Japan comes to life for 12 young travelersSubmitted photo Submitted photo At Kamikura Jinja in Shingu, Japan, seated in front, from left to right are River Falls High School students Nina Davis, Christine Bjornstal, Elise Woodwick, Jessica Luther, Rachel Mazac, Mac Gill, and River Falls High School Japanese teacher Jo Dougherty. Standing to right are: A guide from the Shingu Sister City Committee, Taylor Caldwell, Stefan Horvath, Devon Ludden, Jack Freiermuth, Matt Peskar and Kait Graven.
The negatives included jet lag, “language fatigue,” heat and humidity.
But the positives far outweighed all of those inconveniences when a dozen River Falls High School students traveled to Japan in June.
Accompanied by their Japanese teacher Jo Dougherty and fellow teacher Jessica Luther, 12 students took the school-sponsored trip, a culmination of their classroom preparation.
Christine Bjornstal, Taylor Caldwell, Nina Davis, Jack Freiermuth, Mac Gill, Kait Graven, Stefan Horvath, Devon Ludden, Rachel Mazac, Matt Peskar, Elise Woodwick and Julie Xiong made this year’s trip. Traveling to Japan has been a regular activity completed by many high schoolers in past years.
“For me personally, the fun I had was watching my students interact with the students in the Japanese high school we visited,” said Dougherty.
And in addition to the fun they all had, the trip also had a purpose: “To have (the students) experience firsthand the language and culture that they’ve been studying, to make it come to life for them,” Dougherty explained.
She listed the major cities the group visited, including Tokyo, Japan’s capital, where the students enjoyed visiting Ueno Park. In Hiroshima, they visited the A-bomb museum and Peace Park.
During their stay with host families in the cities of Matsuyama and Shingu, the group also took day trips to the cities of Nikko, Miyajima and Nara.
They were able to visit the Toshogu shrine that houses the grave of the last shogun of Japan; a spectacular waterfall; a deer park; other high schools; and took part in mountain climbing when they tackled Mt. Misen.
“Kodak” moments included meeting four sumo wrestlers while waiting for a train.
As they all waited together, the wrestlers agreed to pose for photos with the high schoolers.
Karaoke in Kyoto, another well-populated Japanese city, provided memorable moments, as did a calligraphy lesson from a famous Japanese calligrapher.
“The kids were great,” said Dougherty about her traveling wards.
As the Japanese language program is being phased in River Falls, this trip was most likely the last one students will take to Japan for quite a few years, if ever again. This trip began Monday, June 14, and ended Thursday, July 1.