Cherry Blossoms, School Days and “Sailor” Uniforms in the First Weeks of Life in Japan

Cherry Blossoms, School Days and “Sailor” Uniforms in the First Weeks of Life in Japan

by Lily McFeeters, CCI Greenheart Travel High School Exchange student in Japan

Hisashiburi desu! (It’s been a long time!) So much has happened since my last post. A week before school started in Japan, we celebrated hanami, a centuries old custom which literally means “flower viewing.”  Everyone carefully watches the blossom forecast. Ideally, when the blossoms are in full bloom, friends and family gather together and enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossom trees, or sakura. Sakura embodies many symbolic cultural interpretations, one being that of the samurai.  Just as a cherry blossom suddenly falls to the ground upon reaching its peak, so too would the samurai readily sacrifice himself in his prime, should he be called upon to do so.

For our picnic, Obaa-san prepared oden, a hot-pot stew made from various ingredients such as egg, tofu, daikon (white radish), and chikuwa (a tube-shaped fish cake), stewed in a soy-sauce flavored fish broth called dashi.

The Japanese school year begins in April and ends in March. I bike thirty minutes to school everyday, rain or shine. All Japanese schools, both public and private, require a uniform that is unique to each school. My school has generously loaned me both a bicycle and a uniform, which can be quite expensive. Here we are on our first day, and no, we haven’t joined the navy; these are our winter school uniforms. Clearly, some students are very excited about their first day!

I am a “first year” (sophomore equivalent, even though I am a senior at home), a.k.a., year 1, class 8, student number 41 (ichi-nen hachi-kumi yonjuu ichi-ban). There are 40 students in my class, about 20 girls and 20 boys. Here is a picture of me with my friends Megu (Megumi) and Rika. Now that it’s gotten warmer, some of us have opted to wear our summer uniforms.

The first day of school, the other exchange students and I were asked to prepare a self-introduction for the entire 2nd and 3rd year classes. During the first school week, all the Japanese students have placements tests, so we exchange students, Aotea, Oliver, Camila and I, went to the library to prepare for our cultural presentation.

Even though we were all a bit nervous, our presentations were well received. After the introductory ceremony, many students enthusiastically waved to us and said, “Hello!” or “Ohayo!” (Good morning!). Some students even leaned outside their classroom windows to show their appreciation.

We occasionally have a half-day of school on Saturdays. On this day, my host sister, Momo-chan, the other three exchange students, and I went to the mall and ate takoyaki (fried dough with octopus).

Afterwards, we went shopping and did purikura, shortened for Purinto Kurabu (Print Club). This is a popular photo booth stall where you take silly photos with your friends, like Aotea and me. The photos are then printed into really cool stickers.

Thank you for all the comments, emails, and words of encouragement that I have been receiving from friends and relatives. It really means a lot to me. My host family has been so incredibly hospitable. I am having such a wonderful experience.

19 thoughts on "Cherry Blossoms, School Days and “Sailor” Uniforms in the First Weeks of Life in Japan"

  1. amarah says:

    Hello! ^.^ I’m VERY interested in this program, and am hoping to begin my preparations to go on this trip. I am just wondering (for my parents and me) how much the trip costs. I have been saving up for awhile now, but I’m still not sure what the pricing range in whole is.

    1. Brandy says:

      Hi Amarah! Thanks so much for your interest in Greenheart Travel High School Abroad programs. To learn more about our program fees, please visit our website: http://www.greenhearttravel.org or feel free to email me directly berwin@greenhearttravel.org

      Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

  2. sierra says:

    ahh i want to go so badly after looking at this, but i have to have everything in be the 15th and its already the 11th! i just found this today :0 iv been wanting to go for awhile now 🙂 you seem to be having lots of fun and your very pretty!
    well thanks for posting this, it helped me make my desicion to go!

    exchange student (hopefully) sierra 🙂
    P.S .i really like your pictures!

    1. Hi Sierra, that is fantastic that you are interested in studying abroad! I’m not sure if you have started applying, but the deadline to study in Japan has been extended to Oct. 15 – don’t hesitate to contact Greenheart Travel with any questions and good luck on studying abroad! http://www.cci-exchange.com/travelabroad/program.aspx?id=666

  3. Susan Souder says:

    Wow – great blog. I enjoyed the photos, too. Susan Souder

  4. Nana says:

    OH I am so happy to see you in those uniforms. You look like you fit right in. Today is your birthday in Japan. Happy, Happy Birthday, our wonderful granddaughter. We will see you in August for sure.

    Love,

    Nana and Poppop

  5. Steve Heaney says:

    Lily, you look great and so happy as well! I’m glad you have the opportunity to do this. You’re still my favorite student ever, and I hope you enjoy this experience to the fullest and remember it for life.

    Steve Heaney-Towson U

  6. Dr. McCartney says:

    What a wonderful experience, Lily! So glad to hear that you are getting everything that you can out of this experience! – Dr. McCartney

  7. Jennifer says:

    Hi Lily,
    I thoroughly enjoy reading about your experience. Your spirit shines through in your superbly-written posts! You are an amazing young lady! I know that you are cherishing every moment. You deserve these life-enhancing times!
    xoxo,
    Jennifer

  8. Tim Patterson says:

    I enjoy reading your blog. Looks like you’re building a lifelong memorable experience. Enjoy and keep us up to date on your activities.
    Uncle Tim

  9. German de Patricio says:

    ¡Hola, Lily! Todo parece muy bonito. And you really look integrated in the pictures!
    Have fun (and learn!) y diviertete!
    German de Patricio, Towson U.

  10. Barbara Rosenberger says:

    Greetings, Lily,

    So very interesting and the photos truly add a great deal to my enjoyment of your experiences.

    XXBarbara Rosenberger

  11. James McFeeters says:

    Hey Lily
    We are happy to see you are doing so well in Japan. This is an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
    Love Uncle Jimmy,Aunt Heather and Tristan. Sarah Elizabeth will be here in September. We are very excited.

  12. Trisha Browne says:

    HI Lily Looks and sound like you are having a wonderful time and an experience you will never forget. I agree with the earlier comments you just blend right in with your natural beauty.

  13. Lily, thanks for keeping us informed. I have enjoyed every one of your messages. I’m extreemly pleased that your having such a great experiances.

    Love to you and your host family,
    Grandpa Greg

  14. Marlene Riley says:

    Hi Lily,
    With your straight bangs, you are blending right in! Looks like you are having a great adventure. Enjoy!
    Marlene

  15. Tracy Hall says:

    It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time and adapting well! I love reading your posts and can’t wait for more.

  16. Sue Nolan says:

    Lily – this is incredible -you look like a different person! Like a real Japanese School girl! Guinness and I send our love,

    Sue

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