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Japan Trip 2013

Kelvin Kizuna Trip to Japan


Kelvin's Chantelle S. with Hokota students.


Learning calligraphy at the Hokota City Cultural Center. (left Alison H, right Emma W)


Kelvin Vice Principal Maria Silva with grade 10 student Maddy P.


Hokota bridge:  the old and the newly re-built one (in background)



Tsunami waves hit coastal Japan after a powerful earthquake struck in March 11, 2011.


At strawberry farm with eloquent farmer Mr. Hinoda:  (clockwise from top right): Nicholas F, Maddy P, Helen M,  Sokalsk Sensei.

In January, 24 grades 10-12 students from Kelvin’s  Asia Pacific Studies program travelled to Japan as part in Kizuna (Bonds of Friendship) Project. The project is organized by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan, and the Japan International Cooperation Center.

The program's purpose is to help promote better understanding about Japan's recovery almost two years after the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

While there, the students travelled in the Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo along the Pacific Coast, to see areas that were in the disaster zone. A few of the students did some shoreline cleanup. The students also met Japanese high school students and stayed with host families for a few days.

Kelvin was one of only four schools in Canada invited to attend and was selected because it has the province's only Asia Pacific studies program, which includes Japanese-language classes.

The following is a sampling of some of the students' experiences, beyond the ones published in a feature article of the Winnipeg Free Press in February:

I will always remember the day I went to a Japanese community center with my host family. The old traditional building overlooking the mountains was picturesque, but it was the people that made it beautiful. First with my host family and children from the community we made Mochi, pounding rice in a barrel with a large wooden mallet. Then we went inside with the dough-like Mochi to go make rice cakes with red bean paste filling. The building was packed, everyone sitting on that tatami mat floor. As I was rolling rice cakes in my hands, everyone from the youngest child to the oldest elder were all working together making food or decorations to celebrate the New Year’s holiday. Later when the work was done, the decorations were put up and we all sat down to eat, watching a performance of traditional dancing and music by the community members. I will never forget this experience not only because I learned so much about Japanese culture, but because I was accepted as part of the community. Even though there was a language barrier, everyone was welcoming trying their best to talk to me, and asking me questions about life in Canada.

Emma Williams, grade 12


On the day we arrived in Japan, I was already shocked by how warm the weather was. So much for winter jackets!  But as the trip progressed I was even more surprised by how warm the people were. Everyone I met was so caring and generous that I felt like I could never repay them for this exceptional experience. For example, when I first started my home-stay I was fairly timid because they didn’t speak very much English. However they tried their best to understand me and I ended up having a great time. Thanks to this trip I have developed a new understanding of Japanese culture, and made new friends along the way.

Nicki Millman, grade 12


One of my favourite moments of the whole trip was during our visit to Hokota Secondary School. At the school, Kelvin students attended a welcome assembly. As we all filed in like ducks in our much too large -- or too small! -- slippers, the entire student body of Hokota Secondary were arranged in perfect applauding  lines, all the while saying things like: “Kawaiiiii!!” as we passed. 

 Another one of my favourite memories took place at the cultural centre during the calligraphy workshop. My instructor was very sweet, even though at first I made a lot of mistakes. After attempting a few words, she started talking to me and to an elderly man with a camera in Japanese. After that, the camera was on me for some time.  I didn’t really know what was going on! I was thinking: either I am doing something right, or making some terribly offensive mistake that they just had to get on film! After class, one of our translators came up to me along with the teacher. She told me that I had “the sense” for calligraphy, and that I should continue practicing it when I got back to Canada! I was so relieved and humbled. It was the first time I felt that I belonged in some part of the Japanese culture. Before that, I had fallen in love with the country but still felt like just “the first batch from Canada” -- as the UNESCO officials described us.

Another moment that will stay with me is when I was showing my host family my great grandfather’s artwork. It was one of those moments of “Wow, this is really happening!” I was noticing how-against all odds- my life, and the lives of my host family were coming together. In any other circumstance, why and how would we ever meet?

                -Alison Helmer, grade 12

Kelvin welcomes 24 students and their teacher to Winnipeg March 19th through 21st.  Hokota students will tour the school, attend regular classes, meet the Lieutenant Governor, travel to Fort Whyte Nature Centre, try out curling and generally be immersed in Winnipeg hospitality.  It is hoped that the Kelvin community will be able to return a small portion of the generosity and kindess which was shown to us during our 12 days in Japan!



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