The Journey to Japan

Despite all the complaint about my high school, there’s one thing good about it: as the best school in our city, we have a lot of chances. This time, Japan government offered a scholarship of visiting their country for free, to 16 high schools in China. Fortunately, our school was one of them. I applied without hesitation. The weird thing was that there weren’t too many people applied. I could only assume that they’re worried about being absent from school, which may potentially drop their score temporarily.

Anyway, I got accepted without much struggle, together with other 14 students from my school. They collected our passports and sent us to Beijing, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as China Education Department gave us three days of lectures about the diplomatic significance of the project, proper etiquette during visit, and some background information of China-Japan relationships. It’s really hard to stay awake for us, 240 students from 4 different provinces. They highlighted that we should put our patriotism aside during the journey – obviously they were worrying about the constant instill of animosity towards Japan, so that they need to do some anti-brainwash before we set out. Those lectures are overall boring, but we did had employees of Microsoft doing lectures about AI and deep learning – that part was fantastic.

The night before our departure, they took us to the Japan Embassy for a send-off feast. What a feast! Abundance of Japanese food served with high quality, but the notable part was that there weren’t any tables or chairs. We just stood there with plates on hand. The embassy had an collection of Japanese books and handcrafts, including comic books, china statues and models of classic buildings. They really want Chinese students there for college: they gave us leaflets about Japan universities, and I can see posters saying “STUDY in JAPAN: Free consulting service”. At the time I’ve already decided to go to US for college, so they didn’t persuaded me, since I can’t speak even a single word in Japanese.

So there we went for Tokyo, Japan. We visited Meiji Jingu, Harajuku, Meiji University, took some lectures. Nothing exceptional, but the railway system did impressed me a lot. The guide said that even himself couldn’t completely figure the maze-like rails map out, given that he was born and raised in Tokyo.

We visited a science museum, where a robot performance was conducted. For me, the captain of school robotics team, it was far less stunning, compared to the reaction of other students. The controlling part looks good, and it really takes loads of engineering to construct the hardware, but it’s nothing unimaginable. We even spotted a robot guide in a mall. Observing close up you can see how realistic her face looks. However, she wasn’t intelligent at all – even less intelligent than Siri.

The next day we went to the rural areas of Japan by bullet train. It was nothing different from the high-speed trains in China. Actually Chinese high-speed trains are faster, but considering the fact that the rails there were built tens of years ago, it’s still amazing.

We visited two schools, one of them being a regular rural high school, the other one being a vocational high school. They were impressive because I’ve never been to schools in other countries. In that rural high school, a shy, handsome boy welcomed us, leading us to see around their school. We tried really hard to communicate with him in English, but it didn’t really work. We even took an English class with students there. English education in Japan sucks! Their textbook was approximately the level of our 7th grade, and I can hardly complete a dialog with them. Feeling frustrated, I was wondering whether it was my speaking or their listening that balked our conversation.

After the launch, we had an hour in a room for communication. It would be impossible without translators. Our guides were doing translation for another group of people. They can do direct Chinese-Japanese translation, so no big deal. Things got tricky on my side: we got the English teacher to do English-Japanese translation, and then I do Chinese-English translation for other people. It’s pretty interesting though, as English becomes the bridge language between us. We had a great time there – exchanging presents, talking about the food, playing card games… When we were leaving, student of the whole school went out, waving us goodbye. Really friendly they were!

(Our guides said that no photos with faces should be uploaded because of the laws of portraiture right protection, so… no images here)

The vocational school was another story. They don’t do coursework like students in regular high schools do; instead they learn expertise like farming, husbandry or babysitting. The campus has no boundary – no walls, no gates – it’s basically a farm with students, who looks really relaxed and happy. Anybody would feel the same if they’re in such a tranquil place.

They took us to see their apple trees and greenhouses. They gave us a bucket and asked us to help them pick apple.These were really good apples. You don’t even need to wash them, because they never use pesticides. If an apple turns bad, they just make apple juice with it. I was really curious about the reason why they have silver reflectors on the ground. It turned out that they want to reflect the sunlight from the ground so that the apples could be evenly illuminated. That’s the secret of how they make their apples all red. I tried one, and I swear that it was the best apple I’ve ever had – juicy, fresh and extremely sweet, I would like to have a whole box of them if I can. We also visited their greenhouse. It was late autumn when we visited, but flowers in the greenhouse showed no sign of withering in the chilly morning atmosphere.

The next great thing was the homestay. We had a night in a Japanese family! Our host family was an old couple, who were like 70-80 years old, and who could’t even speak a single English word. Obviously our guides couldn’t come over and translate for us, so we had to deal with it all by ourselves. Google translate did a poor job, frequently misinterpreting our words, causing confusion. Their house was huge for an old couple – well-equipped with all kinds of appliances, the house had at least five Japanese-style bedrooms and a huge living room. It seemed that their life was pretty colorful: they host foreign students like us pretty often, and they also had a “classroom of health – avoid Alzheimer”, as written on a plate in front of their house. Maybe they were too old to do anything interesting with us, so they just drove us home and did nothing. It was boring compared to other groups, but we also got to explore the surrounding area. We found an extremely old car, as well as an unused excavator, both of which being something we had never seen. After all, I can tell that Japanese rural area is nothing like that in China. It was cleaner and much more developed.

We slept on Tatami that night. The next day we woke up finding the breakfast was ready. I really enjoy a strange fruit I’ve never had before, but I hate Natto, some weird beans featuring its sticky clothing. Then we said goodbye to our host and continue on our journey.

We visited a temple, a watch factory, and another shopping mall for food. During our 8-day stay, I’ve tried all sorts of Japanese food. They gave me an impression of delicacy and exclusiveness: every dishes were low in quantity but high in quality. I even tried a little bit of mustard, and immediately got regretted: it was like a ball of fire rose from my nose towards the brain.

So that’s it. Hopefully I’ve covered all the important things during my stay there. Speaking retrospectively, it was a fantastic journey. (Except the tiny tension of my first TOEFL test that was drawing closer.) I got to see what I definitively couldn’t see if I wasn’t in this project, and just as they expected, I’ve got more interested in Japan culture. What makes the world amazing was its diversity, so I guess we all need to be more inclusive about the differences in culture value.

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