Byron High student had been on volcano day before eruption
A GROUP of Byron Bay High School students and teachers touched down on the Gold Coast yesterday after a two-day delay leaving Japan due to the volcanic eruption of Mt Ontake.
Mt Ontake erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing plumes of volcanic gas and ash 400 metres above its 3067m peak, killing at least 47 people.
Byron Bay High School principal Peter King, who travelled with the group of 19 Year 11 Japanese language students and two teachers, said the school had been keeping parents updated on social media.
"We left Australia on September 15 and we have been to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Koyosan, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Hakone," he said.
"The school has a private Facebook page dedicated to this excursion.
"We have been communicating with our parents through this page to keep them updated, not just with this event but for the whole trip, posting photos and updates."
Mr King said the students had the chance to immerse themselves in traditional Japanese family culture during a home stay experience.
"We had a home stay with our sister schools in Okutama for four days involving Kori Junior High School and Hikawa Junior High School," he said. During the home stay one student ventured to the foothills of the volcano.
"While on home stay one of our students, Joe Lee, went grape picking on the slopes of Mt Ontake, two days before the eruption, so he considers himself very lucky," Mr King said.
Joe's father Warren Lee told The Northern Star he never held grave concerns for his son's welfare.
"I don't have a problem with him going there as I have been to volcanoes myself," he said. "It was just one of those things in nature.
"He still had a great time there and it was a fantastic experience for Joe, particularly staying with the host family and eating traditional foods."
Due to the limited availability of flights, Mr King said it took the group 24 hours to get home.
"(But) we consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to travel to Japan and experience this amazing culture and the beauty of this country," he said.