2016 is the 20th anniversary of the city partnership between the City of Westminster in London and Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, organised around schools links between the UK and Japan. The Japanese Exchange Programme, organised jointly by Westminster City School and the Grey Coat Hospital school, sees the annual exchange of secondary school pupils between the two capital city borough-level authorities, which take place for 10 days on each leg.
As well as attending civic ceremonies in each city, the pupils are expected to learn both languages and participate in home-stays with local families, in addition to the common educational activities. Westminster pupils commented that learning about different education systems and values around youth (such as the coming of age celebrations taken for granted in Japan but less common in the UK now) had not only enabled them to grow alongside their Japanese pupil partners but fostered an appreciation of Japanese society likely to remain with them for life.
As London 2012 fades into memory for most people ahead of Tokyo’s staging of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, Westminster pupils were also able to demonstrate some of London’s traditions, such as the nightly Tower Hill Key Ceremony. Bansi Kara, Assistant Headteacher at Westminster City School, told JLGC that in its 20th year the programme was still going strong and enabled 10 boys and girls from Westminster schools to engage in genuine bilateral learning and cultural exchange at home and in Tokyo.