CRLS’ Summer Trip to Japan

In Travels, Students Focus on Education


Josie Wyman

Pictured: The Great Buddha of Kamakura in Japan.

Azusa Lippit, Around School Editor

This past June 19th, four CRLS faculty members and seventeen CRLS students took a trip to Japan. These students applied to go on the trip and helped to fundraise.

The trip was organized by Timothy Ogino and Kristin Knowlton, along with two other volunteer faculty chaperones, Denise Lee and Willis Dougherty. One of the latter, Mrs. Lee, was an active part of the fundraising process. 

She explains, “It was difficult. We needed to raise a lot of money. We started out with a GoFundMe, the four adults that were chaperoning reached out to their networks, the kids reached out through their networks, we did bake sales, and some kids went door to door in their neighborhoods asking for money.”

[I] would go back to Japan during college.

— Bruno Munoz-Oropeza '21

Mr. Ogino, one of the trip’s organizers, is half Japanese and has spent a significant amount of time in Japan. “I used to teach in Japan, in rural Akita prefecture [Region in Northern Japan], and it was such an important part of why I became a teacher. I taught English there for two years, and I’ve always wanted to take other students— especially American students— there so they could experience a little bit of what I experienced. So that’s what the trip was about; it wasn’t about tourism or sightseeing, but introducing American students to Japanese students, schools, and culture.”

The group’s itinerary was carefully designed. Mr. Ogino recalls, “We started in Tokyo and stayed one night, and then we went to Akita prefecture. There we did a high school visit, we explored some nature, and then we went to an elementary school that I used to teach at, and [the students] helped with the English Language class there.” The group then traveled to the city of Tsukuba, Cambridge’s sister city, where they met the mayor and gave him a message from Marc McGovern, Cambridge’s mayor.

Josie Wyman ’22, one of the participating students, reflects, “I have always found the Japanese language intriguing and interesting so going there has inspired me to learn more Japanese.” One of her favorite parts of the trip was when “We visited Kamakura, which was a seat of government and religion back in the 1200s. You can almost imagine what it was like then because some monuments and buildings are still the same.”

The kids were taken by the Japanese culture.

— Denise Lee

Bruno Munoz-Oropeza ‘21, another student on the trip, is looking forward to building his future connection to Japan: “[I] would definitely go back to Japan during college for one semester or a year abroad. I probably wouldn’t go permanently, though, even though the prices are better than the United States … because the social situation would be very different for me and a lot to get used to.”

According to Mrs. Lee, the departure at the end of the trip was a difficult one, said Mrs. Lee. “A lot of the kids were so taken by the Japanese culture, they said ‘Oh, I don’t want to leave.’ That was a really frequent comment as we were getting close to the end of the trip. It had a really big impact on the kids.”

This piece also appears in our September 2019 print edition.