2007 Trip Story

Mendocino to Miasa-Omachi June 27-July 11, 2007

“I am having sooo much fun on this trip!”

“I thought my homestay experience was wonderful and exciting!”

“My favorite part of our trip so far is going to the temple with the
HUGE Buddha, we have even crawled through the Buddha’s nostril.”

“I now have eternal enlightenment. Oh yes!”

“This trip has been so much fun! Homestays, temples, shrines, TOKYO
DOME! All that was GREAT!”

“The top five things I liked. Miso soup with eye balls & algae, riding
trains, exploring, trying new foods, hanging with friends (mean buddy).”

“Strands and strands of paper cranes
Pools and pools of tears
Burning cries of terror reigns
Feeding on your fears”
“But time to leave, time to go. The time went too fast.”

Just a few quotes from the written observations of the students during our most recent trip to Japan. This trip was filled with new sites, experiences and feelings. It was our “trying new things trip” as Marci and I liked to call it. Being my first trip as a co-leader (since Dave Gross had decided not to go this trip), along with veteran co-leader Marci, it was a new experience for me. I have always been on the trip either as a chaperone or MSCA Board Member. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the leader responsibilities with Marci. I think I was just getting the hang of making speeches as we were getting on the Shinkansen to leave. Collaborating with Marci for several months before the trip, choosing the places to see and how much time to stay in each place was quite an undertaking, but very rewarding when actually being in the places we selected.

Starting off, we landed in Tokyo, as always, but after a dinner break at Narita Airport we flew on to Osaka where we were met by our host guides, Koichi Maekawa and Hiroaki Otsuka, for this first portion of the trip (the guides changed all along the way to include: Kimie Hirokawa, Ken Sato, Masako Noda, Naoki Kitazawa, Tokio Oda and Yujiro Nakajima). We immediately took a bus to Kyoto to check into the White Hotel Youth Hostel. Another first for our group. Small, clean rooms but with a great breakfast.

The biggest change we made this year was the visit to Hiroshima, and the Peace Park in particular. I know there is not one person in our group who was not deeply affected by what they experienced while walking through the park and visiting the very emotionally powerful A-Bomb Museum. The students all wrote heart felt descriptions of their impressions in prose or poetry. Make sure you read some of those in this newsletter.

We also visited Miyajima for the first time. A small island just west of Hiroshima. It has one of the largest Torii gates in Japan, and lots of shopping for the gift conscious traveler. Also the restaurants were very well received.

Another first for our travelers was riding the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) for every long distance trip. We had always rode on a bus from city to city on previous trips, except for the trip from Miasa to Narita on the last day of our stay when we relaxed on the Shinkansen.

Since we changed to riding the Shinkansen on this trip we spent less time traveling and were able to visit more sites. For instance, on our trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima we were able to stop on the way and quickly tour the Himeji Castle (used in the TV mini series “Shogun” as Osaka Castle), another first for the group that would be wonderful to include on future trips. The castle is truly an inspiring work of architecture with a beautiful view of Himeji City.

Not to belabor this, but another first was the fact that all the students this trip were female. They proved to be a wonderful group of very adaptable individuals who really enhanced the trip with their enthusiasm and perseverance, not to mention their constant questions and continual kidding of any available adult (especially our homegrown translator/guide Travis Rzeplinski). They truly livened things up, especially at Aster Plaza in Hiroshima when they entertained the adults with their original “song and leg dance” routine.

This tour also contained the smallest student group
who had ever been on the trip. Eleven young women who loved the fact that no young men were “tagging along.” Myself, I would have liked to have see more students on this trip, especially male students. I would encourage any student who has been on any previous trip to spread the word to younger boys and girls of the enjoyment and overall learning experience this trip has to offer. I think we should also include 8th grade students, just as we used to do. Our student population is dropping and we need to include all of the middle school.

Though we only had 11 students, our group also included 10 adults plus our ever present host translator/guide Sorano Oda san. Sorano spent this past year in Mendocino and attended the Mendocino Community School. She proved to be an intrical asset to our group.

All the chaperones were very helpful and repeatedly chipped right in when seeing what needed to be done and didn’t wait for someone else to bring it to their attention. The entire group became a team in a rather short time and everyone watched out for everyone else. Considering we visited Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Tokyo, Kamakura, Nagano, Miasa, Omachi and Hakuba and did more things than ever before, the group did extremely well.

Overall, I feel just like everybody else, “the trip was wonderful!” I want to thank Marci for all her help getting things together, and Travis for being his usual congenial, helpful and fun self. Debbie, Sharon, Alexis, Penny, Jim, Erin and John Paul, thank you for being so cooperative and fun loving the entire way. You all made Marci’s and my job much easier.

We held a Miasa-Omachi trip 2007 pot luck reunion at my house on August 5 where we all exchanged stories and shared our pictures. It was great to see everyone again. Thanks everyone who attended and brought goodies to eat.
I hope to see you all involved next May when your new friends from
Miasa-Omachi visit Mendocino.
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