Shira Stahl, Reporter & Designer
Japanese teacher Raeanna Fisher and English-teacher-turned-chaperone John Rees accompanied 20 students to Japan over spring break.
The group arrived in Tokyo on April 5 after a nearly 10-hour flight from Seattle and a two-hour layover in San Francisco.
They spent the first three nights of the trip in Tokyo, where they visited various attractions including the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the Sumida Aquarium and Tokyo Tower. They also spent some time in shopping and fashion districts, such as Shibuya and Harajuku.
Next, the group traveled to Kyoto, once the capital city of Japan.
“We took the bullet train, which is kind of an adventure in [and] of itself,” senior Jasper Merrill said. “We got to see how the scenery changed from cityscape … to industrial [landscape], to countryside, which was pretty interesting to watch happen.”
The group spent two nights in Kyoto, where they experienced more of the historical aspects of Japanese culture, visiting a shrine and bamboo forest. Although Tokyo is now the capital of Japan, Kyoto remains more of the cultural capital.
The last city they visited was Himeji, where students stayed four nights with host families from VHS’s sister school, Himeji Minami High School. The two schools have had a relationship for about 30 years, during which time each school has sent numerous students on short exchanges to the other school. The program takes place yearly; every other year, students from VHS stay with host families in Himeji, while the next year students from Himeji Minami High School stay with host families on Vashon.
“I felt weirdly comfortable and confident during the whole experience,” Merrill said. “You’d think, being so far away from your family and what you’re used to, that you’d be way out of your comfort zone, but I was just taking it all in.”
For many people, an important aspect of going to a new country is trying the local cuisine.
“Every meal that was served to me, I ate the whole thing, and it was good,” Merrill said. She enjoyed making takoyaki, which is octopus in a cheese ball, with her host family. She also described the ramen in Japan to be significantly more enjoyable than the ramen in America.
Junior Willem Brown agreed.
“My favorite part of the trip was mostly what we ate,” Brown said. “I had a lot of fun in Kyoto because a lot of the food we ate there was really fun.” Of the foods he tried, his favorite was katsu: a breaded chicken dish. He also enjoyed udon, which are thick wheat noodles.
Students also had a chance to connect with other VHS students on the trip.
“Getting close to my fellow classmates was a big part of the trip,” Merrill said. “There were people that I had never talked to at school on day one and by day 10 had developed really great relationships with!”
The group returned to Seattle April 15 after a 22-hour day of travel. The next trip to Japan through the school will take place in 2020.
“International travel is a great experience to have, especially as a youth,” Fisher said. “You get to know another country, another culture and other people your age, which really helps plant seeds for better international relations and just expanding each person’s own world.”