The Grey Coat Hospital

Church of England Comprehensive School for Girls

Japanese Exchange

Japanese Exchange

During October half term six of our Year 10 students had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo to stay with their exchange partners, attend their partners’ Secondary Schools and go on an excursion to Kamakura as well as take part in a sightseeing trip of Tokyo.

We feel very happy and privileged to have such as long established link with Secondary Schools in Tokyo and the Local Authority in Tokyo. The exchange was launched in 1996 to foster an understanding between two inner cities boroughs – Westminster and Chiyoda in Tokyo. Students who take part in the exchange also take part in Japanese lessons prior to their visits.

For the students their stay in families and in their school does not only give them an insight into family and everyday life for young people in Japan, it is also a fantastic way to learn about cultural etiquette and customs.

The exchange is co-ordinated and organised by The Grey Coat Hospital but is a joint project with students from Westminster City School. All participants this year have been excellent ambassadors for their schools and have, no doubt, benefited greatly from this exchange and their experience.

As a school we are very pleased that we are able to offer exchanges to Japan, Germany and France as these provide a wonderful opportunity for young people to experience the language and culture first and make new friends along the way.

Mr Waltl,
Assistant Head

Students' Viewpoints
I was inspired to write an application letter for the Japanese exchange because I knew a little bit about the culture. I had seen quite a bit about Japanese culture and have tasted Japanese food. I think in order for you to apply, you must have some interest in the Japanese way of life or, are ready to experience new things - especially in a country you have never visited before! It was my first time going to an Asian country, and staying with a family I had never met. Staying in a country I'd never been was quite challenging as they have a different way of life to Westerners. I think that's another reason why someone should apply for this amazing opportunity, as long as you are not afraid to break out of your comfort zone and make friends with your exchange partner's friends and family, despite the language barrier. Although Japanese and English children may seem different in comparison, you'll be surprised to see how much you have in common and how close you'll grow to your partner, by the end of your stay. Lastly, I think that if you're going to apply for this exchange, you'll have to be willing to accommodate your partner in an even better way than they did for you.

The idea of an exchange was initially quite daunting but through this process I have realised that I not only got to see another side of an amazing city that is Tokyo but I also made new lifelong friends and learnt about a new culture and language which I feel is an experience you could never forget. When I applied for this exchange in year nine, a question I always had in my mind is what will it be like? I expected everything in Tokyo to be high tech and modern, this was the complete opposite in Japanese school where they stick to the traditional method of blackboard and chalk. Despite the language barrier, my exchange partner and I became such great friends over the course of this process, a friendship that I hope to maintain for years to come.

One of the most daunting, but also the most exciting, parts of going to stay with another family in this exchange was the huge difference between the cultures of the two countries. In Japan we noticed that everybody was expected to be far more polite to one another. There are very different expectations for everybody in the way that they act towards different people, including to family members and parents. As well as affecting our actions whilst we were there, some of the values and simple things that we started to do also carried over into our home life, as well as our exchange partners' love for things such as Japanese food and stationery!

We observed some very special Japanese customs during our time in Tokyo, such as "Shichi-go-san", which translates into "Seven-five-three" in English and is a very important celebration for children on their seventh, fifth and third birthdays. They dress up in beautiful, traditional Japanese kimonos, a very special and unique opportunity; I was lucky enough to be dressed in one of these during my stay, and the process took almost an hour!

In England, we tried to show our Japanese friends as much about English culture as possible, from and everyday English birthday to the more traditional "Ceremony of the Keys" at the Tower of London, a ceremony that has not stopped and kept the same, repeated every night for the last seven hundred years!

We hope that our friends learnt something, however small, about the very different British culture, and that they had as good a time in London as we did in Tokyo. We will miss them very much!

Eve James

We were lucky enough to attend three different Japanese schools in groups of three to four. We had a day of interesting activities the schools organised like a choral competition and a calligraphy lesson as well as having a few days of normal lessons. I enjoyed all of my days spent at the school because the students were so keen to get to know us and try out their impressive English.

On my first day at Kudan Secondary School we were welcomed with an assembly. The highlights for me included welcoming speeches by some of the pupils and a whole school performance of “What Makes You Beautiful”- One Direction. In the classroom there were lots of similarities between the way I recognised getting taught and their own methods but there was also a few big differences like the fact that they use the much more traditional method of chalk and blackboard and they also have a rota for pupils to clean the classroom at the end of the day. I was very impressed with the amount of extra-curricular clubs the pupils took part in.

I was surprised how quickly we made friends and I put this down to the kindness and openness of the students. I exchanged email addresses with many of them and I hope that I will carry on this new amazing friendship with not only my exchange but also the other Japanese students that couldn’t come to England this time but are still interested in creating a bond with someone on the other side of the world.


The exchange was a daunting, but also extremely exciting experience. It was not only a chance for us to learn a new language but also to explore a vibrant culture with totally different customs. I made some amazing discoveries about Japanese lifestyle at home and in school. I was fascinated by Tokyo, how beautiful the architecture was, how polite the people were and finally how advanced their technology was, in comparison to Britain.

I absolutely loved taking part in the exchange, meeting new people and (despite the inevitable language barrier) making friends. It was equally exciting to host our exchange partners and to be able to show them our individual ideas of British culture. It will be an opportunity that I will never forget, and one that I strongly recommend to the future Year 10s.


As well as having a wonderful time in Japan, we also had a fantastic eight days when our partners returned to London. We were able to sympathise with the feeling of being so far away from home, so we tried to make them feel as welcome as possible. We attended a group outing, arranged by staff, and our partners accompanied us to school for three days during which, we hope, they learned a lot and enjoyed themselves. Throughout their stay, we organised our own trips around London together as a group to really see as much of the city as possible and, from our own experience, to spend time with their friends. Despite the exhaustion from hosting our guests, we came to know them even better and even learnt a little more Japanese.

The experience as a whole was truly amazing and a one in a lifetime opportunity that we will certainly never forget. We have all learnt so much, mainly about Japan but also ourselves, and thank every single person that made the exchange possible. Little did we know at the end of Year 9 when the trip was advertised to us that we were about to embark on such an incredible adventure.