Every year the Ichikawa group brings something very special to our school.
18 boys from Ichikawa Gakuen near Tokyo visited us this year. The Japanese students show our boys a little bit of the big world that is out there by bringing it to us. It may be the fact that not everyone speaks English and the challenges this poses, or may it be the differences in food preferences and living facilities.
While there are many differences there are also many things we have in common, including rugby, which is why our very own Highlander Fumiaki Tanaka's visit to the school was one of the many highlights of their trip to our beautiful town. We claim Fumiaki as one of our own but in Japan, he is a rugby superstar and he had many great and very humorous tips for language learning and living in another country.
The Ichikawa group spent a lot of their time in classes improving their English (and what an improvement it was!!) but their afternoons were spent falling in love with the country, be it the visit to the farm, including sliding down the sheep chute, or the visit to the Ōtākau Marae which included learning and performing a Mihimihi. The sports afternoon and the afternoon in the drama room were also highlights, as our Japanese visitors got to act and compete with and against our very own boys in various activities.
A full programme at school was, however, not all they were exposed to. All of them were placed in welcoming John McGlashan home-stay families who not only opened their homes but also their hearts and helped them become a part of every day Kiwi life. The experiences ranged from seeing southern stars at night (which are very different in Tokyo) to high-level rugby training and trips to Queenstown, Central Otago and even Auckland.
The last day made it clear that the two weeks, short as they were, had allowed families and students to form a very close bond and saying good bye was sad and many tears were shed - and dare I say it - not just from the boys.