At 2am on 15th February 2012 a small group gathered in the dark of night outside Camborne Science and International Academy. The group represented the A-level History Department and included students Eric, David, Laura and History teachers Miss Jones and Miss Moller. The first trial, getting the luggage into the boot before they set off, resulted in a few pulled muscles but did not temper the excitement of the journey to come. The destination was Kyoto, Japan. The group would represent the UK at the second International Student Forum which is a five day Humanities conference which this year focused on ‘Social Responsibility in the 21st century: Perspectives from developing and developed countries’. They drove through the night to Heathrow Airport for the flight to Osaka, via Amsterdam. The hurdle of airport security leaped when, despite all the signs, David suddenly remembered that he had eight packets of orange juice stuffed in his hand luggage! After a quick planning meeting the group decided to hide the evidence by drinking it and, fully refreshed with fluids and vitamin C, they boarded the plane to the Far East.
By the time they touched down in Japan everyone was well versed in some survival Japanese including how to say “hello”, “excuse me”, “that’s delicious”, "thank you”, and “I don’t eat fish” (used regularly by Miss Jones). The Historians arrived on a beautiful sunny morning and were greeted by the cheery hosts of Ritsumeikan Uji High School, at Kansai airport. Immediate rations of copious helpings of delicious ramen (hot noodles) were consumed to regain their strength and then Eric, David and Laura set about quickly integrating themselves into Japanese culture and making new friends.
The first part of our trip focused on academic excellence and so we spent time listening to some prestigious guest speakers and getting to work on presentations.Topics were pre-chosen from the forum’s themes: progress, sustainable ocean use, nuclear energy, multiculturalism and the future of cities. Our students had chosen to focus on the complex theme of progress and leading up to the conference, Eric, David and Laura had spent weeks researching and preparing their thoughtful presentation, which was carefully delivered to the praise of their peers and advisers. Eric, David and Laura then successfully collaborated with students from the USA and Japan to produce a second excellent academic presentation which was then confidently delivered to the large international audience to much acclaim.
The second part of the conference focused on cultural activities. Laura created some beautiful “European style” Ikebana (flower arranging), Eric caused a few headaches in Kendo (traditional Samurai martial art), and David showed his artistic flair in Shodo (calligraphy). In the company of the wonderful hosts, the group also enjoyed some of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple) and Kiyomizu-dera (the pure water temple) before heading to stretch our vocal chords in some karaoke. In Japan, karaoke takes place in your own private room and so unsuspecting strangers were not subject to the strange warblings which followed! Shops were explored, including a cat cafe - where customers can drink hot beverages and play with cats. Kyoto tower was visited and faces distorted in purikura, a ‘print club’ photo sticker booth. At ‘culture night’ the tourists were treated to some spectacular dances and songs as they celebrated the cultures of each participating nation including a traditional Aboriginal dance which brought the house down. The night ended with some Cornish fudge!
With the conference over the Historians had an amazing opportunity to investigate recent international news items. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami has left a deep scar in Japan. The Cornish group heard from students who had volunteered in the disaster stricken area and so it was with these stories ringing in their ears that they travelled to Awajishima – the island just off the coast of Kobe city where the great 1995 earthquake struck. The local museum is amazing and offers a simulator experience that demonstrates the force of the 1995 earthquake. Even sitting down and awaiting the shake, the power was frightening. There was time to spend a few hours wandering the beautiful city of Kobe before a delicious meal in Chinatown, which included jellyfish! It tastes just like it sounds!
During the stay they had rain, sun and snow! It was wonderful to witness some of the students’ first experience of snow - the Vietnamese that is, not Cornish! The conference afforded Camborne’s fantastic students the chance to interact with young people from 12 very different countries, to share their learning experiences, and to listen and effectively communicate with one another. It was an incredible and exhausting week for all involved! Miss Moller, having lived in Japan, explained that it was a pleasure to be able to guide our students through various aspects of Japanese culture and to be involved in such a fantastic cultural and academic experience. Eric, David and Laura will not forget their time in Japan.
A big ‘thank you’ to all the Camborne participants for showing our school in such a good light.