After months and months of fundraising the day was finally here. On September 30, 11 students from year nine to 13, along with two teachers, travelled to Japan for a 10-day cultural exchange.

First stop was a five-hour stopover in Singapore. The airport was huge and beautiful. We then took a seven-hour flight to Tokyo where we were greeted by our tour guide who took us sightseeing around the city. The next day we took a train to Tokyo Disneyland where we went on rides and shopped for the whole day.

On the Friday, we went to a beautiful park, a small zoo and a tower. We then had lunch at a plaza before meeting the mayor of Edogawa City who was very delighted to meet us. We were gifted with jerseys and treated with kindness. After our big day we went off to meet our first set of host families.

Saturday morning we had a get-together with all the families over morning tea. We then had free time with our host families.

On Sunday, we spent the whole day with our host families, shopping and sightseeing. On Monday, there were typhoon warnings, so all the schools were closed down and we couldn’t go visit them.

We drove around for a little while and then went to a kitchen area, where we made some Japanese food, then we met our second set of host families.

On Tuesday, we went to an elementary school for the day and spent some time working with the young kids. They performed a traditional dance and we performed kapa haka – they loved it.

On Wednesday, we travelled to Seigakuin Girls High School and spent the day there where they gave us a presentation about the school and how they celebrate their seasons. Then we did another kapa haka performance. After the big day, we travelled to our hotel before flying home.

It was an early start and a very long flight. After hours and hours of flying, we finally made it home safely.

I would like to say a big thank you to my mum and dad for helping me get to Japan, also Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae for gifting me a beautiful pendant for my fundraising. Thank you also to my tāua and pōua for helping me also with my fundraising.

I would also like to thank the whole community for getting behind us with our fundraising raffles, bake sales and school fairs. Finally thank you to Mr Metcalfe and Laura Mills, the teachers who accompanied and looked after us.

It was an awesome trip and I was so happy to have been able to experience another culture. It was fantastic to go with a great bunch of students. Aroha nui, Brooke Parker.

Brooke and a friend sightseeing at the Tokyo Tower.

Brooke and a friend sightseeing at the Tokyo Tower.

Brooke with her host family.

Brooke with her host family.