Seven SMS students are participating in a student exchange program with Eiwa School in Shizouka, Japan. Below, some of the students share observations and reflections about their experience touring Tokyo and Shizuoka with their host families.
I went to Tokyo Tower this past weekend with my host family. This popular city landmark is 333 meters tall! It is so tall that it is very difficult to capture the whole thing in a photograph. My host sister and I went up to the main observatory to see the scenery and architecture of Tokyo. We could see many buildings from all directions, also the ocean and some city parks. There was even a special window in the floor of the observatory so that you can see the bottom part of the tower clearly. I took lots of pictures through this window. I tried to be brave and step on it, but I was scared. I felt like I might fall down at anytime when I stepped on it. Visiting Tokyo Tower was a special experience that I had with my Japanese host family.
– Jackline

If I were asked to describe Tokyo Disneyland in three words I would say it was exciting, amazing and crowded. Lucky for us we had our homestay sisters with us who were expert guides and seemed to know many creative loopholes for bypassing some very long lines. My all time favorite ride has always been Splash Mountain, so I was thrilled when I discovered that I had the chance to ride it here in Tokyo. I enthusiastically grabbed my host sister and together we hopped into a log that would take us on our short but amazing adventure through the world of Splash Mountain. As the log lurched out of the starting point I could hardly control my excitement. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning! At the end of the ride there is a huge free fall drop and although I always know when it’s coming, the experience still gets to me. All you can do is sit there and wait as the log climbs up a huge hill. It teeters at the top. And then… SWOOSH! You fall to the bottom. A wave of water crashes over you and then the ride is done. Although there are many highlights to remember from my time at Tokyo Disney, I think getting to ride this particular ride with my friends and host sister is at the top of the list.

– Jenna
Top Ten List of Things to Do on the  Japan Exchange:

  1. Eat Japanese food. Japan has a very strong food culture and if you are experimental, particularly with seafood, there is no shortage of dishes to enjoy.  My favorite is Takoyaki, which is fried octopus and dough balls that can be served with many different toppings.
  2. Go shopping almost everyday. The Japanese have an amazing sense of fashion and fortunately the prices are much more reasonable than in North America.
  3. Go to the Cinema. They feature Japanese movies as well as English movies that have Japanese subtitles. The tickets and concession are also a lot cheaper than at home.
  4. Sing Karaoke. Karaoke places are on almost every block. They have a huge variety of English songs as well as other Asian songs. You can even order food from your karaoke room, so you can pretty much sing all day if you want to.
  5. Walk around downtown Shizuoka. There are many stores of the convenient and kawaii variety. You will be surprised by what you can find in them.
  6. Eat at a Yakiniku. They are Japanese restaurants that serve barbecue with your choice of ice cream, cotton candy, or crepes for dessert.
  7. Go to parties. The Japanese host very elaborate parties for all kinds of special occasions, such as birthdays, arrivals and departures.
  8. Visit the shrines. We have seen the Sengen shrine, which is Shizuoka’s largest one. You can see many interesting designs and buy fortunes that will tell you what the year ahead will bring – it helps if you can find someone to translate it in to English.
  9. Ride the trains. You will most likely have to ride one to get to school, but they are certainly something you don’t want to miss. If you want a truly metropolitan Japanese experience, try to squeeze on during rush hour!
  10. See Tokyo for a day. It takes one hour by train or three hours by car. If you do go there for a day, bring your wallet, because they have a lot of good stores there are no shortage of unique souvenirs.

– Kim