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.