Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Well, the day started by some last minute packing and weighing of luggage and then saying goodbye and last group pictures with Kanto as they headed home on the Shinkansen.
We then retrieved our bells and checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport. We said good bye to Mr. Shimazu and thanked him for all his work for us.
Our short flight to Tokyo was a bit late so we had to do a mad dash to get our connection. But we made the plane and now, it is time for our final thoughts about this trip.
Adam - So the last two weeks has been the most amazing experience I have had in my life. From the bell ringing to the crazy train rides and even the hundreds of pictures with the kanto kids it has been a blast. The last day was filled with final hellos and goodbyes to the many friends that we have made from all around the world. The final concerts between the Sakura and Fuji groups were amazing!! To see one group play the pieces that we have all practiced together was truly spectacular. Then to share in the spotlight by playing those pieces was such a rush I hardly had words for it. Than the final piece finished and just as fast as it started it was over.
Now the final day has come and we all packed frantically over night. I for one never packed a suitcase so tightly before and with all the gifts I had received I barely had room for my clothes. So we all than went down to the lobby to see Kanto off for one last time which was such a sad moment. We took some of the last pictures with them and than saw them get on their bus. This was very personal for me because I had made friends with each and everyone of them. Seeing them smile made the whole trip worth being hosted by them. Than it was our turn to make our trip home. So now we loaded everything up said goodbye to Japan and are headed home. This last entry by me might not even come close to summing it up but just to say a few words at the end it's worth it. I would like to say thank you to Emanuel for letting us ring with them and that it has been a life changing experience, I truly have loved every moment of the trip. I am going to miss everyone and thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting my family and I enjoy this last year of playing with you. I hope to see this group again in the future at other symposiums or even later in life because I don't think I could ever ring with any other group besides this one.
Sincerely Adam Giuliano-Fried, I am proud to ring with Emanuel and with Katonah I would do it all again just to see you guys thank you for everything.
Luke-well the trip has been a great one and I am sad that we had to leave but am also looking forward to going home. The plane ride is long and tough, especially for me. I would just like to say thank you all for you support and love.
Greg- this trip was the best one ever and I really wish that I could stay longer. I had so much fun touring japan, playing at the symposium, and hanging out with the Kanto kids. But in two years we get to do another symposium and I am really looking forward to it. Thanks to Eiko, Mrs. Laurence, Mr. Shimazu, and the chaperones for making this trip possible and fun.
Chaperones (Louise, Ed, Mickey, Rich) Comments We certainly got a Taste of Japan! We always knew how much work Eiko does for the bells but the additional time and effort she spent on every detail was impressive. And then there was Ken who planned all our sites, transportation,purchased the tickets, checked things out in advance so all would run smoothly for us. He was truly amazing, we were very thankful and no one should ever travel to Japan without him. We traveled by plane, bus, subway, train, ambulance, boat, street car, foot and the bullet train. Our Japanese hosts the Kanto group treated us like royalty. Then there were our children who were respectful, kind, timely, played hard and did not complain that much in spite of extremely hot weather and a very hectic schedule. You should all be very proud of them. I know we were for you all!
David- This trip has been quite an experience and one that I will never forget. I've toured Japan, played in symposiums, and also met some great people along the way. I'm kind of sad that the trip has come to an end because at has gone by so fast. But this great trip wouldn't have been possible without the support of everyone; thank you.
Jessie- Wow! This trip was beyond what words can describe. I had WAY too much fun.
Grace- This trip was completely unforgettable, I've made amazing friendships and have created memories that will definitely last me a very long time. It's easy to say that this trip will not be easy to forget.
Ashley I've never been out of the country before and I'm glad that the first time I did, I was on this trip. It was such a great experience. By the second day I was so anxious to be home and tell everyone what I've experienced. Everything was different and sometimes...we were scared, but we were scared together which was good. We each met all new friends, some of us ventured to try new things. I will not forget this trip and I'm sure we we still be talking about it for a long time.
Our last day at the symposium was packed with excitement. We spent the morning in the convention center making paper cranes. Everyone made a few so we were able to send over 2000 cranes to the peace park in Hiroshima. Most of our choir didn't know how to make them so several ladies taught us how to fold the paper. One woman even taught Kayla and I how to make origami flowers (which was way more difficult than it looked).
Our friends from Kanto presented us with yet another gift, cards and peace bracelets. The Kanto kids are truly some of the most genuinely kind and generous people I have ever met. We then headed to the event hall for the Sakura final concert. It was great to have the opportunity to watch a symposium concert from the audience instead of just hearing it while ringing. It was an impressive concert and it was more fun because we knew every song in such great detail.
After lunch we quickly changed into our uniforms and had a dress rehearsal. The concert was exciting and it was rewarding to play the pieces well after all those rehearsals. For those of us that are leaving for college it was a little sad but it made the concert all the more special. After the concert we got dressed up for the banquet and closing ceremony. The ceremony consisted of speeches from the leader of each country's handbell association. They thanked the Japanese people for their hospitality, reminisced about the memories that were made over the past few days, and expressed excitement for the next symposium in England. Our last night was filled with laughter and an enormous amount of pictures.
Today started out with an early breakfast and an 8:05 am rehearsal for our solo "Fantasy on Kings Weston" for the Echoes For Peace concert. After rehearsal we attended the morning service. The Japanese choir that played for the service was really good. As we sang the mass songs English, everyone else sang them in their native tongue. We also said the Lord's Prayer in the same manner. Following the mass, we had massed rehearsal. Today was the first day we started to nail the song as 1200 ringers together.
Before our third workshop, we had some free time. For the first workshop of the day I went to 'Canadian Cultures'. A representative of the Canadian guilds talked about how Canada doesn't exactly have it's own culture. When she finished talking she showed us how to play the musical spoons. The first people who moved to Canada from Europe couldn't bring pianos with them so they used the spoons to play music. She taught us several different rhythms and we played them to songs written by native Canadians. We also had another workshop after lunch. My class was about ringing Japanese folk tunes. Eiko, Mrs. Lawrence, Miname, Hiroshi, Mr. Shimazu and myself were all in the same class. We sightread and rang several songs and I was really good because I couldn't sightread until this year. Then we had another massed rehearsal and mastered the last two songs.We packed up the bells to be sent to the performance hall and finally went to our rooms to get ready to be the delegation from the United States of America in the International Echoes for Peace concert.
We were one of the six delegation choirs from around the world. The UK, Korea, Canada, Australia, Japan, and of course the United states were represented. There was also an Echoes for Peace choir which had only met for the first time at the symposium. There was also a speech by Shigeaki Hinohara, the president of the HRJ (Handbell Ringers Of Japan) who happens to be 99 years old and totally awesome. He talked about how Echoes for Peace was a good theme for the symposium because during the event, the 65th anniversary of the bombing in Hiroshima was commemorated that morning.
Jessie and Chelsea
We awoke at promptly 6:46 AM, 1 minute past the deadline for picking up our boxed breakfast for the Symposium's group excursion to Kyoto. Luke and I dragged ourselves from the room and oozed downstairs to pick up the "meal" of bread and fruit, along with what seemed to be a large contingent of the symposium, who had also mistakenly had faith in their "snoozing" discipline. So it was that the two of us boarded the bus with the rest of the choir, and many of us experienced the comfortable pillow that was the bus window for the hour long trip. We arrived at the Heian Jingu Shrine, a wide open area with gardens and places to roam, where we all once again experienced the renowned heat and humidity of Japan. We walked around for a while and enjoyed the fresh atmosphere of the gardens before returning to the more aggressive aroma of the exhaust-filled parking lot to board the bus once more. We rode for a short period of time to arrive at Rokuonji Temple, a Buddhist pavilion. This area was littered with good photography backgrounds, and we made our way through in a similar fashion as before.
When we returned to the hotel, we hurried to an outdoor plaza to take the elusive group photo. We stood in a circle around our friends from Kanto Gakuin, and after hearing "MOVE BACK!" and "LOOK UP, HE'S TAKING THE PICTURE!!" and many Japanese versions of the sort, we finally successfully documented our appearance at the event. (I'm happy to say my outrageous facial poses likely ruined several of the copies.)
We then returned to the normal schedule of the symposium, and attended a third solo concert, in which our friends, the Kanto Gakuin choir, played. Suffice it to say, they nailed it to an extent that I have not seen handbells nailed before. We made sure their ovation was long and loud, and they were also a favorite because they were the smallest handbell choir to play at the symposium, and were still able to perform as well as they did.
At the conclusion of the concert, we assembled once more in the event hall for a massed rehearsal. This one went along very smoothly, and before we knew it we were eating dinner. Food was food. We ended the night at one last solo concert, the last one of the symposium.
It was certainly a long and eventful day. I hope all you guys reading this back home are having a good time keeping up with us.
Eric and Luke
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
After a nice buffet breakfast and morning announcements, we had our first workshop session. Sandra and I went to our first class to learn a Japanese art form called bonseki, which involved stacking rocks and grained sand on a black platform using only a feather, a spoon, and a brush. We used the different sized grains of sand to create a picture of Mt. Fuji. After a great experience in the workshop, we headed for lunch on the twelfth floor where we met with friends and enjoyed beef curry with rice and salad. For the second workshop I (Sandra) went to Kiwis, Kangaroos and Koalas. We made little animals by sewing pieces of felt together. David went to Reading of US Publishers where he had the opportunity to try out different bells while playing a variety of new pieces. From there we joined all the choirs in the main event hall for a solo concert. About 15 choirs performed songs they had worked so diligently on in preparation for the symposium. Everyone did really well, it's always entertaining to watch the Puerto Rican choir play bells and dance simultaneously. After the concert we stayed in the main hall for a memorial service for David Davidson. Handbells was a large part of his life and he was instrumental in planning the first international symposium. We played four beautiful songs and were honored to be the choir to play for the service. We ended the day with a massed rehearsal which went really well. We got the hang of playing with so many other ringers so we all enjoyed working on the pieces. Rehearsal ended at 10:00 so we all headed straight for bed after a very busy day.
David and Sandra
Today we packed up our luggage to board a bus to Osaka. This final bus ride would finally take us to the symposium after a whole week of touring Japan. When we got there we unloaded our luggage and sent it off to our rooms even though we still don't know where they were. We had a boxed lunch then waited for about an hour before we got to set up our bells. We than realized that we were going to switch places with the Hong Kong youth choir to the A section. Before we could set up though, we went to the opening ceremony where we watched the procession of the 6 nations/regions that made up the main handbell association. We also met with the Kanto group that we had spent a few days in Hayama with. We heard the chairman of the association speak and other key members. After the hour long ceremony we had bell rehearsal. We met all of the conductors and got to play all of their pieces. After rehearsal we took a bus to the Exotic Flowers and Birds park. When we got there we saw owls and hanging from the ceiling were so many different kinds of flowers. For food there was sushi, curry, spaghetti, chicken, roast beef, pasta, salad, sandwiches, and watermelons. A while later into the dinner we all started going around and giving our gifts to people from other choirs. とても楽しかった．(it was a lot of fun).
Adam and Greg
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
We had breakfast at the hotel, some of us secretly watching the soccer players that had come to stay in the hotel the previous day. Then we left for the bullet train to take us to Kyoto. The train ride was about an hour long and most of slept, or was that just me? We got off the train at Kyoto and started to walk through the city towards Nijojo Castle. It was the hottest day yet so we stopped every so often in the shade or sometimes a store with air conditioning. We finally got to the castle and we started to our walk through.
In the castle we weren't allowed to wear our shoes or even take pictures but it was still absolutely beautiful. The floors squeaked literally all over the castle just in case an assassin tried to sneak in and kill the lords who used to live there. After the walk through some of us went to a rest area for some water and air conditioning, others went to the castle gardens to see the beautiful rock formations and small waterfalls. Somewhere around twelve we left the castle grounds to go the restaurant where we would eat lunch. The restaurant was a traditional Japanese style house, where we got to cook our own food that they gave us on plates. The waitress heated up hot plates for us to cook on, then they brought us beef, vegetables, tofu, and sauces to dip them all in. It was so weird to cook our own food at the table but it tasted so good, and afterward I don't think any of us have ever been that full before. After the beef and vegetables they brought us green tea ice cream and hot green tea.
Soon after eating we left to go to the train station. A few of us went back to the hotel, but most of us stayed to walk around the station for an hour or two. The rest of our last night in Himeji was mostly spent in my room and Kim's, with literally the entire choir, it got very hot in that room very quickly because of all the people.
Kimberly and Grace
Osaka Boat Tour and Sky Garden Observatory
After our morning toast and salad we headed to the Himeji train station for a trip to Osaka. We began our day trip with a boat tour through the city. The boat passed interesting architecture, parks, and bridges.
After our water tour we had a long walk to the floating garden observatory, when we went to the top of a 40 story building that overlooked the entire city of Osaka. Some watched in awe and excitement as we rode our way up clear escalators, while others closed their eyes from their fear of heights. However, when we got to the top, we saw miles and miles of skyscrapers and mountains. After the spectacular view we retreated to the train station during rush hour! We took an hour long train ride with all of Japan on the train, literally. When we got back to Himeji we split up, some going to the hotel and some going grocery shopping. Overall it was a very productive, tiring and enjoyable day.
Kayla and Ashley
Okayama Castle and the town of Kurashiki
After we enjoyed our gourmet salad and bread for breakfast, we headed out at 8:30 am to catch our first train of the day. We had a quick Bullet Train ride to Okayama, then grabbed some taxis and headed to Okayama Castle. We had one little incident where we had to call back a cab to get Stephanie's camera, and to no surprise, it was promptly handed back in one piece. To get to the 400+ year old castle, we mazed through giant rocks that made a huge rock wall. It was pretty cool to imagine how they managed to put together such an amazing piece of work. The castle was through an "unopened" gate and up on a hill. It looked like a traditional Japanese castle, but painted all black. It was very pretty. We were able to go inside of the castle and look around because it was a museum inside. There were many interesting artifacts to look at, but most of the descriptions were unfortunately in Japanese. We got a special treat from two of our bell ringers, Grace and Adam. These two were nominated to dress up in a Kimono, a traditional Japanese outfit, and we were able to get a real sense of what it is like to "feel" Japanese. After a few laughs, we headed back to the train station and went to Kurashiki.
We then went to an older town that was the Japanese equivalent to colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. The area was divided into two sides by a creek in the center, separating the various stores they had to offer. The afternoon was spent shopping but mainly ducking into areas that had air conditioning -- it was a very hot day!
It was an early night in for us as we returned home around 5pm, so that we could get some much-needed rest or do laundry, which for some couldn't have come too soon. Some of us went to a traditional Japanese style restaurant for dinner and it turned into a really fun night. It was insisted that a variety of foods were ordered so that we could all try new things, and it was a good thing we did! Ashley and David now have a taste for shishamo, or tiny fish that the rest of us bell ringers were reluctant to try. It was great meal followed by a quiet night back in our hotel rooms -- that is it was quiet when we were told to go back to our own rooms!
Chelsea and Stephanie
Today we woke up at the Via Inn and had a quick simple scarce breakfast, but still good. Then we met in the lobby, went to the train station and took an hour long bullet train to Hiroshima, man was it fast!! When we got there we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park. The park was very tranquil and profound. It was very meaningful to all of us.
Upon arriving at the park, our first encounter with the devastation of Hiroshima was the once strong city hall, that was considered the epicenter of the city. Rubble cluttered the ground and surrounding area; remnants of what once was the heart of a town strewn along as if they were nothing more then pebbles. Due to the weakness of the parts still standing, the building is relying on large steel poles for support because without them even what had survived the blast would topple over. The basic skeleton of the building's dome still stands as the peak of the barely-there remains and it seemed almost ironic that though it was just the metal framework of the dome, its tallest feature survived the attack. This was a solemn "welcome mat" of sorts that was a foretaste of what was to come.
From there we worked our way down through the Peace park. The peace cranes, and the peace bell. The Peace park is built on an island that used to be part of the city before the buildings were destroyed by the bomb. On the island we saw a hill that covered a tomb for the remains of unidentified victims of the tragedy. There were also several other memorials. Around the island were what I thought were the remains of paved streets, because there were curbs still in the ground. At the end of the island there was the peace bell. All of us rang it. Inscribed in the bell was a map of the world. Where the hammer hit the bell there was the atom symbol. We also saw the flame that won't be extinguished until all atomic weapons are destroyed. Around the flame there were trees that were at the perimeter of the bomb's extent which were transplanted. The back of these trees were still burned from 65 years years ago.
After walking through the museum and listening to the audio program provided for us, we went down to the cafe and got lunch. Every one had something different, some had pancakes, some had spaghetti and others had rice. No matter what it was all good. Then we left and went on another train and onto a ferry to the Utsukushima shrine at Miyajima Island. At this shrine there were deer everywhere and they were not afraid to get close to us and let us pet them. We got to walk all around the shrine and go up close to the big gate because it was low tide. Then we took the train back and got dinner at the train station before returning to our hotel.