High school teacher Ryosuke Suzuki writes on the biggest cultural and service excursion of the year, Explorations Week—a week when the whole high school heads out to all parts of Japan and beyond.
Our 31st annual high school trip program, Explorations Week, took place between November 20 and 22. High school students and faculty members participated in a wide range of trips designed to engage students in community service, outdoor adventure or cultural and language experience.
Grade nine students ventured out to the Hakone and Mt. Fuji area to participate in a series of outdoor activities as well as staying at a Japanese-style guest house called minshuku. One ninth-grade student said about her experience, “I liked that minshuku was very cozy and at home. The people there were really nice, and took really good care of us.”
Our tenth-grade students took part in a home-stay experience in the Nagano region to learn about life in rural Japan. They gained hands-on farming experience, participated in a local karasu dance (the traditional crow dance), learned how to pound mochi and engaged in additional outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking.
For eleventh and twelfth-graders, we organized eight overnight trips around Japan and one local day trip. The trips offered this year include:
- Outdoor activities in Okutama
- Fukuoka: seeing sumo tournaments and exploring the city
- Osaka: volunteering at an animal refuge in Osaka
- Kagoshima: visiting the space center in Tanegashima
- Tohoku: visiting a local school to provide English lessons
- Shikoku: engaging in a mini Shikoku pilgrimage walking tour
- Shizuoka: visiting a local high school and exploring the city
- Kyoto: collaborating with two long-lasting Kyoto businesses and exploring the old capital
- Local Tokyo/Kawagoe Trip: a kabuki experience and visiting Kawagoe city
Equaled in number only by their experiences during explorations weeks, our students had much to say on the trip. A mainstay of the week were the opportunities to experience various cultures. One student writes, “I loved being able to work with the people at the village. I also loved the culture day where we were able to experience things that’s hard to experience in Japan.” Another student looks fondly on, “going for dinner by ourselves and getting to see another city and experience new cultures. The final part of the hike and feeling the ‘enlightenment’ of knowing the task I’ve achieved.”
On the visit to the animal refuge, several students share the sentiment that “It was fun to go to the animal shelters and get to spend time with the animals. It really opened my eyes to see that there are a lot of animals without homes, and that there should be measures taken to decrease this as much as possible.”
In addition to the activities listed above, members of our Habitat for Humanity group traveled to Sri Lanka while Abot Kamay students went to Thailand in two of our long-standing service trips. On final trip included among the Explorations Week ventures was the varsity basketball teams’ trip to Hong Kong.