One of the key experiences of all Japanese school children is the annual class trip.
Elementary school students usually have their first overnight outing in fifth grade, with a trip to a local mountain or seaside area for several nights.
They will study something related to the area itself - marine biology or forestry, for example - and to what they have been learning in class. In addition, there will be cookouts, singalongs, and campfires at night.
Junior and senior high school is a time for going a bit farther afield. Kyoto is the most popular destination, with Tokyo, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, and Okinawa not far behind.
At certain times of year - spring and fall - Kyoto is overrun by students in their school uniforms. (Some weary Kyotoites refer to the students as "locusts" - black in appearance because they are at all times in school uniform - who twice a year descend on the city and devour all that comes before them.)
The (unfortunately dark) photo above is one such group. The students are squatting or sitting on the floor of bullet train area of Kyoto Station while their teachers bark orders above them.
Based on the snippets of conversation I overheard, they appear to be returning to Tokyo after a three-day stay in Kyoto.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009