Day 16 & 17
Sorry this has taken a few days to get up… It has been a week of trying to sort out my sleep patterns and giving out presents. You all probably had similar weeks with your child.

So here is what happened in our last 24 hours in Japan. On the Sunday we woke up to the beginning of a Typhoon - rainy & windy (miserable day). We had a later start to allow everyone time to get their bags sorted and some taped up. We met up at 10am and then with raincoats and umbrellas headed for the first train of the day. We went to the Zoo and the closer we got the harder the rain got. Still we persevered and then split into tour groups. Some groups saw a few animals and then a lot of the gift shop and near by Starbucks while others braved the elements to see as much as possible. My group saw the Panda (that was doing what everyone else does when it rains - goes inside and sleeps), the monkeys, an elephant and polar bears. After this we headed for the gift store where they were doing a roaring trade on rain ponchos. We all bought one to keep our backpacks dry.

After this we all had a nice hot drink at Starbucks and then walked for 10 minutes to reach our lunch stop. We got a chance to eat some food and dry off a bit before heading back outside and into the near by markets. These markets were pretty impressive and quite a strange collection of things in one place. You would pass an electronic store then a shoe tent, then fish and spices and then another shoe shop. It made for an interesting smell. The kids and adults all enjoyed the 4 ABC Mart kiosks we found and somehow more shoe purchases were made bringing our total now up to roughly 95!! 

After leaving the markets we caught our train direct to Narita Airport. Some students got in a little nap on the train while others played with their new purchases. Once we got to the airport and got our bags off the delivery truck we went in and saw a huge group of Japanese high school students who turned out to be bound for NZ on the same flight as us! After a checking in we made our way through customs with only a few little hiccups then started the long walk to gate 44 and duty free shopping!!
The kids stocked up on candy and snacks for the flight and some made it their personal mission to spend every last cent they brought with them. Once on the flight we had our dinner and settled in to watching movies and then one by one people dropped off to sleep. I would like to say it was a nice sleep but my back is still recovering from that one. I must say I was quite jealous seeing people like Ben who were small enough to curl up on their seats like a cat. At one point I took the liberty of putting my legs across Kirsten who didn’t mind too much until I started putting her leg to sleep. 

At about 3am Japan time and 7am NZ time the lights were all turned on and everyone woken up for breakfast and prep for landing! Before we landed the flight attendants chose Simone and Devon to hand out the pre-landing sweets to everyone on the plane and then got informed they could apply to be a hostess at the age of 18! We had a smooth landing and even got a special welcome home by Air NZ. We all cheered and then put on our Disney ears to make out way out to our families. 

It was a special moment all going through the gate together to see everyone waiting for us. It was an amazing, life changing experience and I truly believe some of us will go back and will maintain the friendships we formed. From a teachers point of view I feel pretty lucky to have been on a trip with such amazing students. It almost seems strange that it’s all over now….. Here are the final few photos. Day 16 & 17.

Thanks for following our journey. I hope all the info and photos have helped you through your separation and that you got some wicked presents :)

Day 15
Holy Moly what a busy day we had today. This morning we headed off at 9am to catch the first train for the day… Little did we know how many trains we would end up being on….

We took 3 different trains to get to the temple this morning and spent about half an hour there going inside to make our donations and wishes then checking out and sampling the local food markets near by - It was pretty hot today so snow cones were a pretty big hit. Another highlight was seeing Vincent finally finding the perfect samurai sword that he had been hunting for the whole trip. He made his purchase and now we play the ‘can we get through customs’ game. 

From here we walked to Rox shopping centre and spent an hour furiously trying to find more shoes at ABC Mart and trying to find last minute gifts for everyone at home - not the most successful trip but as you will find out further down perhaps we needed to stop looking for shoes at that point….After this we made our way to the ‘Kitchen Street’ where some of the adults got to look at some things they might like to buy - such as very sharp knives. 

From here we caught another 3 trains (whilst standing and occasionally sitting on packed trains, going up and down a million stairs etc etc.) and got off right in down town Tokyo. The intersection there is the famous one you see on movies where literally a few million people a day cross! Also in regards to arriving at this intersection we went through a very flash, labyrinth of a train station - thank god for Yasu!! (guide).

We didn’t stay in that area long - just another train change before arriving in Harajuku. Not far down the road after hopping off we came across a Soccer shop that was 3 floors - needless to say some kids found it rather hard to listen to instructions after this. We split into groups and some immediately went into the soccer shop (and didn’t actually leave before our time was up). Others went down Harajuku street which is pretty famous around the world for its shopping and fashion. Small shopping successes were made during this time; Livvy got her Nike Pro’s she was after, Chelsea found some cool things to take home, Ben bought some pretty amazing Nike’s and Angus was able to get some headphones after missing out from the night before.
After our time was up we headed back to the train station to catch another 3 trains and travel for another hour to our final shopping stop for the day - A big mall with a BIG ABC Mart. We had one more hour to get all we needed/wanted and met up again at 5pm. It was clear that this was a successful shopping trip when we saw all the bags and smiles waiting at our meeting point. On one of the many trains we caught to get back to our hotel we began musing about how many pairs of shoes the group has bought in total on this trip and it became clear after asking a few people that we might have gone a little overboard. So we decided to do an officially tally on the number of shoes, socks and iPhone/iPod/Device cases bought (most popular items). You can check this out in the table below.

Anyway… After getting back we had a bit of time to freshen up before heading out again and - you guessed it - catching more trains to get to our restaurant. We went to a Korean BBQ Buffet where there were rows and rows of raw meats and veggies for you to choose from and then take back to your table and cook on your own little BBQ’s! Super Kawaii (Super cute - we have picked up some Japanese). Then we had a very special moment for our birthday girl of the day Caitlin. We were a bit crafty and organised a beautiful cake and candles and surprised her at the restaurant (see video). 

After all of this we finally caught our final trains for the day and got back to the hotel. The kids are now furiously packing their bags and finding their belongings before we leave tomorrow. Tomorrow we are going to the Zoo before we fly out so should be a great way to end the trip. Check out the photos from today by clicking on the link for Day 15

Also below are some comments from the kids about their Disneyland experience. :)

Alia - Disneyland was so big and fun. I spent lots of money and it was really cool. One of the rides I got scared and hated. 

Jemma - Disneyland was really cool, my favourite was Splash Mountain. We did lots of shopping and I spent a lot of money.

Angus - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Splash Mountain.

Cory - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Splash Mountain.

Cameron - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Space Mountain.

Ben - Disneyland rides were not that good but I enjoyed the feel of the place.

Connor - I really enjoyed the rides - Space Mountain, Star Tours and Splash Mountain.

Vincent - It was really fun, there were a lot of rides but I liked Space Mountain.

Amaaria - I really enjoyed the light parade and Splash Mountain.

Caitlin - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Splash Mountain. 

Chelsea - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Splash Mountain because it was really fast.

Livvy - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Splash Mountain because it was fun and well made.

Sophie - My favourite thing at Disneyland was Space Mountain. 

Kathryn - Seeing the excitement and looks on the kids faces while we were there. 

Kirsten - Loved Disneyland, thought it was very cool! My favourite ride was Space Mountain - it was really cool. Managed to fit in 8 rides - a fun day eating lots of food and walking around looking at the shops. 

Izzy - My favourite thing about Disneyland was the Space Mountain ride.

Simone - Disneyland was really. really fun and my favourite ride was Space Mountain. 

Kara - The best thing about Disneyland was the Tea Cup ride and Splash Mountain. I also liked the shopping and the light parade.

Devon - I liked seeing all the people and their different outfits at Disneyland. 

Jilian - My favourite thing about Disneyland was the light parade at night time and I remembered Space Mountain being a lot scarier than it was so it was tamer than I thought. 

Emma - The best part about Disneyland was going on all the rides and not being scared.

Alyssa - My favourite part of Disneyland was Splash Mountain because it had unexpected turns.

Nicky - My favourite part of Disneyland was Star Wars and the night parade with the lights - I thought the whole thing was fantastic and amazing. 

Diane - My favourite thing about Disneyland was the night parade and spending the day with you (Mallory). 

Mallory - My favourite ride was Splash Mountain and I really enjoyed the parade and fireworks. 

Day 14
Sorry about the delays in wiki update and for the photo link not working properly yesterday. The wifi at this hotel is a bit patchy - especially when it comes to loading lots of photos etc.

So… Yesterday was a big day. In the morning we split into two groups and headed off into Tokyo. One group went to their cycling tour and the other went to the metropolitan building, up 45 floors and got some pretty stunning views. There was also a bit of shopping to be had on the 45th floor - I think you can shop just about anywhere in this city. 

After this the two groups met up for some lunch and we got the run down on the other groups experience for bike riding. They really enjoyed their time cycling around Tokyo for 2 hours. There was a few accidents and it was extremely hot (31 degrees) but totally worth it they said. After lunch it was time for us to switch activities so they first cycling group headed off for the metropolitan tower and the other group got their turn for the cycling tour. i was in the group that did the cycling tour second and on our trip we actually had to shorten it because of how hot it was. However, we still got to go for an hour and a half and see parts of Tokyo you don’t get to see from the bus or the train. We also had one accident (Georgie Sensei) but she employed the ‘tuck and roll’ technique and is okay. By the end of our session we were all very hot, sweaty and probably a little smelly so we headed back to the hotel. We got in around 4.30 and then met up again (after the required showers) at 5.45. 

We then all jumped on a train and headed off for dinner. We went to a Chinese restaurant and ate some really good food! The kids really enjoyed the novelty of eating Chinese in Japan. 

After dinner we headed for Akihabara otherwise known as ‘Electric Street’ where there are streets of shops selling electrical goods. In terms of shopping it seemed like many people were on the hunt for some good headphones. In one shop we all decided on a good brand and price etc but when we tried to purchase them they said they only had one pair left - which went to Devon. So the rest of us (me in particular) went into mission mode trying to find another store that sold them. It got a bit desperate towards the end and I ended up running, going under half closed doors all in a frantic search for these headphones. Right at the end I went back to the first shop and tried talking to another person about it and low and behold he managed to find one more pair!! There are still a few people wanting them so today I think they will still be on the hunt. 

Today we are visiting a temple, Harajuku St, ABC Mart (again) and then having a relatively relaxing night before we all start trying to squish all our belongings back into our suitcases. Check out the photos by clicking on the link for Day 14.
Day 13
So today was Disneyland day… Need I say more?

Okay, I will say a little more. After a nice breakfast in our hotel we hopped on a couple of trains and headed for Tokyo Disneyland. We arrived around 9.30 and as we stepped closer and closer the excitement levels of the group escalated. Once inside we split into our groups and headed off to enjoy the magical world of Disneyland. Unfortunately this is where the story gets a little boring for you if your child was not in my group (I was with Amaaria, Caitlin, Livvy, Chelsea, Kara and Diane). However, we did meet up at various points during the day, took groups photo’s and tomorrow I will get a comment from each person about their experiences. 

So, first up was sorting out a fast pass for space mountain and then heading off to Toon Town. After this we hit the iconic tea cups and then went on Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain was definitely a group favourite! After that we raced back to space mountain for our fast pass ride and then continued through the park taking any and all opportunities to do the rides and shop!

At 5pm we all met up in front of Cinderella’s castle and started marking our territory for the big parade at 7.30. We all took it in turns to then visit close rides, the shops and get some food. At one point it started to rain a bit and they put an announcement over that the parade might be cancelled. Thankfully the weather cleared up and we got to witness a pretty stunning starlight parade (see photos and videos). 

About half an hour after this it was time for fireworks and then for the trip back to the hotel to begin. We arrived at our station around 10pm and then headed for McDonalds before getting our aching legs into bed. Something else really special on the trip today was Jillian’s Birthday!! What a treat, Disneyland, fireworks and McDonalds for your Birthday.

Tomorrow we are splitting into 2 groups and taking turns getting in more shopping (I seriously don’t know how there is money left) and then doing a 3 hour bike ride tour of Tokyo. I know that all the kids took heaps of photos today so I will do my best to pry their devices out of their hands long enough to steal more photos. Check out the photos for Day 13

P.S We all have some pretty amazing hats and ears to bring home!! 

Day 11 & 12
Sorry for the wiki update delay. Here is what has been going on for the past 48hours…

Yesterday we loaded all our gear (including at least 30 new pairs of shoes collectively) onto our bus and headed off to the Osaka aquarium. What a treat for everyone! So many cool things to see including penguins, sting rays, otters, seals, jellyfish, and even a whale shark! We took quite a lot of photos at the aquarium, please enjoy your visit to the Osaka aquarium :)

After this we headed to a close by mall and had lunch. Then somehow me managed to squeeze in a little more shopping and we all did our part to boost the Japanese economy. From here we hopped back on the bus and headed for Hiroshima. The bus trip was 4.5 hours with two breaks along the way. Luckily we had a very nice bus driver and before we headed off he stopped at the depot and picked up some DVD’s and the kids were able to watch Monsters University and Wreck it Ralph making the journey a bit easier for them.

We arrived after 5pm at our hotel (Comfort Hotel) in Hiroshima, had a bit of time to freshen up and then headed out for dinner to try the famous locally invented dish Okonomiyaki. This dish is a mixture of omelette and noodle cake with meat and veggies in it. It was delicious!! Just about everyone finished theirs which was made harder by the delicious entrees we had eaten. From here we hit a near by shopping street for, you guessed it, more shopping. One of our favourite shops as a group has definitely been ABC Mart (shoe shop). We visited 3 different ABC Mart’s last night and even more shoes were purchased. Then at 8.30 we met up and headed back to our hotel for re-packing bags and a good nights sleep. Click on the following link to see photos from Day 11. 

Day 12

This morning we had an early start, quick breakfast and made sure we had packed our bags well for the trip to Tokyo later on. First off we loaded our gear onto the bus and headed to the peace park and museum in Hiroshima. 

The museum was a real eye opener for everyone about the reality of what happened when the A-Bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and how that event then continued to affect Japan. What made it really real and relatable for the kids was all the stories about kids their age who were at school in the area when it happened. Some students did get a bit emotional about it and it was particularly sad to read the story about the young girl Sakado; whose death, due to leukaemia caused by radiation, was the catalyst for a monument in the peace park and the reason our students and thousands of other people make paper cranes to hang in the park. 

When we went into the peace park we chose Jillian and Caitlin to ring the bell at the monument since they have birthdays while we are on this trip. Then Simone and Emma were chosen to hang the paper cranes. It was really amazing to see all the contributions of paper cranes from all over the world and the heartfelt messages of peace. After this we visited the A-dome which is a building that, prior to the Atom bomb being dropped, was a space where exhibitions were shown. Then during times of war it was used as a military base. When the A-Bomb was dropped the building was about 600m from the hypercentre and the building suffered a lot of damage and everyone inside was killed instantly. The iconic dome on top still holds its structure and during the time of rebuilding there was a lot of public support for leaving the building as a monument. After this we visited a relatively new memorial museum that is also in the peace park. It was really interesting to learn more about the families that had relatives that were killed on injured. (Sorry for the mini history lesson).

After this we had a lunch break and then headed to the train station to get on the bullet train to Tokyo. We are currently on the train as I type this so I will jump back on the wiki later on to put up all the photos from today and give you the info about what else we got up to. I will say this though…. Tomorrow is Disneyland day so the kids are pretty excited!!

Alright, we are now all at our hotel and settled in. We got here not long after 5 and because it's Disneyland day tomorrow the kids had dinner and then an early night. However, the adults did go out for a bit of shopping and while it was not very successful in terms of buying things, it was quite funny when I got separated from everyone else in a big department store and then got escorted from the building while trying to hunt everyone down. In the mean time the others wandered around every floor calling out for me like a lost cat.... Kirsten found this particularly funny. Click on the following link for the photos from Day 12.
Day 10

This morning we headed off from the Youth hostel for the train station. We caught 3 different trains to reach our stop and then headed towards the Earthquake museum. On our way there we were warned to look out for the ‘snotty nosed deer’ on the walkway. To be honest this was kind of hard to picture but we found ourselves walking along and then casually there were deer just lying on the footpath or walking around sniffing for food. We bought some deer biscuits and had a tourist moment feeding them and taking probably way too many photos. Finally we made it to the Earthquake museum and some of the students got to be strapped into a chair and experience the difference between feeling the full impact of an earthquake and what they would feel like when a building has a stability mechanism in place. 

From here we made our way to the first temple of the day. By far this was the most impressive temple we have seen. It is HUGE!!! and inside is the biggest Buddha I am every likely to see. (see photos that don’t do it justice). Another important feature we found inside the temple was a large pole with a hole at the base of it which is referred to as ‘Buddha’s nostril’ and it is considered very good luck if you can fit through the rather small space. Most of the kids had a turn and made it through (see photos) and then Martin showed up the adults by doing it. Then I said I was thinking about doing it and Gary made the mistake of questioning my ability to do so. I lined up and one way or another I was getting through that hole!! I am pleased to say that while I have some rather large bruises now I managed to achieve it and Gary had to pay up 500yen!!

After we left here we stopped for a quick lunch break and headed off to the Thousand Lantern Temple. This temple was smaller but still very beautiful and actually more peaceful. It had a lot of gardens and thankfully some shade for us as today the temp got up near 30 degrees. 

As we made our way from here we headed towards a shopping street and split into groups to have an hour and a half of shopping. Most of the purchases this afternoon were made at the 100yen store Daiso. We then had Mister Donut and headed back to the train station. We caught another 3 trains back to our hostel, showered ate and then headed out for a shopping night. 

We went to a famous shopping street in Osaka and sorry we did not take photos and honestly I don’t think photo’s would be enough. There were just people, and lights and sights and sounds and shops everywhere! We split into groups again and were given another hour and a half for shopping. Just about everyone in the group rushed off to ABC Mart (shoe shop) and made one or two purchases here. We will be a very well shod group when we depart tomorrow. Others found iPhone/iPod cases, some found socks and even some clothes. We all met up again at 9.30 and headed back to our hostel to pack our bags and get ready to depart early tomorrow morning. For some this was a harder task than it was for others. Please look at the photos of some of the girls trying to re-pack there bags…. Not ideal at this time. It is now 11.10 and I can still hear kids trying to find all their gear. I think there will be plenty of students sleeping on the bus tomorrow as we head to Hiroshima. Check out the photo’s from today at this link Day 10.

Day 8 & 9
So much has happened over the last few days so I will do my best to summarise everyones different experiences below. I will go over what they did Friday night, what they did Saturday and a little comment about their home stay experience. Following that will be the run down of what happened today and the link to the photos… Hopefully this does not turn into a mini novel.

No comments from Alia as she is out with her aunties tonight :)

Summary of Weekend events:

This morning we all met up at the council building in Hara Mura with our bags packed (some already looking like they might pop open) and a bus waiting for us. We had speeches from the Council representative and then from Gary. Then our boys performed a haka twice; once just them and then the second time with the boys from Hara Mura Junior High (see videos). Then it was time to say goodbye to our host families and I have to say it was harder than I think we all thought it would be. The crying for some almost bordered on hysterical, the host families cried and I also cried a bit too. I think the emotions shown are a testament to how wonderful our time in Hara Mura was. We have all made great connections and probably friends for life. It was honestly an amazing and life changing experience. 

After this we hopped on the bus, dried our eyes, and headed for Kyoto. Along the way we stopped at a few different bus stops and had snacks and our lunch. A few kids are learning the hard way that if you don’t pay attention when instructions are given you get fined 100yen (equivalent of roughly $1). On the flip side other students are reaping the benefits of this by answering questions and helping out and have been earning 100 yen. 

We arrived in Kyoto at about 1.30pm and got our first little taste of tightly packed buildings, roads and people. We walked up a very busy street to see Kiyomeza dera temple. In front of the temple there were some geisha girls that you could take photos with (no photos taken by me but done by students - please note we got split into groups so could only take photos of the people I was with so if you see lots of photos of the same people thats why - not blatant favouritism). At this point we also met up with Ben’s dad Martin - a welcome addition to our group. Parts of the temple were being worked on so could not see all aspects of it but there were some stunning views. At one point there are two big rocks roughly 8 metres apart. The story goes that if you are alb to walk from one rock to the other with your eyes closed then you will have luck in love. The kids were pretty keen on this and even did it twice!! The story we came up with was that because Cory and Jemma touched it at the same time that they would be perfect together - it may sound a little hasty but we are planning for a quick wedding tomorrow morning before we catch the train (Im tired and think I’m funny).

After seeing all the sights and taking some pictures we were allowed 45mins to hit the shops we passed on the way up to the tempe. I think my group (Alia, Chelsea, and Jemma) make a great shopping team. We cut through those shops with efficiency and only made sensible purchases…. who knew girls could do that?! 

At 3pm we all met up back at the bus and hopped back on to head off to our next temple; Kinkuji. This temple was thankfully a lot less busy and we got 45mins to wander through some beautiful gardens and look at the stunning temple. The top 2 floors of this temple are covered in gold leaf! (see photos). Before we left the kids topped themselves up with drinks from the vending machine. Chelsea selected a peach flavoured beverage and was pretty happy with her purchase until I pointed out she had just bought a drink that was 10% alcohol…..needless to say this was disposed off (no I did not drink it). 

As we hopped back on the bus we headed for our final stop; Osaka. I think I’m pretty clever and did a time-lapse video of our bus trip (until my phone died). For us the trip was just over an hour but you can watch a quick version of it in the YouTube video below in just a few minutes.

After this trip we arrived at Nagai Youth Hostel in Osaka, had a lovely dinner and then students got their first chance to use the communal showers and baths (if they wanted). Tomorrow we have an early start, another temple to visit and 6 trains to catch!! Phew! Check out the Wiki tomorrow for another update. Here’s the link for photos for Day 9.

Day 6 & 7
Day 6
Early in the morning we all met up at the elementary school and it was, for the first time, a little drizzly. The kids all got into their performance gear and headed off to do their performance in a massive gym while Diane, Jillian, Kirsten, Nicky, Andy and myself headed off to Matsumoto for the day. The first paragraph will be an update about the adults and then afterwards will be all about the kids. If you’re not fussed about whether we’re alive or not then skip the adult part :)

We got a ride to Chino and then hopped on a train to Matsumoto. From the station we walked up to the Matsumoto Castle which is a national treasure. By this stage the weather had changed dramatically and it turned into stunning day. At the castle they offer free tour guides for anyone so we did the touristy thing and had a guide take us through. We got a lot of information and it was really interesting. Afterwards we went out for lunch at a little restaurant. Nicky and Kirsten got Bento boxes, Diane and myself got Tempura prawns while Andy got a rather interesting dish…… a combination of cooked and raw HORSE! Afterwards we split up and went looking for shops. Diane and Nicky found some cool Japanese ornaments, Jillian enjoyed seeing what Japanese chemists are like and Kirsten and I found ABC Shoes and some incredible and cheap Converse, Nike and Vans shoes. Andy seemed to disappear when the shopping started and we didn't see him again until time to leave. We got our train back to Chino and then got driven back to Hara to meet up with our families. A great day out!

When the students went into the gym they did their performance and then the whole school sang them a beautiful song. After this each grade took it in turns to come in and do a performance and teach the students something new (see photos). It ranged from skipping rope performances to full on gymnastic/semi-cheerleading stunts where students hopped on top of each other and even made a pyramid. 

A game the students all talked about was Japanese paper, scissor rocks. If you lost your round you had to stand behind the winner and put your hands on their shoulders until a big long train was created and the winner stood at the front. In the end there were 3 winners and they were all from Pukekohe Intermediate School; Sophie, Connor and Vincent.

For lunch the kids were all split up into 2’s or 3’s and went off to a different classroom. The kids kept commenting about how different their experiences were. Some classes were noisy, some were quiet and some were a bit all over the place. For lunch they were served a cucumber salad, miso soup, roasted nuts and milk. 

After lunch they were back in the gym for the rest of the performances and they saw some pretty spectacular things and they managed to drain the camera batteries with all the photos they took!

The experience at the elementary was very different to their experience at the junior high but the students enjoyed their experiences and playing with the younger kids.Check out yesterday's photos at this link Day 6 and keep reading below for Day 7 info and a link to even more photos!

Day 7
Today we were all back at Hara Junior High and straight back into their classes. First they all went onto the field and played a game where the students (in 4 groups) had to line up shoulder to shoulder and tie their legs together and walk from one end of field to the other. Needless to say this was easier said than done and we had students falling over and stumbling. They came up with a strategy for being in time by saying “PO-TA-TO” (in reference to a song they heard yesterday) and then stepping on each syllable. After this they were split up into their 2 groups. One group headed off to English class and the others headed to the hall for P.E which was Kendo. The group in the English class started off with “Sensei says” and then got into small groups to practise conversations in English by playing a word game.

The Kendo group got to dress up in some fighting gear (similar to what was used at the arrival party) and practised some different fighting stances and moves. It was great to see the kids become confident at this through out the session. After a quick break they went off into their groups again and one group went to science class where they popped some popcorn and the other group went to Music class. During this time the kids taught the Japanese students some New Zealand games like Pukana, Somakalau, The Cup Song (not actually an NZ thing) and then quite strangely The Dougie (Google this at your own peril). 

Then it was lunch time and today we were all served milk, noodles with a mince stew, salad and some quite delicious doughnuts. (see photo)

In the afternoon the groups were off at science and Japanese. The science class in the afternoon had quite an interesting lesson. The teacher tried giving instructions in English, this is what he said:

“This is incest (incense - cue laughter from New Zealanders)… You do like this” - some hand gestures related to putting the incense in a test tube…gestures could be misinterpreted if you’re talking about incest… (cue more laughter). 

The students worked through the experiment and then, like anyone who is given a lighter and incense, made small fires at their tables (see photos). The lesson concluded with the teacher making bubbles on his bench using a special gas (couldn’t understand) and then lighting them. This created a very loud bang which the students enjoyed. The group doing Japanese had their turn at teaching NZ games as described above. 

After all this excitement it was time for our final farewell assembly. For the first time ever the Hara Junior High students put on a performance at this assembly. It was very impressive. They sang beautifully (see video) and we especially enjoyed the boys doing the Haka!! Then it was our students turn to put on their performance. They did a wonderful job and should be very proud. Unfortunately as I was behind stage for parts of it (doing the music/tech side of things) I only have some of the videos but I will be getting the rest on Sunday. At the very end the boys re-performed the Haka with some of the boys from Hara Mura Junior High and boy was it impressive!! So much so that it gave us chills and even got some people a bit teary eyed. A very special moment (see video). 

Then our display of Tuku Tuku panels was put up on the walls of the school along with a NZ flag with messages from everyone. Make sure you check the photos for this and also spot the adults looking a little like a sewing circle in the morning trying to finish everything off!!

Then it was time to go back to our home room and pack up and say our farewells to the school. I think it was a bit hard for some of the kids which means that there will probably be tears on Sunday when we say goodbye properly. Tomorrow is everyone’s final day out with their host families so on Sunday I will do a catch up with everyone and let you know what they all got up to over the weekend. I do know that some students are going to Karaoke tonight!! Check out today’s photos at this link Day 7

Day 4 and 5
This morning we all met up again at Hara Mura Junior High and shared our stories about our day out with our host families. Down further I have done a summary of this from the students and the adults. - There are also some extra photos from other days emailed to me students/parents. 

Today (day 5) we all met up and then headed off to the memorial site for the Pukekohe and Hara Mura cultural exchange/friendship agreement. In 2002 students planted trees and created a small totem. We took some photos and then headed off to the library. Students got a chance to look around and Kirsten got attacked by a bear - please note this was not a real bear (see photos).

Side note - Kirsten is staying very far out in the woods and has to wear a bell outside to scare the bears away….

Anyway… After the library we went to the Nursery School to visit the students there. They have students from ages 1-5. They were very cute and the kids got to be involved in their daily exercise, do a parachute performance and play a game (photos and videos). Afterwards our students were asked to perform the Haka and some were a little worried it might scare the kids. Turns out there was no need to worry because once they started most of the kids just cracked up laughing - I do not think this was a reflection on their Haka.

After the Nursery School we all piled onto the “bus” which could probably be more accurately described as a long car. It was very tightly packed and a lot of people were seat sharing. We took the bus up to the Hara Mura history museum and the kids got to play on the ‘crazy bikes’ (see photos). They had a lot of fun and so some of the adults decided to join in too. After this we went into the grounds and Mr Sweeney and the students played frisbee and soccer and we had a massive picnic. Then we went into the museum to look at everything. One of the most interesting/awful things were these massive rhino beetles. At first we thought they were dead but as it turns out they alive and openly on display. One was stuck on its back and need help to get up the right way so with lots of screaming (me and some girls) Vincent decided to take charge and put it back in the garden (see video). They we found another one in the wrong place and Amaaria took the lead and got it back (with some screaming) to its place (video). Then Cory decided that because Miss Morris is obviously afraid that he would come up behind me and touch my ankle. I freaked out and ran away and warned Cory my reaction next time might not work out in his favour (all good fun). 

After this we piled back into our bus and headed to a traditional Japanese house that is 500 years old. There we got to be involved in a range of activities including a tea ceremony, trying on Kimono and weaving using silk. There are some really cool photos of this and not all were taken by me so I asked students to email them to me when they get a chance and then I will share on the Wiki.

Then it began to rain a little and we headed back to Hara Junior High to go home with our families. Tomorrow we are all meeting up at the elementary school where the students will get to do their speeches and performances again. You can check out all the photos and videos (over 200!!) by clicking on the following link. Day 5.

Below is a few words from all the students and adults about what they got up to yesterday and their favourite thing from today:

Alia - Yesterday we went to Matusomoto castle and we visited all the streets in that area. The castle was really big and everything was very different to New Zealand stuff and we went shopping. Angus, Cory, Cameron, Livvy and Cailtin and I all went and we had lots of fun. 

Amaaria - Yesterday I went to Matsumoto castle and then I went to an Italian pizza parlour and then I went shopping and more shopping and then food shopping. For dinner we went to Sushi Train and I liked the castle and pizza the most.
Today I really enjoyed putting on the Kimono and playing on the pedal cars.

Alyssa - Yesterday I went to Disney Sea and my favourite ride was Journey to the Centre of the Earth and at the Disney shop I bought an iPod cover and a mini mouse drink holder.

My favourite part from today was going to the traditional Japanese house and trying on the Kimono and trying the tea.

Izzy - Yesterday we made tradtional Japanese noodles called Soba and we also did some shopping. 

Today my favourite part was having lunch in the park.

Emma - Yesterday we went to Matusomoto castle and we had pizza and my family took me to the arcade and we won some toys. We met up with my Mum and her home stay and went to Sushi Train for dinner.

Today my favourite thing was seeing all the little kids at the nursery school do their fitness and seeing how they play.

Chelsea - Yesterday I went up the mountains and we stopped and walked right to the top (I forgot what the mountain was called). Then we came back down and got ice cream and went to a gift shop. Then we had lunch and a rest and then played Tennis, Soccer and Badminton. Then for dinner we went to Sushi Train.

Today my favourite part was trying on the Kimono and doing the silk weaving.

Sophie - Yesterday I went to a sweet factory, went shopping and had McDonalds for lunch. 

My favourite part today was going to see the little kids at the Nursery School.

Simone - Yesterday I went to Tokyo and went to the famous fashion area Harajuku and went shopping. Then I went to Sushi Train for dinner and it was really nice.

Today my favourite part was going to the Nursery School and playing with all the little kids and doing the activities and going to the museum and playing at the park.

Cory - Yesterday we went to Matsumoto castle and went shopping and the Sushi Train. The highlight was the Sushi Train with all the different types of sushi.

Today the best part was riding all the bikes.

Livvy - Yesterday I went to Matusomoto castle and I got to take a photo with a samurai. 

My favourite part today was trying on the Kimono.

Ben - Yesterday I went to Sewer lake (polluted lake) and I went into a glass museum and saw lots of glass things. 

Today my favourite part was the the traditional Japanese activities. 

Devon - Yesterday I went shopping with my home stay families friends. We went to a very big mall and to the arcade. Then we drove for 2 hours to a massive water slide park and we had Sushi Train for dinner. 

Today I enjoyed playing with the kids at the Nursery and trying on the Kimono and experiencing the Japanese culture.

Vincent - Yesterday I went to a gaming place and then I went to the cinema. Then for dinner we went to Sushi Train.

My favourite part today was the traditional Japanese activities.

Kara - Yesterday we went to Fuji Q and the rides were really scary but exciting and way better than New Zealand. My favourite part was going out with the family. 

Today my favourite part of the day was going to the Nursery School and seeing and playing with all the little kids.

Jemma - Yesterday we went to a sweet factory where they make ice creams and other things. Then we went to a space museum to see a space theatre, then went to sewer lake and then out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. 

Today my favourite part was playing games with the little kids. 

Connor - Yesterday we went to the ice cream factory and you could eat as many ice creams as you wanted for free so that was cool. Then we went to a gaming centre called Round 1. It had lots of cool games. Then we went to Sushi Train for dinner and it was really nice and then we went shopping but I didn’t buy anything.

Today my favourite part was playing frisbee with everyone.

Cameron - Yesterday and 5 other people and their host families went to Matsumoto Castle and then we went shopping. Next to the shopping place was a sushi bar and we all had sushi there. Then we went shopping again and my host family bought me some gifts. Then we went to an arcade and had some photos taken. Then we played some games and the father won a samurai sword for me. Then we went to dinner at a place that specialises in chicken dishes. 

My favourite part today was being with the little kids and doing their fitness.

Angus - Yesterday we went to Matsumoto Castle with other people. Then we went to a frog St that had lots of frogs. Then we went to Sushi Train and a train delivered sushi to us. I ate squid which was weird. Then we went shopping and went to an arcade then went home. 

My favourite part today was the bikes and seeing all the little kids at the Nursery School. 

Nikki - Having an amazing time here and am being really spoilt by my home stay family. Enjoying all the different cultural aspects I am learning about.
Kirsten - On Monday night I went to Onsing and a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Tuesday I went to Tokyo for shopping in Harajuku and went to sushi train for dinner. I really enjoyed the Onsing; it was really fun and interesting. 

Diane - I travelled to a Kenjo temple yesterday which was really amazing. A couple of highlights were travelling through an underground passage to rub the key for entry to Paradise. Also my first go at eating Soba noodles. Had a fabulous day out with my family. 

Jillian - Yesterday I went for a big hike up a mountain 1955 metres high. It had very nice views of Hara Mura from the top and for dinner we met up with Emma’s family at the Sushi bar which was cool. Nothing that I haven't liked. The food is good! Having a great time.

Kathryn - Yesterday I went to the ABC outlet store and met up with my home stay daughter from 6 years ago unexpectedly.
My highlight from today was dressing up in the traditional Kimono.

Mallory - Yesterday I went to Ropeway up in the mountains and went on a big gondola that holds 40+ people. Then at the top of the mountains we went for a walk and had lunch and did some shopping. Later we went to a museum and then went home for a delicious home made tempura dinner. 

Day 3 -First day at Hara Mura Junior High
Today was our first day at Hara Mura Junior High. We all met up after our first night of home stay and the room was buzzing with conversations about all the cool and different things the students got to experience. We were all taken into their school gym for an official welcome. The students that had visited NZ earlier this year made speeches in English about their NZ experiences and then the students got to present their speeches and did a fantastic job. They then got split into small groups and were buddied up with some students from Hara Mura Junior High and then got set a challenge. They had to take 3 photos around various points of the school including getting a photo with the Principal. Then students were split into 2 main groups and went off to their first classes for the day. Half went to home economics where they made Japanese fruit salad. The other half went to industrial arts where they had to create ramps from card that a ping pong ball could travel down and make their ramp last the longest (see photos and videos).

Then it was lunchtime and we were served flavoured rice balls, lotus root soup, coleslaw, squid and milk. Most students gave the food a go and some seemed to really enjoy it. Then in the afternoon the groups went off to different classes again. One group went to English and got to have conversations about Japanese culture in English. The other half went to Fine Arts and made origami flower balls (see photos). Then the groups met up again and it was their turn to teach the Japanese students. The boys took a group of Japanese boys to the gym and taught them the haka. Half of the girls took some groups to the gym to teach them the poi while the rest taught Tuku tuku paneling. All the kids were wonderful teachers; showing patience and getting really into the subject they were leading. 

Then at 3.30 it was cleaning time. The kids found out that in Japanese schools they do not have cleaners. At the end of each day the students have 15mins and are assigned an area of the school to clean. The kids were a little blown away by this and a lot of them made the comment that the school was really clean anyway. They then realised that because the students have to clean any messes they probably tried to keep things clean anyway. After this it was time for club activities where they had to go with their buddy and join in their activity such as football, basketball etc. Then school finally finished at 5.30pm making it a very long day for them all. Tomorrow is a public holiday which means that they are going out with their host families. I will catch up with everyone on Wednesday to give you an update on what they got to do with their families. Below is a table that goes over the students highlight from their first night of home stay, the first day of school and a comment about some of the interesting food they have tried. You can also check out all the photos and videos by clicking on the following link. Day 3

Day 2 - Arriving in Hara Mura
Today we ate our breakfast at Narita View Hotel (buffet style) before hopping on the bus and heading off towards Hara Mura. As we made our way into Tokyo City we saw just how large and incredible the city is. The kids were glued to the windows and there was no doubting that we were tourists with all the cameras out. For our first rest stop we exited the motorway using the sharpest downward spiralling off ramp which prompted the comment from Devon “This feels like we’re on Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”. We stopped at Family Mart and bought some snacks (lollies and ice cream) and experienced our first public toilets which Chelsea did not wish to use. (please refer to the photos).

As we continued to drive through Tokyo the kids noticed lots of different things. Here is a summary of things they found interesting:
Street lamps are cute and have pandas on them
There are vending machines on the side of the road EVERYWHERE. The most spotted in a row was 7.
There was no rubbish
Bike riding is very popular and no one wears helmets
Some men run in very short shorts
Some women are not women
McDonalds has a McDelivery system (see photo)
Some car parks are stackable ones
Some people put nappies on their dogs (photo will come tomorrow)
Lollies that smell nice may not taste nice
After getting delayed in traffic by over an hour we made another stop at some shops. This time we all tried ‘The Nutty Bavarian’ nuts which were almonds, cashews and peanuts cooked and coated in what can only be described as deliciousness. Needless to say we bought some and ate them all. At around 2pm we arrived at the council building in Hara Mura. We were all nervous and excited. We each took our turn to say our speech (see photos - apologies if a bit shaky, I was very nervous and my hands were not the steadiest). Then we were introduced to our host families and presented with a gift (photos). Then we got to see some traditional Japanese Kimono and play some great ice breaker games. The kids in particular got very competitive during a game similar to musical chairs where you have to stand on newspaper when the music stops. The winner in the end was Cory! The families and students also performed some musical items (see photos and videos). Then it was our turn to perform and the kids did an amazing job. When the kids surprised them by singing Sukiyaki one lady was moved to tears. They were impressed the kids had made so much effort. After that we had a meeting and then it was time to go home with our home stay families. I think the reality of not having their friends around hit some of the kids and they were a bit nervous about it all but if their first night of home stay was anything like mine then they will be having a great time. Tomorrow is our first day of school and we get to say our speeches again and then off to the classes. Check out the photos from today on the following link and there will be another update tomorrow. If for some reason a day is missed, I apologise, connecting to internet is not always super simple.
Day 2

P.S I just noticed the video play back does not always work smoothly so it might be best to download the clips to view them :)
Arrival Day/Day 1
This morning we left New Zealand at 8.30am for a long and interesting flight to Japan. Numerous movies were watched on the way and a few students and possibly a staff member or 2 were spotted crying while watching The Fault In Our Stars. Our funny moment on the plane was when Angus decided the woman sitting next to him was not going to wake up any time soon and her ice cream was melting so very kindly ate it for her. 

We arrived at Narita airport just before 5pm local time and made our way to the Narita View Hotel. Dinner and dessert was buffet style. Ice cream and waffles was definitely the highlight. 

Highlight of the day from the students:
Cameron - The hotel
Cory - I liked the food
Angus - I liked the K-Fry
Connor - I like the toilet gadgets
Vincent - I liked the food
Ben - I like everything
Jemma - Arriving in Japan
Alia - I liked the food
Sophie - I liked the food for dinner
Caitlin - The food on the plane
Chelsea - Getting off the plane
Alyssa - Trying new food
Amaaria - On the plane watching movies
Izzy - On the plane
Simone - On the plane
Devon - The food
Emma - Getting off the plane
Kara - Flying into Japan
Livvy - Landing in Tokyo

It is now 8.30pm local time but our bodies think it is 11.30pm so we are preparing for bed and an early start tomorrow before we head off the Hara Mura to meet our home stay families. Check out the photos by clicking on the following link. Day 1

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