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Lahainaluna students visit Japan and South Korea

By Staff | May 22, 2009

LAHAINA — During spring break, eight Lahainaluna High School students and seven adult chaperones traveled to Japan and South Korea for a ten-day sojourn that helped the students understand and compare the visitor and hospitality industry in those two Asian countries with that of Hawaii.

Students Joyce Gazmen, Genevieve Mishima, Taylor Martin, Kaili Faust, Imihana Ampong, Brandon Knight, Richard Nguyen and Tyson Takeuchi were accompanied by Leslie Hiraga, Karen Fukushima, Carol Reimann, Rochelle Knight, Wendy Martin and Gail and Tom Takeuchi.

The first stop on the itinerary was Osaka, where the students were very impressed by the detailed service paid to all customers, and the fact that you did not have to “tip” to ensure quality service. The time in Osaka was spent visiting local sights, and thanks to Knight, the group was able to visit Nakanishi Optical Products, which supplies Lahaina’s Maui Jim sunglasses with some of their sunglasses.

After three nights, it was on to Fukuoka by Shinkansen (bullet train, which can exceed 150 mph). The group reached the southern island of Kyushu in under three hours.

After experiencing the bullet mode of transportation, they had to make it to the hotel on a local bus, which at rush hour was very crowded. Students found out that people don’t want to wait for the next bus, so they keep packing them in!

The hotel in Fukuoka was a resort right on the beach. The students got their feet wet in the Sea of Japan and collected some seashells along the shore.

Located next to the resort is the Yahoo Dome, where the local professional baseball team plays its home games. The students were fortunate to be able to watch a game between the Softbank Hawks and Hiroshima Carps. Talk about audience participation! Everyone should have a chance to see how these fans really get involved — they even have four different “cheerleaders” who stand on a podium and lead the audience in cheering.

The group’s last night in Japan was spent at a traditional onsen (communal bath) in Nagasaki — a very good experience for students and adults alike. Being in Nagasaki also afforded the students time to visit another city devastated by an atomic blast. Many have heard of Hiroshima and the stories, but fewer people realize what the city of Nagasaki endured.   

Next up on the itinerary was a crazy day: flying from Nagasaki to Haneda (Tokyo), a bus ride to Narita (Tokyo) and then a plane ride from Narita to Incheon (Seoul). Whew… customs was easy compared to running through airports and grabbing luggage for the quick connections.

The final three nights were spent at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul. Colorful and vibrant, from palaces to museums, Seoul was so very different from Japan.

The group “shopped ’til we dropped,” with super prices that can be even less expensive if you are willing to “bargain” with the shop keepers.

The highlight of the Seoul stay was a visit to a private Catholic school, Gyeseong Elementary, in Gangnam. The students sang Lahainaluna’s alma mater and Hawaii Pono‘i, and Joyce Gazmen and Rochelle Knight performed a hula.

Students found out just how much education is valued in South Korea. These students pay on average $30,000 (USD) per school year, and not only learn their language but also receive instruction in Chinese and English — all before they leave the sixth grade! After that, all will be sent abroad to study until they graduate either high school or college.

Gyeseong Elementary is so popular that the students are selected through a lottery. This made the LHS students appreciate what they have, and how fortunate they are that they can get a good education and not have to pay and leave home for it.

“As we said goodbye to our trip of a lifetime, everyone took away many fond memories of food, friends, hospitality and travel. Students and adults were able to experience ‘foreign’ foods, customs and attitudes — things that for many of us, will probably never be possible again. We’d also like to thank again the generous support that we have received from our community and parents. Mahalo nui loa,” concluded Gail Takeuchi.