The day before yesterday; Japan
There aren't many experiences like that!
On Sunday August 5th, nine Israeli and Palestinian youths flew for a week to Japan. The city hall of Kogeani which is located in the Tokyo district invited us and we; Doron, Lara, Noam, Noam, Samech, Shadi, Shiraz and I, accepted the invitation happily. All of us with our PCFF escorts; Khaled Abu Awaad and Ariella Shainok, met at the airport in Paris and went on the plane for a twelve hours flight to Japan.
Yes, we felt like we spent a whole week on the plane.
We landed safely in Japan, at eight A.M. A group of people waited for us and among them Maya our guide for the week.
At first everything looked a bit strange but the minute we got into the bus all changed and we discovered charming, courteous, polite and loving people. During the ride we introduced ourselves and learned few words in Japanese. We reached Kogeani, met some important people and the high school students who accompanied us the whole week. We got a very warm welcome; tens of people waited for us, stood up and applauded even before we entered the room. It was very moving.
We went for a walk in the town, went to Tama Zoo, a ride on the Monorail, and got to the hotel. After putting down our luggage we dragged Ariella the Israeli guide to do some shopping and discovered it's all very expensive, yet we returned with some bags.
We returned just on time for a nice dinner.
On the next day we visited two museums; one was a museum of beautiful Japanese gardens and the other museum had Japanese houses, it was all lovely beside the fact that we got stung by mosquitoes.
We continued to a tea party where the girls wore Kimonos in which they could hardly breathe but all of them looked beautiful. The boys wore a comfortable and light Samurai costume.
With the Kimonos on, we sat and had some traditional tea, we got some cookies which some of us tried and liked and which some of us didn't dare to try. Then we were served traditional green tea. Ariella was hooked, Khaled also liked it but none of the children liked the tea. We learned what the tea is made of and how it's prepared.
We went on to a festive dinner where we met our nice hosts, heard some speeches and saw an amusing show.
We were divided into Israeli-Palestinian couples and went with our hosts to their houses. I was with Lara. Our hosts were the Sano family, a nice family who don't speak English a fact which didn't disturb them to be kind and lovely to us. My time with Lara was wonderful, we had a great long talk in English into the night. It was lovely! The next day we went touring to the famous Mount Fuji, a music Museum and a small Artists’ Village where some of the Sano's best friends live. We also visited a few spectacular temples. It was a beautiful day.
Lara and Nitzan with their Japanese hosts
In the morning we left our hosts and came back to the group. We visited Kogeani's fire department. In pairs we got into the fire distinguish crane and were elevated up to the city sky. We had fun. We continued to the culture hall for few hours of lectures and interviews and were asked few questions by the guides and the high school students. We answered and returned tired to the hotel.
In the evening we had a nice Israeli-Palestinian talk. In our meeting the connection that was created between all of us became even stronger.
On the next day we were asked to be presentable and went for a visit to the Israeli embassy and the Palestinian embassy; it was interesting to hear the different sides. We went for a meeting in the office of Japan's prime minister and met one of his advisors.
With the Palestinian ambassador
We continued to the Tokyo Tower, a 330 meters high tower shaped like the Eiffel. We went up almost to the last floor and looked at Tokyo. Then we, the girls, decided to be adventurous and walked down the stairs. 600 steps! It was tiring but enjoyable.
We visited the biggest and oldest temple in Tokyo and went for shopping in a big market. We had lots of fun!
In the evening we went to a restaurant specializing in Tempura, most of us liked the food, I didn't.
At the end of the meal we had a surprise birthday party for Ariella. We came back to the hotel for our last night in Tokyo and in Japan, we were a bit sad but we felt good about everything we experienced.
On the next day we founded ourselves in a fairytale. That was the day we were all looking for Tokyo's Disneyland. We all got hooked and enjoyed ourselves a lot. Together we went through all of the Park's adventures. I got lost when I watched the parade while everybody else was shopping. Don't worry I still had some time to shop. We finished lunch at Disneyland, drove to the airport, ate dinner with the Japanese, gave thank you letters to everybody, took photos of each other, wrote each others’ addresses, said our goodbyes and eventually had to part from truly amazing people.
We reached Paris after twelve hours of flying and sleeping and had to part from the Palestinians. It was very sad this year: because we are all grown up and speak a common language, true friendships were created. The Palestinians flew to Jordan and we spent the eighteen hours we had before our flight to Israel touring Paris. Paris is magical and we had a great time. When we went on the plane to Israel we were tired but satisfied.
I don't think that any of us have even one bad word to say about the trip. We accomplished all our goals and despite some differences and small arguments everything was as it should be and what was left to me is to summarize a wonderful week in Japan.
On behalf of all of us, I want to thank all the people who gave us this once in a lifetime and extraordinary experience.
A big thanks to Ariella and Khaled who escorted us the whole week and survived all our naggings, nonsenses and problems.
A big thanks to the city hall of Kogeani, Kogeani's mayor and all these wonderful people who arranged the trip and hosted us. You gave us an experience which we'll never forget.
Nitzan and Khaled have a conversation in the streets of Japan.