Monday, March 4, 2013

'Round the clock: After 24 hours of travel, the group gets their first taste of Japan

Congregating outside of the LHS main entrance at 3am Sunday, the twenty-three students were greeted by Dr. Amy Oaks and Don Emmons in the brisk morning air.  Some students scrambled to put luggage tags on their suitcases while the student musicians focused on duct taping their instrument cases shut. After saying goodbye to parents, the team boarded a bus to DIA.

Each member was responsible for their own carry on, suitcase, and an additional item during their extensive travel day.  Since the group is primarily composed of student musicians, the entire group had to make a team effort to ensure that all of the instruments – including a bass guitar, multiple percussion sets, and a slew of violins and wind instruments – were checked properly. Additionally, gifts from the group to present to schools and hosts while in Japan were packed in suitcases that also needed to be accounted for.

After checking their bags, working their way through security and racing through DIA’s underground railway system, the team caught their 6am flight to San Francisco International Airport. After a relatively smooth ride, the group found themselves in a three and a half hour layover. Students scoped out both the international and main terminals before devolving into games of ninja and cards, as well as working on their Japanese.

The eleven-hour flight to Tokyo, Japan was a different experience for everyone. For some, it was their first international flight.

“The flight was long -- really long -- but it  was exciting because I knew that I was able to go to Japan,” said first time international traveler Thomas Kennedy. 

“I don’t understand a single thing that anything says,” said senior Leslie Groff. Like Kennedy, her expedition to Japan is her first time traveling outside of the U.S. “I don’t know any Japanese, so it’s hard to look at something and think, ‘I don’t know what that sign says.’”

Kennedy, a Japanese student, had a different experience with the language.

“Every time somebody talked over the intercom or on the airplane or in the airports, it was really cool to be able to make the connections between them and what I learned in Japanese class,” said Kennedy.

Arriving just east of Tokyo in the Narita International Airport, the team was enthusiastically greeted by their personal guide, Eriko, who works with the Kizuna Project.  Eriko lead the team to their funky, quirky bus (complete with faux chandeliers) that will bring the team around Japan during their stay. They drove around in the decked-out bus through Tokyo, notably the largest metropolitan city in the world.

"We were about an hour and a half drive away from Tokyo," said senior Ryan Dinneen. "As we got closer and closer, the concentration of traffic got thicker and thicker. At times it felt as though there were six different levels of traffic all moving in one direction at once. There were gigantic bridges over rivers and you would look out the window and see literally 50 buildings, all of them over 40 stories tall. It's clearly a gigantic city."

Beyond the two-lane highway traffic that snaked its way over, under, and throughout the bustling city, there were noticeable architectural buildings and sites, such as a giant Ferris wheel, some of the largest skyscrapers known to man, and Tokyo's own Disneyland.

After dining a few blocks away from the Keio Plaza Hotel, the team drearily walked back to their hotel to crash for the night.  Between their arrival at LHS Sunday morning to arriving at the Keio Plaza Hotel, the team has traveled close to 24 hours straight. Exhausted from their long day of travel, they’re getting a good night’s sleep before their busy day tomorrow.

**Note: I did shoot dozens of marvelous pictures today, I swear! Unfortunately, the memory card used today is unrecognized by my computer, my card reader, my roommate's camera, and now my own camera. According to the above sources, the card is "corrupted" (how, I do not know -- the pictures were looking great a few minutes ago!) Thankfully I have additional memory cards, so please expect photos in the future. I sincerely apologize for the loss (trust me, I'm upset and frustrated, too!). Thanks for understanding.


  1. Thanks for the awesome update, Hannah! It sounds like you all had a long, but exciting day of travel. We are glad that you arrived safely and are now catching some well deserved sleep. Too bad about the memory card :(. Sometimes pictures can be recovered even if the card says it's 'corrupt', so don't despair. Maybe we can recover the photos once you are home in the U.S. In the meantime, be sure that everyone else on the trip is taking photos too. You can never have too many photographers!! Take care, and we look forward to hearing more. - Mom & Dad

  2. Yes - ditto on the recovering of the pix... don't "reformat" the corrupted card (if it will even let you) and you should still be able to recover them. If you're using a PC, go to the microsoft website when you get home. Their site has recommended recovery programs, some of which are free. No guarantees, but the chances are better than good you'll be able to recover them (I just went through this with all my music on a memory card from my phone)

  3. Thanks for keeping the LHS community updated, Hannah. Sorry about the corrupted memory card, but your writing is quite vivid and alive with imagery. I hope you all have a great experience!

  4. Thanks Hannah for the update. I found myself walking the halls today looking for Joe. It is strange to be at school and he off in another country. You're a great writer and have painted a beautiful picture of your travels so far. I hope Joe is taking pictures too. What an amazing experience for you all.

  5. I'm glad you all made it safely to Japan! It sounds like a long but interesting travel experience. Thanks for bringing it to life for me, Hannah! Enjoy your time in Japan - what a trip of a lifetime for all! I look forward to the next update.

  6. I am so glad your travel day went well. I love being able to check in with this blog. Thanks Hannah!