This article was originally published in the summer 2013 Harker Quarterly.
In May, 27 grade 6 students spent a week in Japan for the annual trip to Harker’s sister school, during which they explored the country and its rich culture in addition to visiting with their friends from Tamagawa Gakuen in Tokyo.
After arriving in Japan on May 9, the group checked into the Oiso Prince Hotel in Kanagawa, famous for its wonderful view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Activities for their first full day included a visit to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto shrine, the Hasedera Temple and the Great Buddha of Kamakura, followed by a trek to the island of Enoshima for shopping and play time.
The next day, the students had plenty of fun meeting their buddies and enjoying the welcome party that awaited them at the school. “Let’s just say we had no problem with your children waking up early and getting to breakfast by 7 o’clock because they were so excited for their homestays,” said elementary school head and trip chaperone Kristin Giammona in an email to parents during the trip.
Harker students were treated to a special performance by Tamagawa’s orchestra and taiko drumming groups. After the performances, the Harker students presented speeches to their Tamagawa friends, who were very appreciative.
On their last day at Tamagawa, they attended an assembly at the lower school campus, where they enjoyed another student vocal performance and sat in on two class sessions. Then they returned to the middle school for a potluck and field games. “It was great fun with the sun shining and a light breeze to keep us cool,” Giammona said. The students and parents said their tearful goodbyes at the farewell assembly, where the Harker students received special gifts before leaving to enjoy the rest of their journey.
On their final full day in Japan, the students headed to Itsukushima Island, famous for its torii gate situated in the water at Itsukushima Shrine. At a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the students hung 1,000 origami cranes in the hopes of being granted a wish, as is promised by an ancient Japanese legend. A bit of fun at the Iwatayama Monkey Park concluded this year’s sojourn.