By Sofia Adams and Amelia Spring
On March 24, 2018, forty Council Rock North students began their long and exhausting journey to Tokyo, Japan, as part of the school's art program. Over the next seven days, they visited four breathtaking cities including Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka, and embarked on an amazing journey filled with Japanese culture.
After a full 24 hours of travel, the students and four chaperones arrived at the Tokyo airport. First, the students visited various places in Tokyo. Beginning in the Harajuku district, a popular street, students soaked in shops selling mainstream Japanese fashion, loud and colorful candy shops, and enormous groups of Japanese teenagers on their spring break. Next, they went to the Tsukiji fish market. Imagine visiting Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market but being unable to move due to crowds of people. This market sold a variety of food from Tamago, a type of egg on a stick, to all kinds of sushi and raw fish, or sashimi. Tokyo was just one of the many astounding places the students visited that week.
The second place the students visited was Hakone, a national park west of Tokyo that is known for its hot springs and beautiful views of the volcanic Mount Fuji. The kids rode a Gondola to the top of a smaller mountain and were able to see Mount Fuji clearly because the constantly changing weather remained clear. Atop the mountain sits the Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red gate, or torii, overlooking Lake Ashi. Next, the kids boarded a ferry and sailed across Lake Ashi. After the sailing, the kids went to Owakudani, a town nearby.
Owakudani is known for the unique, black hard boiled eggs. The eggs are boiled in natural hot springs on volcanic mountains. The springs contain sulfur and iron, which turn the eggshell black. While these eggs are completely safe to eat, they are said to grant a person seven more years of life. A little further south of both Tokyo and Hakone was the group's next stop, Kyoto.
One bullet train trip later, the students were in Japan’s former capital, Kyoto. Nara Park, otherwise known as Deer Park, is a place straight out of a fairytale. Here, students could pet and feed wild deer that roam the area. These deer are unafraid of people and friendly as long as you do not taunt them. To feed the deer, one must hold the deer cracker above the deer’s head and wait until it bows three times to give the cracker to them.
Tōdai-ji temple, near Nara Park, was the group’s next destination. The temple houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. Tōdai-ji temple was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples of Nara. The students also visited and toured Sanjūsangen-dō temple. The temple contains one thousand life-size statues of the Goddess of Compassion, which stand on both the right and left sides of the Thousand Armed Kannon.
In Kyoto, students witnessed an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, which consisted of the creating, serving, and drinking of matcha green tea. Finally, students watched a Kimono fashion show that displayed seven very distinct and unique kimonos. After approximately one hour on a bus, the students traveled to their final destination.
The last, but certainly not least, location the students traveled to was Osaka. Osaka is well known for the 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, which has undergone several restorations. The castle is surrounded by a moat and park with plum, peach, and cherry-blossom trees. The last landmark the students visited was the Umeda Sky Building. This structure is the nineteenth-tallest building in Osaka Prefecture. It consists of two forty-story towers that connect at their two highest stories. People are welcome to walk on top of the building at 568 ft in the air.
After one canceled flight, a night spent sleeping in an airport, and over 36 hours of complete travel, the forty students and four chaperones arrived back home at Council Rock North from an amazing seven days in Japan. The students were able to visit four amazing cities--Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka--in just one short week thanks to the amazing planning of Mr. Jim Biglan, CRN art teacher, and Explorica Inc., the program used to plan the educational tours. Next year, pass on staying home for spring break and set off on a fun journey to somewhere new on a school trip.