After settling in to our Tokyo base, the trip began in earnest with a fascinating tour of the ancient Sensoji temple in Tokyo. Mr Pearson stopped to show us how to ‘cleanse’ ourselves in smoke from the burning incense, a charm to ward off illnesses, before climbing the stairs of the temple to offer prayers. Will, our tour guide, also showed us how to have our fortunes told outside the temple - with mixed results!
In the bustling city of Shibuya, Will told us the amazing story of the bronze statue that sits outside the train station of Hachikō the dog, who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for many years after his owner's death. After a hard day of shopping, we explored Takeshita Street, famous for its anime and vibrant costumes, and then got on a train to visit the Pokémon store.
The next morning we took a two and a half hour coach journey to Hakone National Park, excited to be seeing the famous Mount Fuji. We stopped at Fuji 5th Station for stunning views of the area, and boarded a ferry that would take us to the cable car station. We travelled across Fuji Five Lakes and were stunned by the views of the heavy fog drifting across the water.
The following day we (just) caught the bullet train to our second destination, Kyoto. Kennin-Ji Zen Temple was very calm and tranquil, which was much needed after our very hectic train journey. The hostel in Kyoto was really modern and there was lots of open space and many huge windows.
Another stint on a bullet train delivered us to our next destination: Hiroshima. We visited the famous Hiroshima Peace Park that was created to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. We knew that this was going to be an emotional day for all of us.
We started the day by talking to a second hand Hiroshima survivor who told us the story of her mother and auntie during the bombing. She talked about how the American plane dropped the bomb and the devastating effects on the people below. The emotion that was portrayed through the story moved every person in the room and we were all very enthusiastic to help the people of Hiroshima to share their story. The museum contained images of adults and children during and after the bombing and many artefacts from the aftermath of the terrible event. But the museum was not all about the bad things that happened; a strong theme throughout the park was that of the paper crane. The story behind it is one of hope and peace, the people of Hiroshima wish to spread the peace through the symbol of the paper crane and teach the world not to repeat such horrible events in the future.
We will never forget the memories and relationships formed on this amazing trip and that this was an experience that most won’t get to have again.
By Cerys Walker, Lois Ruebotham and Georgia Maundrill all LVI