Bloemfontein Childrens Choir

...where singing is pure joy

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Japan 2007

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Early on Saturday, the 22nd of September, 34 young members of our choir set off on their 30hour journey to Japan. In spite of to very long flights, the children were very well behaved and occupied themselveswith games and movies provided by the airline. Emirates is an exellent airline: the plane was neat, the service excellent and the food tasty.

Our tour wis limited to the largest island of Japan: Honshu. At the Kansai airport in Osaka, a very friendly Japanese lady, Rie Goto, welcomed us. Rie and Yoshinura Kakinuma, who took over from her in Hiroshima, played an indispensable role in the success of our tour. In general, the Japanese have a reasonable theoretical knowledge of English, but to converse with them is a different story! They have a rather formal way of doing things wich we would have found rather difficult to cope with without the assistance of our two Japanese Friends.

In Nara, the first capital of Japan, we were accomidated in the youth hostel. Here the children were introduced to true Japanese food and taught us how to use chopsticks. Tat was so much fun! The traditional Japanese bath was also a new experience. There is a row of taps along the wall where you wash and scrub and rinse off all soap, after wich everybody relaxes in a communal bath with warm water.


Buddhism and Shintoism are the two main religions practised in Japan. The langest bronze image of Buddha in the world is located in the Todaiji temple in Nara. There we saw them bringing incense-offering  to their god. At the kasagu shrine the children saw how the worshippers, by clapping their hands, drew the attention of their gods so that they could worship them. Tousands of lanterns placed in the vicinity of the shrine in the hope of attracting good luck and riches, have been donated by worshippers. Tame deer roam all over the Napa Park area. They are considered sacreds as they are believed to be the messengers of the gods.

Hiroshima provided the first taste of Japanese host-parenting for our children. The inhabitants of this area tend to retain the traditional way of life and their knowledge of English is very limited. The visit of children from South Africa was such big news that we were welcomed by reporters. A TV channerl made a programme of the choir's visit and even followed two of our children to the home of their host-parents. Most of our choirmembers slept on the traditional mats in bedrooms portioned only by paper blinds. Their meals, as well as their school lunches, were true Japanese food. The children came to school by train, bus, bicycle or tram, a bit unusual for some of our children.

We were surprised to hear that Hiroshima Jogakuin (girls school) is a Christian school, but soon realised it was mostly a tradition from a pre-war era being kept alive. We did not encounter a single Christian teacher! The teachers went to great lengths to expose our children to the traditional tea ceremony, Japanese calligraphy, origami and traditional musical instruments.

"Peace Memorial Park" in Hiroshima tells the heart rendering story of the effect that the first atom bomb, that shook the world, had and still has on the local community. Although this occured long before the time of our children, each anbd every one of us was touched by what we saw. (Two of our children even had nightmares about what they have seen!) The choir also visited the Hiroshima Castle and had the opportunity to wander through a most beautifull Japanese garden.

Osaka, third largest city in Japan, was as busy as a beehive. We took the underground train to the 40 storey glass building. lifts made of glass whisk one to the top in a flash were a beatifull panoramic view awaits one. The youth hostel in Osaka was not up to scratch, but fortunately, we only had to spend one night there. Fortunately, however, a beautifull park nearby offered our children the opportunity to get rid of their energy.

Takarazuka is a beautifull city. Twelve uears ago a large portion of the city was razed to the ground by an earthquake , and consequently there are many modern, new buildings in the city. Here a more occidental way of life prevails, wich the childern also thoroughly enjoyed, "The Little Singers of Takarazuka" and their parents were most hospitable and spoilt our choir members with gifts and mementos and some were even taken to an amusement park.

Our next visit was to an animation museum (Astro Boy). We also had the opportunity to view the Takarazuka Revue Grand Theatre complex. This revue is known for the fact that all roles in their musicals are played by females. Twice our choir sang in a shopping complex wich boasted an excellent sound amplification system and accordingly received much positive reaction.

Here we also visited a school wich the children found rather exciting. Each Japanese pupil had to read a book about a child from Africa to prepare them for our visit, but unfortunately mostly had a complete misconception of our country and of us. The Japanese children were most interested in the "Gumboot Dance" and in return showed and taught us a dance of theirs about fishing.

Vega Hall, venue of our last concert, is a beautiful place. The equipment is kept in good condition and we were treated very professionally. It was a delightful expierience to perform there, wich could be felt and seen n the smiling faces of 34 choir members. A fine performace, thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the audiece. It was a privilige to perform before the world reowned conductor and adjudicator, Mr. Matsubara.

It's amazing to see how firm the bond between choir members and their host-parents can become within 3 to 4 days. I am convinced that the spontaneous frendlieness and loving disposition of our choir members contribute greatly towards this. I also believe that the love of Christ carried in our children, is a key factor. It was touching to see how difficult some of the host parents found it to say farewell to their "new children". The Headboy of this year's family even undertook a 90 min drive to wish him well at the airport. Kakinuma said, "Your student seem very popular. They very musical and good dicipline." The choir received guite a number of lovely letters emanating from all the groups for whom they performed with whom the socialised.

The last day was a looning day - we left Takarazuka at 09:00 and only started our home bound journey at 23:00. The children spent their last day in Kyoto shopping, buying  ast minute mementos and gefts, and then picnicked on the banks of a river to get rid of their pent-up energy. Geishas surprisingly pitched up at the picnic site and we were able to take a few last photo's.


Shavonne Attwood-ons hoofmeisie van 2007 skryf oor Japan

"Dit was vir my 'n ongelooflike ervaring. Hulle kos en kultuur verskil baie van ons sin en dit was vir my interessant om saam met hulle in hulle huise te bly. Die Japanese is baie vriendelike mense, maar ek vderkies nog my eie land met my eie mense!!"

(English)  Shavonne Attwood-our headgirl of 2007 writes on Japan

"It was an unbelievable experience. Their food and culture is very different from ours and it was interesting to stay with them in their homes. The Japanese people are very friendly, but I still choose my own land and my own people!!"


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