On the weekend of August 18, 59 students from schools all over the US arrived safely to begin their summer adventure in Japan with CIEE and Sophia University. On the morning of the 19th we had an orientation session at the hotel, and then headed to Nikko. Located in the countryside roughly 78 miles (125 km) north of the capital, Nikko is a popular getaway for many people living in Tokyo.
Our first stop in Nikko was the famous Toshogu Shrine, built in 1617 in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three ‘great unifiers’ of Japan. It is also the final resting place of the late shogun, whose dynasty ruled Japan for 265 years until 1868. The fifty-five buildings are decorated with lacquer, gold, vibrant colors, and elaborate relief carvings. Toshogu is designated as a World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful shrines in the country. Although the weather wasn’t ideal, the students still enjoyed exploring the shrine complex.
Later that day we checked into the Mikazuki ryokan, which is famous for its indoor onsen (hot spring). After taking some time to unwind we dressed in yukata (summer kimono) and enjoyed a beautiful and delicious Japanese dinner. This was followed by another orientation session and a few icebreaker activities.
The following day we visited Edo Wonderland, a recreated feudal town filled with ninja,samurai, and geisha! We watched action packed ninja demonstrations and beautiful geisha performances, played traditional Japanese games, and visited museums. After Edo Wonderland we visited Ryuzu no Taki Waterfall and Kegon no Taki Waterfall, and then headed back to Tokyo.
Group photo in front of the entrance to Edo Wonderland
Students posing with a ninja after an exciting performance
Elliot was called up on stage to be a part of the geisha show!
After returning to Tokyo we had several more days of orientation and cultural activities, a city-wide scavenger hunt, and a mini-excursion to the Studio Ghibli Museum. Studio Ghibli has produced many wonderful, world-famous films including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Our students were very excited to visit the museum, as many of them are big fans of Japanese animation and pop culture.
Classes started at Sophia University on Friday, July 25.
Studio Ghibli’s animated films are beloved by people of all ages around the world. Here students pose in front of the robot from the movie “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”