Less than a week ago, five Japanese language students from Boonsboro High School were on their way home from a spring break trip to Japan with their teacher, Ayako Shiga.
On Saturday, the school’s 25 Japanese students, including Japanese exchange student Yukiko Shinoda, will represent Boonsboro High at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade inWashington, D.C.
“It’s a huge privilege to be in the parade. We’re walking behind the Japanese ambassador,” Shiga said.
The students are to arrive at the school at 6 a.m. Saturday, with the parade kickoff at 10 a.m. The parade will mark the 100th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossoms trees from Tokyo toWashington, D.C.
Thanks to a grant from the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, D.C.Foundation, money was provided for materials to build the “mikoshi” — a replica of a nonreligious portable shrine traditionally carried in Japan during harvest festivals. The students will carry it along the parade route.
Shiga said they’ve done a test run to make sure the long carrying arms of the mikoshi fit into a school bus.
The grant covers the transportation costs for the bus and the “happi coats,” traditional Japanese outerwear, that the students will wear.
They will march in the parade accompanied by Japanese language students from two Fairfax County, Va., high schools and Georgetown University.
Work on the mikoshi began in February, with Cori Robertson, Donavan Taylor and Yukiko, who is from Chiba Prefecture — one of 47 Japanese prefecture, similar to states — taking charge of the project.
They were assisted by the other students in the Japanese 4 course and Bryan Swisher’s shop students.
“Mr. Swisher’s shop class helped us tremendously with this thing,” Shiga said.
Paper cranes, symbols of peace and friendship, will hang from the center of the mikoshi.
Following the parade, the mikoshi most likely will be displayed at the Japanese street festival inWashington, D.C., then will be donated to Hagerstown’s Discovery Station for an ongoing exhibit on Japan, Shiga said.
The Japanese culture on display in the parade likely will be familiar to the students who traveled to Japan — seniors Grant Kane and Kevin Reese, and sophomores Jacob Nelson, Randi Stavrou and Samantha “Sam” Trujillo.
They flew on March 31 from Dulles International Airport to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and returned on April 6 — just as the cherry blossom trees in Japan were peaking.
Shiga had planned a detailed itinerary which included a tour of Tokyo; Kamakura, the old capital of Japan outside Tokyo; Hakone, a famous hot-spring area; and stops at historical sites, museums, markets, temples, shrines and for shopping.
The group agreed that Jacob Nelson used his Japanese language skills the most of anyone in the group. He befriended a Japanese teenager and family while visiting the hot springs.
A new ‘perspective’
One expectation Shiga had of her students was to navigate the train lines in Tokyo as a group, using their map and Japanese skills to reach a chosen destination.