High School - Japan, High School Abroad

Cherry Blossoms, School Days and “Sailor” Uniforms in the First Weeks of Life in Japan

by Lily McFeeters, CCI Greenheart Travel High School Exchange student in Japan

Hisashiburi desu! (It’s been a long time!) So much has happened since my last post. A week before school started in Japan, we celebrated hanami, a centuries old custom which literally means “flower viewing.”  Everyone carefully watches the blossom forecast. Ideally, when the blossoms are in full bloom, friends and family gather together and enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossom trees, or sakura. Sakura embodies many symbolic cultural interpretations, one being that of the samurai.  Just as a cherry blossom suddenly falls to the ground upon reaching its peak, so too would the samurai readily sacrifice himself in his prime, should he be called upon to do so.

For our picnic, Obaa-san prepared oden, a hot-pot stew made from various ingredients such as egg, tofu, daikon (white radish), and chikuwa (a tube-shaped fish cake), stewed in a soy-sauce flavored fish broth called dashi.

The Japanese school year begins in April and ends in March. I bike thirty minutes to school everyday, rain or shine. All Japanese schools, both public and private, require a uniform that is unique to each school. My school has generously loaned me both a bicycle and a uniform, which can be quite expensive. Here we are on our first day, and no, we haven’t joined the navy; these are our winter school uniforms. Clearly, some students are very excited about their first day!

I am a “first year” (sophomore equivalent, even though I am a senior at home), a.k.a., year 1, class 8, student number 41 (ichi-nen hachi-kumi yonjuu ichi-ban). There are 40 students in my class, about 20 girls and 20 boys. Here is a picture of me with my friends Megu (Megumi) and Rika. Now that it’s gotten warmer, some of us have opted to wear our summer uniforms.

The first day of school, the other exchange students and I were asked to prepare a self-introduction for the entire 2nd and 3rd year classes. During the first school week, all the Japanese students have placements tests, so we exchange students, Aotea, Oliver, Camila and I, went to the library to prepare for our cultural presentation.

Even though we were all a bit nervous, our presentations were well received. After the introductory ceremony, many students enthusiastically waved to us and said, “Hello!” or “Ohayo!” (Good morning!). Some students even leaned outside their classroom windows to show their appreciation.

We occasionally have a half-day of school on Saturdays. On this day, my host sister, Momo-chan, the other three exchange students, and I went to the mall and ate takoyaki (fried dough with octopus).

Afterwards, we went shopping and did purikura, shortened for Purinto Kurabu (Print Club). This is a popular photo booth stall where you take silly photos with your friends, like Aotea and me. The photos are then printed into really cool stickers.

Thank you for all the comments, emails, and words of encouragement that I have been receiving from friends and relatives. It really means a lot to me. My host family has been so incredibly hospitable. I am having such a wonderful experience.


About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


20 thoughts on “Cherry Blossoms, School Days and “Sailor” Uniforms in the First Weeks of Life in Japan

  1. Hello! ^.^ I’m VERY interested in this program, and am hoping to begin my preparations to go on this trip. I am just wondering (for my parents and me) how much the trip costs. I have been saving up for awhile now, but I’m still not sure what the pricing range in whole is.

    Posted by amarah | October 28, 2012, 7:35 pm
  2. ahh i want to go so badly after looking at this, but i have to have everything in be the 15th and its already the 11th! i just found this today :0 iv been wanting to go for awhile now 🙂 you seem to be having lots of fun and your very pretty!
    well thanks for posting this, it helped me make my desicion to go!

    exchange student (hopefully) sierra 🙂
    P.S .i really like your pictures!

    Posted by sierra | September 11, 2012, 7:09 pm
  3. Wow – great blog. I enjoyed the photos, too. Susan Souder

    Posted by Susan Souder | June 12, 2012, 6:46 pm
  4. OH I am so happy to see you in those uniforms. You look like you fit right in. Today is your birthday in Japan. Happy, Happy Birthday, our wonderful granddaughter. We will see you in August for sure.


    Nana and Poppop

    Posted by Nana | June 8, 2012, 4:34 pm
  5. Lily, you look great and so happy as well! I’m glad you have the opportunity to do this. You’re still my favorite student ever, and I hope you enjoy this experience to the fullest and remember it for life.

    Steve Heaney-Towson U

    Posted by Steve Heaney | June 5, 2012, 4:14 pm
  6. What a wonderful experience, Lily! So glad to hear that you are getting everything that you can out of this experience! – Dr. McCartney

    Posted by Dr. McCartney | June 4, 2012, 11:59 am
  7. Hi Lily,
    I thoroughly enjoy reading about your experience. Your spirit shines through in your superbly-written posts! You are an amazing young lady! I know that you are cherishing every moment. You deserve these life-enhancing times!

    Posted by Jennifer | June 2, 2012, 6:48 pm
  8. I enjoy reading your blog. Looks like you’re building a lifelong memorable experience. Enjoy and keep us up to date on your activities.
    Uncle Tim

    Posted by Tim Patterson | June 1, 2012, 9:06 am
  9. ¡Hola, Lily! Todo parece muy bonito. And you really look integrated in the pictures!
    Have fun (and learn!) y diviertete!
    German de Patricio, Towson U.

    Posted by German de Patricio | May 30, 2012, 10:02 pm
  10. Greetings, Lily,

    So very interesting and the photos truly add a great deal to my enjoyment of your experiences.

    XXBarbara Rosenberger

    Posted by Barbara Rosenberger | May 30, 2012, 9:12 pm
  11. Hey Lily
    We are happy to see you are doing so well in Japan. This is an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
    Love Uncle Jimmy,Aunt Heather and Tristan. Sarah Elizabeth will be here in September. We are very excited.

    Posted by James McFeeters | May 30, 2012, 6:47 pm
  12. HI Lily Looks and sound like you are having a wonderful time and an experience you will never forget. I agree with the earlier comments you just blend right in with your natural beauty.

    Posted by Trisha Browne | May 30, 2012, 2:56 pm
  13. Lily, thanks for keeping us informed. I have enjoyed every one of your messages. I’m extreemly pleased that your having such a great experiances.

    Love to you and your host family,
    Grandpa Greg

    Posted by Gregory Patterson | May 30, 2012, 9:57 am
  14. Hi Lily,
    With your straight bangs, you are blending right in! Looks like you are having a great adventure. Enjoy!

    Posted by Marlene Riley | May 29, 2012, 4:37 pm
  15. It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time and adapting well! I love reading your posts and can’t wait for more.

    Posted by Tracy Hall | May 29, 2012, 1:25 pm
  16. Lily – this is incredible -you look like a different person! Like a real Japanese School girl! Guinness and I send our love,


    Posted by Sue Nolan | May 29, 2012, 10:40 am


  1. Pingback: A “Shout-Out” from Japan to ALL My Grandparents | Greenheart Travel - August 1, 2016

  2. Pingback: A “Shout-Out” from Japan to ALL My Grandparents « - June 18, 2012

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