Saturday, 3 November 2018

Derinya Goes To Japan 2018!

Article submitted by Therese Sakamoto - FSFA Executive Committee Member & Derinya Primary School Japanese Language Teacher

Last month I had the delight of escorting our Derinya Primary School delegation to Susono and Tokyo. Sixteen lucky students from Years 5 and 6 were selected to participate in an action-packed trip of a lifetime! Our Assistant Principal, PE teacher and Prep teacher completed the group of 20 and we were incredibly proud of our students’ efforts and enthusiasm in embracing all opportunities. They represented our school, city and country with pride and succeeded in deepening the ties of friendship with our dear friends in Susono.

Susono Mayor Takamura, Board of Education Director Mr. Kazama, members of SOFA (Susono Overseas Friendship Association) and host families from local schools warmly welcomed us into the Susono community for a 4-night homestay, school visits (to Susono East and Susono West Primary Schools), Mt. Fuji excursion and free day with our host families. SOFA executive committee member, Mrs. Aiko Nakayama did a marvelous job in organising our Susono schedule, especially our homestays and school visits. She even prepared a bag of ‘onigiri’ rice balls for our hungry group to refuel as we raced from Mishima Station to Susono for our first school visit!

The homestay experience is always voted as the trip highlight, with students forging wonderful bonds of friendship with their host brothers and sisters. As reciprocal hosting is encouraged, our group was able to be hosted by Susono students who came to Frankston in recent Susono Student Delegations. Watching our students reunite with hugs and laughter and introduce themselves to their Susono host families is always a special moment for me as their Japanese teacher.

Derinya students participating in classroom activities in Susono

During the school visits we participated in language and cultural exchange lessons with classes of each year level. We arrived ready to go with our ‘uwabaki’ indoor shoes, ‘haburashi’ toothbrush, ‘meishi’ business cards and wore our Derinya uniform to show the classes. Everyone enjoyed Japanese calligraphy, traditional games, club activities and even personal interviews about Australia. Derinya students were very surprised that there was no snack break and couldn’t wait for their school lunch which was prepared in the school kitchen and served by the students. The Susono students squealed with delight as they received ‘meishi’ cards, watched our dance performances and kicked the Aussie footies around in the playground. It was not surprising that our students felt like celebrities for the day! Students from both cities were wonderful ambassadors as they took turns patiently demonstrating and supporting each other in these cultural experiences.

Catching a glimpse of the elusive Mt. Fuji proved tricky as it was only visible for a short time on one of our Susono days! Nevertheless, we had a fun excursion up to the fifth station of Japan’s highest mountain, zigzagging our way to the 2,400 meter mark in the coach. From there, we walked along the hiking trail of volcanic rock for an additional 200 meters and experienced the oxygen level drop and the eeriness of trekking through the clouds.

Above the 5th station on Mount Fuji at 2,600 meters

Our kind host families treated us like family members, as requested, but also spoilt the children rotten! As well as being loaded with lollies (yes, no doubt another cultural experience is to sample Japanese sweets!), they had a very happy time on their free day with host families visiting all the kid-friendly places imaginable including theme parks, sports events, aquariums, craft-making, karaoke rooms, ‘puri kura’ sticker photo booths and of course, shops!

Farewelling our Susono friends is never easy and we took many photos and exchanged as many hugs and kind words as time permitted before boarding our Shinkansen for the next stop on our adventure, a Sumo Tournament! The sweet smells of Sumo wrestlers’ hair product and the sound of the Taiko drums beating to announce the day’s bouts guided us to a small-town gymnasium on the way back to Tokyo. Without the pressures of a grand tournament, ‘Sekitori’ (wrestlers in the top 2 ranked divisions) were relaxed, joking around with our Aussie entourage and happily posing for photos – one sekitori even sat a few students on his knee like Santa!

Sakamoto sensei with sumo rikishi in Kanagawa

The inclusion of a day trip to Nikko (snuggled into the mountains, 2 hours by train NE of Tokyo) was definitely a good choice. Unexpectedly bumping into the popular Japanese boyband ‘Generation’ (with comparable fame to One Direction!) whilst seeing the three wise monkeys (Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil) at Toshugu Shrine created bonus excitement for the group with our towering PE teacher catching their attention and securing us a gig on national TV! But our favourite part of Nikko was Edo Wonderland (also called Nikko Edomura and similar to Sovereign Hill) where we dressed in olden day costumes of our choice (Ninja, Samurai and kimono-clad townsfolk), participated in challenges and enjoyed a parade and show.

Ninja dress ups at Edo Wonderland

And the girls dressed in kimonos

Weaving our way through the streets of Tokyo with suitcases in tow became a skill that we mastered well. Our bright yellow caps, cases with 4 moving wheels with a maximum weight of 12 kg and comfortable shoes ensured that our human ‘snake’ moved at a good speed and was visible at all times. Suica cards (similar to Myki but much more useful!) allowed for smooth entry and exits at train stations for our group to explore as much of this amazing city as possible. In a nutshell, within our 3-night stay in Tokyo, we covered a variety of ‘old’ and ‘new’ regions and sights, including Asakusa, Shibuya, Harajuku, Oshiage (Tokyo Skytree area), Tokyo Dome City and Mitaka in the far western pocket of Tokyo to the must-see Studio Ghibli (better known as the home of Totoro).

Students at the Karinarimon ("Thunder Gate") outside Sensō-ji - Tokyo's oldest (Buddhist) Temple in Asakusa

Narita street shopping

We had a wonderful evening at Torinji Temple in Asakusa where we experienced Zazen (Zen meditation), shared a delicious obento dinner and danced with our friends from Shukutoku Elementary School. It was very special to catch up after hosting their student and staff delegations for many years at Derinya.

Zazen at Torinji Temple in Asakusa

For the first time, we incorporated a Student Day into our itinerary which gave our students the opportunity to research, plan and lead one of the days in Tokyo. This was to promote our school plan for increased student voice and agency. Our students thrived in this role and took full responsibility for organising an action-packed day and evening for our team. Visiting the Ikebukuro Fire Station to learn about natural disaster preparation and experience an earthquake simulator, seeing the statue of the famous and loyal dog Hachiko who waited for his master for almost 10 years at Shibuya Station, and exploring the home of Totoro at Studio Ghibli were meaningful experiences for our students who had learnt about these topics at school. And our day was topped off with an absolutely crazy evening of fun, music, dance and weird food at Kawaii Monster Café (affectionately dubbed KMC) where all the students danced atop the merry-go-round cake! It was the perfect way to spend our final night in Japan.

Toshugu Shrine

Since our return to Australia in mid-October, our team continues to gather and reminisce fondly about our time in Japan. Through speaking at school assemblies, writing articles and sharing photos, we hope to spread our experiences and to inspire as many people as possible to get involved in learning about and visiting Japan.

Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station

I am so fortunate to be able to promote Australia-Japan relations through my two passions of teaching and student trips to our sister city. It is wonderful to have close ties of friendship between the citizens of Frankston and Susono. My students already regard their Susono host families as their second families and are maintaining contact through social media. My hope is for these students and their families to continue communication and to experience the joys of these friendships for many years to come.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Hanami Party held in Japanese Garden

On Sunday 21 October FSFA hosted a gathering of members and friends to celebrate Hanami in the Japanese Garden at Frankston High School. Many of our members have recently returned from the very successful delegation visit to our sister city of Susono in Shizuoka, as well as travelling to many other areas within Japan.

The blossoms were in full bloom as we laid out the blue tarps and cushions, along with platters of delicious food and drinks provided by FSFA and those in attendance. From plates of sushi and fruit to a range of sandwiches, popcorn, Japanese sweet pancakes and lollies, biscuits, cheese, cabana and dips.

Pink blossoms

FSFA Vice-Chairperson Simon Hast welcomed all guests on behalf of Chairperson Peter Patterson who was unable to attend before inviting everyone to enjoy the food, drinks and company.


There was also a slideshow of Simon's images and movies from his recent visit to Susono, Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima, and cycling the Shimanami Kaido from Imabari to Onomichi in southern Japan.

The party concluded with a group photo in the sunlit garden with the vibrant pink blossoms as the backdrop.

Attendees included Frankston Mayor Colin Hampton and his wife Nancye


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

FSFA Delegation Visit to Susono, September 2018

Our 2018 Frankston delegation visit to our sister city Susono was a highly successful, hectic and enjoyable time for the 22 delegates - which included 2 teachers and 7 students from Frankston High School.

The delegation was led by Mayor Colin Hampton and included his wife Nancye and sister-in-law Heather, along with members of the FSFA Executive Committee, community members and the teachers and students who were on board to entertain during the Australian Fair!

Our delegation arrived by shinkansen (bullet train) at Mishima Station on Thursday 27 September and were met by members from SOFA (Susono Overseas Friendship Association). We were transported the short distance to Susono where an official welcome ceremony took place at the Susono Citizens Cultural Centre. There were speeches by the respective mayors and leaders of the sister city organisations, as well as introductions to the host families. We then left to commence our home stay with the host families.

Susono Mayor Kenji Takamura at the welcoming ceremony

Frankston Mayor Colin Hampton

On Friday SOFA arranged a full day of activities which included a visit to the newly opened and amazing Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre in Fujinomiya ( and nearby Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha ( For more than 1,100 years, this renowned shrine has been the head shrine for more than 1,300 Sengen shrines throughout Japan!

Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre (upside down Fuji-san!)

Torii gate leading to Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha

It was then time for lunch where we cooked our own okonomiyaki - a Japanese-style pancake with flour, egg, vegetables and meat mixed together and cooked on a hotplate at your table. There were also drinks and platters of yakisoba noodles to sate our appetites.

Beware: Okonomiyaki cooking experts at work!

The afternoon was spent at the Japan Garden Railway, a special treat for us as it usually only opens on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month. An exciting afternoon observing the many model steam locomotives and the opportunity to ride along the 400 metre track - I suspect the Segway was even more popular than the trains!

Japan Garden Railway in Susono

All aboard!!!

The adult members of the delegation attended the official welcome party on the Friday evening where the formal, sit down feast was enjoyed by all!

Mayor Colin Hampton addressing the welcome party with Noriko and Kenji Takamura, and Nancye Hampton.

Official Welcome Party

The Saturday morning was spent with host families before the real business commenced in the afternoon - the AFL Grand Final! Actually, the afternoon was spent setting up our displays and preparing for the Australian Fair (and some of the Collingwood supporters might've been listening in on the broadcast!)

Final preparations complete!

The Australian Fair commenced at 10 a.m. on the Sunday morning with the impending arrival of the typhoon casting some doubt over the proceedings. The major focus of our display was a virtual reality (VR) presentation with the theme: Frankston ... You're Standing In It! A plentiful supply of pamphlets and brochures promoting Frankston and Victoria were available, along with a 3 x 2.4 metre pictorial banner featuring aerial shots of our great city. The centerpiece of our display were the Oculus Go VR goggles featuring a 360 degree video shot and prepared by Bruce Pearce from Content Services Melbourne ( The video features iconic Frankston scenes such as Nepean Highway, Frankston Pier and Foreshore, Sand Sculptures Australia, Wells Street precinct, George Pentland Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Garden at Frankston High School and students playing football on Frankston Oval, Kars Street.

You can download and view the video via the link at the top right of our FSFA website!

We were thrilled with the response from those who attended, particularly the younger Susono residents who were blown away by the immersive experience. In fact, one young boy after some initial reluctance could not get enough and returned half a dozen times! We also provided a QR code link to our website so they could download or stream the video and gave away 60 sets of VR plastic goggles (not the Oculus Go type!)

The Frankston VR Experience using the Oculus Go headset.

The Australian Fair Opening Ceremony commenced at 11 a.m. and featured speeches from both mayors and sister city chairpersons, the exchange of gifts between the cities and sister city associations, as well as the presentation of the 2017 Sister Cities Australia Award for Community Involvement to SOFA Chairperson Shoji Ninomiya. All FSFA delegation members were also presented on the main stage to those attending the Fair.

Susono Mayor Takamura's Opening Ceremony speech

Exchange of gifts

Mayors Takamura and Hampton proudly display the gifts to each of the cities.

Mayor Colin Hampton also gave a presentation on the plans to develop a Japanese themed garden located in Susono Way, outside the Frankston Private Hospital. This drew much applause and appreciation from those present!

Mayor Hampton outlines the plans for a Japanese inspired garden in Susono Way.

We also enjoyed the great music provided by the students and teachers from the Frankston High School's clarinet ensemble who performed for and entertained the crowd on the main stage throughout the day. Some traditional bush dancing was thrown in for good measure with members of the audience (NOT delegation!) joining in and demonstrating remarkable enthusiasm and aerobic endurance. There was also a commendable effort by all the delegation members to sing a few Aussie songs to the politely appreciative audience!

The FSFA contribution also included the sampling of a range of yummy "Australian foods" sourced from Ritchies Stores in Frankston and shipped and carried from Frankston to Susono. These included lollies, Anzac biscuits, lamingtons, various chocolates, savory biscuits and pavlovas made by FSFA and SOFA members in Susono.

The range of "Australian foods" available for sampling at the Fair.

With the approach of the typhoon it was decided to wind up (no pun intended) the Fair an hour early so the clean up and Farewell Party could get under way. A sumptuous feast of Japanese foods and drinks was laid on as we were joined by host families and friends of SOFA to celebrate another successful sister city visit. Some of us even got to make takoyaki (octopus balls). We were entertained by Akiyama-san's spectacular taiko drumming group and some were also able to play their drums.

Akiyama-san's taiko drumming group

All too soon the evening's entertainment came to an end and we were departing for our last night with our host families. We re-assembled early on the Monday morning for a final photo on the steps of the Susono City offices before being driven to Mishima to catch our shinkansen.

It's remarkable how quickly the time passes but the bonds of friendship remain as strong as ever. New friendships are forged, old ones re-kindled, and life-long memories are created over 4 remarkable days. We are so thankful to the hard working members of SOFA, all our host families and those who made our delegation visit such a wonderful success! Arigatou gozaimashita! We look forward to welcoming a delegation from Susono to Frankston in early 2020, hopefully led by Mayor Takamura and his wife Noriko.

We look forward to holding our Japanese Festival during the delegation's visit to our wonderful city by the bay. See you in 2020!!

Majestical Fuji-san!