survive with my limited Japanese?!' filled the carriage as it ricocheted towards Hiroshima.
However, this unease dissipated instantly upon meeting our new families, who were wonderfully warm and welcoming.
Arriving at our new homes, our experiences over the next few days differed greatly. Some of us had the opportunity to view grand structures, such as Hiroshima Castle or Kintaikyo Bridge, whilst others took the chance to explore the expanse of the bustling city. Despite the variance in activity, we all came away with wonderful stories to tell!
Before we knew it, our time in Hiroshima came to an end. With much reluctance, we departed for Kyoto; shedding tears, exchanging hugs and promising to 'kesshite wasuremasen' - never forget.
After checking into the ‘ryokan’ (traditional Japanese inn), we visited an abundance of beautiful temples and museums. However, the surprising highlight of Kyoto turned out to be karaoke!
We had many fun moments here, from Mr de Winter performing a heart wrenching rendition of Mariah Carey’s 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' to Alejandro’s unintended lesson on how to properly pronounce the Spanish lyrics in the 'Macarena'. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed this experience!
The next few days of the trip were spent in the countryside of Ogaki, so vastly different to the bustling streets of Hiroshima and Kyoto.
Here we had the privilege of wearing the culturally significant and representative attire of kimono. We visited the picturesque Ogaki Castle, and were also fortunate enough to meet the mayor of Ogaki, from whom we learned more about the city.
However, as quickly as we came, our time for departure arrived. Leaving with fervent promises to keep in touch with our new friends and family, we boarded the train bound for Tokyo.
Overarching skyscrapers and neon lights punctuated the lively streets of Tokyo. Here we visited a myriad of famous sights, including the heights of the towering Tokyo Skytree and the crowded Shibuya crossing. Along with our host siblings, we also had the privilege of going to Tokyo Disney Sea, a longtime dream for many of us!
It was with a heavy heart that we finally left for the airport to return to Australia, the image of our host families waving goodbye still imprinted in our hearts and minds.
We feel exceptionally lucky to have met and stayed with such warm, kind and accommodating people, people from whom we learnt much.
We still desperately miss Japan, and no doubt will remember this experience for a long time to come.
Gabby Lim - Year 10