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​Staff from Edge Hill State School accompanied a record number of participants this year on our biennial Study Tour to Japan. Students from Years 5 and 6 were offered the opportunity in 2016. 

Thirty-Four students aged between ten and twelve flew with eight staff from Cairns to Osaka in September to begin their ten day adventure. Eleven year old Alana Guez described the experience of landing in Japan, 
“As soon as the plane touched Osaka airport’s runway we began to feel an overwhelming sense of excitement. We were in Japan!” 

The variety of experiences made available to tour participants this year was staggering. Head of LoTE at Edge Hill State School, Regan Stevenson explains, 
“When learning a language there really is no replacement for immersion. Students have the opportunity to practise language studied at school and to learn from new friends at school and in homestay. They also develop an appreciation for the wonderful culture, traditional and modern, of Japan.”

Consistent elements of the trip are a visit to sister school Sumiyoshi Elementary School in Shizuoka and the popular and immersive family homestay experience. Homestay is intended to introduce our students to the day-to-day lives of Japanese people. The welcoming families offer more than a bed and a meal. They often share modern and traditional games and recreation with their Australian visitors or take their guests on excursions in the local area. Ten year old Brianna Halls lists homestay as a highlight of her trip, 
“At homestay… I got to go to a barbeque and got to set off fireworks. I got to do all these amazing things at the age of ten!”
Year 5 student, Hannah Hitch, also loved staying with her host family and was pleased to report,
“(She) learned so many different phrases and words, as well as a lot about their culture.”
The opportunity for our participants to improve conversational Japanese, and for our Japanese hosts to practise English are obvious benefits of homestay.

Cultural immersion does not begin and end with school visits and homestay however. During their time abroad our students are given opportunities to travel on public transport, often encouraged to purchase their own tickets and navigate hectic and fast-paced stations and subways with relative independence. A trip aboard the Shinkansen between Kyoto and Shizuoka had our travellers moving at exciting speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour. One junior traveller, Amenyo Preston-Tsey described riding the bullet train, 
“We went really fast but it felt like nothing was happening!”  

Of cultural and historical significance are the temples, gardens and shrines located throughout Japan that are not only mesmerising in scale and beauty but also places of quiet serenity. Our tour group was fortunate to visit a number of these locations, including Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion and Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto as well as Todaiji, the world’s largest wooden structure containing the world’s largest brass Buddha, and Kasuga Taishi a Shinto Shrine in Nara Prefecture. 
The students particularly enjoyed visiting Kyoto’s famous Monkey Park where many saw monkeys up close for the first time. 

Hiroshima Memorial Museum and Peace Park was another very moving excursion for Study Tour participants. The group were fortunate to meet with Professor Junichi Hatai of Yasuda Women’s University. Sensei Hatai explained the significance and history of Hiroshima and the purpose of the Park to not only memorialise the victims of nuclear horrors but also to advocate for world peace.
Student representatives had the privilege of contributing 1000 origami cranes, folded by students of Edge Hill State School, to be included among displays at the memorial park. 

No overseas adventure is complete without food, fun and games and our 2016 Japan Study Tour was not short on either. The group visited a traditional house in Gion where they observed a Geiko (Geisha) performing a tea ceremony, traditional dancing and demonstrating a number of Japanese games. Exposure to new types of food was met mostly with enthusiasm, from making Wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) and experiencing Yakiniku (grilled meat prepared by you), to trying Takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and making their own Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes).  There was little hesitance when it came time to go shopping on Dotonbori Street in Osaka! For many students a trip to Universal Studios and on their last day the Toei Kyoto Studio Park - a ninja theme park, were two holiday highlights never to be forgotten.

Staff on the Japan Tour 2016 were proud to accompany our students on their adventures. Senior Teacher Ngari Abbott was impressed, explaining, 
“The students were outstanding in representing themselves, their parents, their school and their country. Every teacher on the tour commented every day about something wonderful that they observed.”
We hope the trip has inspired our students to continue learning another language and exploring different cultures. Perhaps they will be future travellers and see more of the amazing places the world has to offer.