A Once in a Lifetime Experience

In the early morning hours of Aug. 1, nine Revere students and three chaperones from the Revere Date Japanese Exchange Program boarded a plane to finish the exchange that began in July of 2013 right here in Revere.  The first seven days the group traveled to Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. During this week they visited the Golden Temple and Monkey Mountain in Kyoto, Todaji Temple and the deer park in Nara, Osaka Castle and Aquarium with former Revere Resident Matt Kelley, the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum, Miyajima Island and then ending the first week in Tokyo for two nights. There they visited Tokyo Skytree, Harajuku, Ueno Zoo and had lunch at Hard Rock Café before heading to Date City. The next week was spent in Date City in a homestay program. The students stayed with their friends who visited Revere last summer. The week started with a welcoming party, where co-president, Leanne Stamatopoulos gave a speech along with student representative Azra Lakacha. The rest of the week the group participated in various cultural activities including learning Japanese calligraphy and the art of Zazen, toured the Aizu Samurai School and Castle, went to the Abucuma Caves, went camping at Mt. Ryozen, sang Karaoke, picked peaches on a peach farm, visited Soma city, where the group saw first hand the devastation of the Tsunami, and participated in a traditional O-Bon festival in the town of Yanagawa. The last night was spent at a Sayonara Party where co-president Lauren Sims gave a speech all in Japanese, Robert Alba and Cristian represented the students to thank everyone from Date, and the night ended with songs sung by both the Revere students, as well as the Japanese students. Traveling on this trip were students Cristian Acuna, Robert Alba, Audra DiMasso-Scott, Emily DiGiulio, Azra Lakacha, Selma Lakacha, Meghan Maguire, Sean Romancito, and Alexis Wiswall. Chaperoning the trip were co-presidents Leanne Stamatopoulos and Lauren Sims as well as our parent and city representative Adrienne Maguire.

Each person travelling on the trip has so many memories but here are their favorite memories. Audra loved spending time with her host family, learning Hiragana from them and visiting the temples as well as the traditional sites Japan has to offer. Emily enjoyed playing basketball in Date at the junior high school, playing baseball at Mt. Ryozen camp, and visiting Monkey Mountain in Kyoto. Robert liked seeing Miyajima Island and Monkey Mountain in Kyoto, as well as visiting Round 1 in Fukushima City with his friends from Date.  Sean enjoyed bowling and spending the day at the junior high school with his friends from Date as well as Monkey Mountain in Kyoto.  Alexis loved lighting off fireworks during camping and hanging out with her friends from Date as well as visiting Monkey Mountain in Kyoto and the Osaka Aquarium. Selma enjoyed visiting the Abucuma Caves in Fukushima and the Osaka Aquarium. Meghan loved making new memories camping with her Date friends, as well as Monkey Mountain. Azra loved camping and spending time with her host family as well as visiting Monkey Mountain and the Osaka Aquarium. Cristian enjoyed seeing the floating shrine at Miyajima Island and shopping with his friends in Date.  Adrienne fondly remembers arriving by train and seeing all of our Japanese friends waiting for us on the platform. She remembers how excited we all were to be there and the Revere kids were so excited on the train getting ready to meet them. Leanne enjoyed returning to Japan after 19 years. She recalled how the moment she stepped off the plane all the memories and emotions of her 15-year-old self came rushing back. Of all the events, Leanne enjoyed camping at Mount Ryozen. It was a rainy day and not the ideal conditions for camping. The students made the best of the day & had a blast. The students cooked for the group, played baseball and volleyball. They ended the night with fireworks and s’mores.  Finally, Lauren, who is now teaching English in Fukushima City, enjoyed having her friends from Revere visit her for the seventeen days, while making new memories that she hopes will last everyone a long time. She especially enjoyed having Leanne come back to Japan with her. The two of them traveled together as part of the first group in 1995 and have been longing to travel together again!

The Revere Date Japanese Exchange Program is a non-profit group that has been in existence since 1993 when Revere High School and Boston University Graduate Matt Kelley started the program. It originally started out as a letter writing program between the town Matt taught English in, Tsukidate and his hometown of Revere. Then it turned into him taking a group of his students to Revere, for a visit. Six months later, Matt decided to continue the exchange and take the same ten Revere students to Japan. This is where it all started! Since its inception in 1994, more than 200 students and families from both Revere and Date have participated in this program!

We are currently accepting applications for Team 2015-2016. Students must be in middle school, be in good academic standing and live in Revere. Interested applicants should contact our co-president Leanne Stamatopoulos at leannestama@hotmail.com or by phone 617-678-8375.

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