Muhammad Samar Ata Tung, Group Leader

Since we received our visas, a wave of excitement and nervousness was in constant flow amongst me and my team-mates. This is what primarily kept us awake throughout the whole journey to Tokyo.
Arrival at Narita airport was just the beginning. We had many expectations from this trip and the country itself, but we also knew that two things were going to bother us in these 10 days, namely language and food.
Being used to the spices of the subcontinent, Japanese cuisine didn’t really suit my stomach at first, and I had to rely on the nearest McDonalds branch in the area everywhere I went. Moreover, navigation on our own was also difficult in Tokyo owing to the acute ratio of people who can understand English language.
The arranged visits in the program were certainly most intriguing and informative. The miniature statue of liberty in the Odaiba Area was a surprise actually; I didn’t know Tokyo had a statue of liberty too! The Panasonic centre was by far the coolest place, but alas, due to company policy, we couldn’t take many photos. Observing the landfill sites was also very impressive seeing how even garbage was being put to use in a controlled fashion.
Caritas School was a really impressive institution, with many differences from the schools here in Pakistan like no bells, no base classroom and many others. One thing I noticed about Japanese people in my tour was that even though their lives were as hectic as they could ever be, it did not make them irritable or rude in any manner. They were as polite as a person should be and this, I learnt at my host family’s home. The Japanese people were very kind, co-operative and humble in what they did and said. I have got this impression from the host family I stayed with, who arranged a small welcome party specially for me, and also made their traditionally important dish: red rice with sword beans, which, as they say, is cooked only for very happy occasions like the birth of a child, marriage etc. It was really touching.
The bullet train was no less than spectacular, the power, speed, yet the silence and comfort sitting inside was unmatchable. We even managed to pass by Mount Fuji. The temples of Kyoto were awe-inspiring. It was very impressive how Japan had conserved its traditions and history, alongside advancing in technology.  

Hiroshima today gives practically no hints that an atomic bomb had ever clean swept the land once. It’s the same as any other city of the country, well constructed and maintained. I’d like to specially thank Mrs.Yoshiko Kajimoto for sparing time to take us back to the horrific event through her eyes. Our Japanese co-ordinators and Mr.Asif were all on the edge of tears. I managed to visit the childrens’ peace monument as well and dedicated a few cranes to the innocent children who lost their lives in this tragic event. The tour of Miyajima Island was another display of Japanese history, and luckily, we managed to witness a live Shinto wedding on the island as well. The dears looked quite tamed, but we still had to keep our important papers with ourselves!
The forum was perhaps my most active day of the whole tour. Every passing second gave me more tension. The country report went well, and after that the ice breaking activities were somewhat slow, but still fun. The formation of mixed nationality groups was very well planned, as this allowed me to make many new friends from almost all countries.
At the end, the farewell party was simply fabulous, and so was our bhangra. Other countries also performed very well, but I must say, the bhangra was a big hit. My host mom became a little sentimental while bidding me farewell. I don’t blame her.
2nd December came sending sad faces all over the hotel. I knew this tour had to end sooner or later, but I wish it was a little longer.
At the end, I’d like to thank the Japanese government and SAARC for this whole program on behalf of myself and my team. These 10 days would surely count amongst our best so far. (End)

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