by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant
Another cool event that happens at Japanese schools is the school trip. Every year a certain grade (in our case, the second year students) goes off on a trip for a few days, usually to another part of Japan. This trip happens in elementary school, high school, and again in college. The elementary school trips are usually smaller in scale than the high school and college trips. For example, one of my current host sisters, who is twelve, told me that for her elementary school trip she went to Fukishima, which is fairly close to Sendai.
At my school, however, we could choose between Okinawa, and Nagasaki, both of which are fairly far away. (Although that may be because this is a private school, which would have more money to spend than other schools.) For my school trip I chose Okinawa, which is the Southernmost prefecture of Japan. (A prefecture is like a state.) It was a lot of fun.
Our school trip occurred during what was a regular school week for the other two grades, from Tuesday through Friday. Monday was a regular school day, and, as I was surprised to see, everyone paid attention and did their work. On the next day, Tuesday, all the students went to the airport. This year was the first year that all the students went directly to the airport, instead of gathering at the school and leaving as a group. This is more convenient for many people who live far away from school, but not for us. We live very near the school, so the airport is almost an hour away by car. My other host sister, who is in the same grade as me, was going to Nagasaki, so Okasan drove us together.
We arrived very early, so there was a long wait before we went through security. When we finally did, there was another long wait by the gate. Most of the students spent the time taking pictures of themselves and their friends in different poses. The students bound for Nagasaki left during this time. When at last we boarded the plane, everyone was very excited. Because Japan is such a small country, there were a lot of students who had never flown before. Of those who had, usually they had only been in a plane once or twice. So many people were nervous or scared as we boarded the plane and found our seats.
More than half the plane was filled up with students. I feel bad for the people who had to ride in that plane with us. (Everyone screamed excitedly when the plane lifted off and touched down. )
Two hours and thirty minutes later, we arrived in Okinawa. My first thought on exiting the plane was ‘It’s hot.’ Sendai is similar in climate to Massachusetts, so it’s winter here right now. Okinawa, however, has an almost subtropical climate. Although it was winter there as well, it was still warm enough to be a big difference. We were all grateful enough to go into the airport to get our luggage and then ride in the bus that we used for the duration of the trip. I was also surprised by my first glimpse of Okinawa. It looked different from America (of course), but also different from Sendai. The buildings were mostly white and pastel, but the were still modern Japanese style buildings. There were also plants growing profusely on the sides of buildings, on the ground, everywhere.
Instead of going directly to the hotel, we went to a small museum that was near the airport. Our hotel was almost a two hour drive away, so it made more sense to go to the museum first. My friend told me that it was a kiken, or anniversary museum. I didn’t understand that, or what the museum was displaying, until one of my teachers was kind enough to get me a translation of the museum’s brochure. It explained that during World War II, an American submarine torpedoed a Japanese ship carrying refugees, most of whom died when the ship sank.
None of my fellow students said anything, of course, but I still felt very sad. In America, everyone knows that America has fought wars in the past, but we never really think about the people who have been killed by American soldiers in other countries. I think that if people thought about that, we might be a little more hesitant to go to war.