In the very early hours of Monday 25 January, some very excited students and teachers set off on a journey of a lifetime to Kyoto, Japan. Alex G, Isaac A Tom W and Chloe Y, all in Year 9, had been invited to attend the Japan Junior World Summit, alongside teachers and students from eight other countries from across the globe. Camborne Science and International Academy were once again the only representatives from Europe - no pressure!
After a gruelling thirty hour journey, we arrived at Kansai Airport, Osaka and were met by the very welcoming Uki Shirai, from Ritsumeikan High School. Despite how tired the students were, they were very excited to meet their homestay families and get stuck in with the culture in Japan.
On day one, we were treated to an incredible Opening Ceremony by the students of Ritsumeikan. They welcomed each school individually and then their school band played a wonderful rendition of a Stevie Wonder classic, enough to get everyone excited for the rest of the day. Each school then introduced themselves and gave a presentation about the life and ethos of their school. Our students did a superb job, having put together their own video - with the help of Emily Y - in the days before we left CSIA. The Rits students laughed and cheered when they saw images of Queen Elizabeth, and those that have been to Cornwall let our a breath of excitement and acknowledgement when they saw our school on the video. For the rest of the day, students were welcomed to Ritsumeikan with a party in their host class, where they had to talk about themselves to other students in the class.
The following day saw our students in special lessons, alongside their Rits buddies. They got to sample Japanese lessons in Music, Science, English, Maths and Japanese. After a fantastic lunch in the school cafeteria (miso soup, green tea), students were back in their classrooms working together to come up with a 'perfect school', that they then had to present to the other students. Despite a few language barriers, the students worked incredibly well together, each listening o the ideas and opinions of those from other cultures and traditions.
One of the highlights of the trip has to be the day we got to spend exploring some of the sights of Kyoto, with Rits students as our guides. We were taken to Tasaka Shinto Shrine, where Tom practiced making a special wish by ringing the bell and clapping his hands twice. We were also taken to Inari Shrine, which is where the opening scenes of Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. Despite the onslaught of rain, it really was fantastic to look at this temple and to feel quite awestruck by how beautiful it was.
Saturday morning was no chance for a lie in, as schools in Japan operate on Saturdays as well. We were invited to participate in a really exciting sports lesson, where students played dodgeball and giant skipping. At the end, there was a big tug of war competition; obviously, Mr Woolcock couldn't resist getting involved!
The rest of the weekend was spent with home stay families and the students got up to all kinds of exciting adventures. Chloe was taken to Universal Studios, whilst Alex was taken to a traditional Sushi restaurant - and I'm pleased to say she tried lots of Sushi and gave it a big thumbs up.
Tom said "my favourite part of this trip was when my host family took me out for the day. I was able to taste Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake. It was delicious!"
The students all agreed that staying with their homestay families was one of the best bits of their trip.
Isaac felt "staying with a host family was fantastic - there would be no other way I could have experienced Japanese family life and culture."
During the weekend, Mr Woolcock took me to visit some of the places that he had experienced whilst living in Japan. Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple) was absolutely beautiful, and we even managed to dodge all the selfie sticks and take our own pictures to treasure. We also visited Kiyomizudera Temple, and again admired the incredible architecture and beautiful decoration of the shrines and temples.
On Monday, we got to watch the Cultural Performances from all the schools. The day ended with the Closing Ceremony, where we were once again treated to the dulcet tones of the school band. Isaac gave a few words of gratitude to the students and staff of Ritsumeikan and summed it up precisely when he noted that the students have made friends from across the world.
The next day was an incredibly sad day; it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful students and staff of Ritsumeikan who had looked after us so well during our stay. After many tearful hugs, handshakes and swapping of email addresses, we finally climbed into the minibus and waved to everyone as we left.
Alex said "leaving Japan, particularly my host family, was one of the saddest moments of my life."
Reflecting on the trip, Alex felt "we have all become more independent, open and intelligent. I have become friends with people from countries I didn't even know existed!"
Isaac said "thank you so much for this trip, the trip of a lifetime."
The slogan for the Junior World Summit 2016 was 'one chance in a lifetime'. I think we all agree that this was a most fitting and true statement for our time in Japan. It really was the trip of a lifetime.