Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday thru Tuesday, Oct. 19-21, 2008

Sunday was a travel day. I was among the few lucky ones who got to ride the bullet train. They can travel up to 240 miles an hour. I don't know if mine got up to that speed but we sure were hauling it!
We arrived in the capital city of Fukushima and visited the art museum. I can barely describe the setting--the museum is at the foot of the mountains. The picture doesn't even come close to how beautiful and peaceful it was. There was a exhibition of kimonos and silk screen prints by two Japanese artists who at 84 years of age are still very active in the art world.

My hotel room in Fukushima is small but comfortable. I also ate at my first ever conveyor belt sushi restaurant. It took me awhile to figure out what exactly to do. There was a water spigot sticking out of the bar and I didn't know what is was until I saw a couple make their tea with the hot water!! The sushi was delicious but I'm having to get used to it being at room temperature. That's how it's served here.

Monday we visited Fukushima University and saw how they train their first year teacher candidates and met with some of the faculty. Then we rode a bus to Minamisoma. The town has about 71, 000 people. That's a lot less than Tokyo's 12 million!

After lunch we visited city hall and met with the mayor of Minamisoma and the superintendent of the schools. I gave a speech to the mayor thanking him for the opportunity to visit his city. My interpreter said that it was a nice speech and it was well received. There were reporters there snapping pictures and taking names but so far we haven't made the paper yet! (Update: We made both the local papers!!)

We took a walking tour of the city before dinner. Then six of us ate at a place where your feet drop down. You pushed an egg shaped button that set off chimes to call your server to your table. It was more difficult getting in and out of than I thought it would be but I did it!! I thought I was ordering chicken but I really think it was calamari because it was chewy! It was good whatever it was!

Tuesday we visited the junior high school. The students were a lot more boisterous than I thought they would be but they seemed to be on task and they never showed any kind of disrespect to their teacher. We were introduced to them in an assembly in the gym and they all stood in rows by their classes and didn't make a sound. The students eat lunch in their rooms and they put on aprons and hats to serve one another and then they clean up afterwards. There was also a ten minute period in the afternoon where everyone --from the principal to the smallest 7th grader-- cleaned the building. I even saw two boys on their hands and knees wiping the floor. It was an amazing sight.

We went to an English classroom and the teacher was using a game to help with vocabulary. I felt bad because I misspelled autumn and cost my team points and ultimately 1st place but they were pretty good sports about it!

Tonight we used the laundromat. Several of us tried the pizza place with the funny name and it turned out to be a very good pizza!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


It's been a few days since I posted and you all wouldn't believe how much has been crammed into those few days!!

There was a welcome reception Wednesday night. (10/15) What struck me about the room was how high the ceiling was. This hotel is supposedly one of the largest in the world. It's been so nice staying here. I've been told the rooms are at least $400 a night.

Thursday 10/16--Got up at 5am and went to the world famous fish market. Its size cannot be described except to say that in every direction I turned it was market as far I could see. The general public isn't allowed to enter the tuna auctions but as we were walking back to peek through the small windows, someone opened up one of the big doors and left it up and so I watched a few minutes of it. We followed a tuna back to the stall where the men who bought it cut it up. The pictures show some of it as well as other cool things I saw.

Thursday night we went to 100 yen store. It's like our dollar stores. We used the subway and after a few moments of hesitation we figured it out. It is so clean inside the trains. That's my group as we are about to get on. After dinner we went to a place where we had to bend over to get through a little doorway. It was a small place with a great view and good jazz music.
The best but hardest part of Friday, October 18, 2008 was the presentation by this man, Mr. Keijiro Matsushima. He is a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. He gave a first hand account of the actual bombing and the horrific aftermath. It was gut-wrenching to hear what he had to say but the thing that will stay with me forever is that he is nice, warm, generally happy man. He says that he speaks out about what happened to him now so that no one will ever used the A-bomb again. A woman also spoke as the daughter of a survivor and she detailed her ailments including several buts with cancer. Both speakers talked of the danger of polarization and the need for humanity to realize that we are human beings first. It was a presentation I will never forget.
Saturday was the best day yet! My new friends Joe and Nick and I went to the Tokyo National Museum. After the tour, we walked in the gigantic park and came across an outdoor market. Then we headed to the Shibuya district where there is one of the busiest intersections in the world. I was even able to find Hachiko, the famous dog statue. The three of us had a great day--perfect pace with perfect company!! I am so happy to be visiting some of the places I've seen and heard about on TV. It is surreal at times--like a great dream!!
p.s. **Friday night, Joe W. and I walked to dinner out the front of the hotel. (I'd been walking out the backside.) We passed by a city park and hear crowd noises so we go to look. I couldn't believe my eyes--American football!! They had helmets and shoulder pads and were playing full contact. I don't know if it was a club or their ages but it was so funny and wonderful to see. We stayed for a few minutes and then went on to dinner. Cold sake and hot noodles!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This post will be lengthy. It was a long journey, but I finally made it and I'm here in Tokyo. I am already loving this and I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity.

This was the sign that greeted us as we checked into the airport in San Francisco. The flight from San Francisco to Tokyo was 10 hours and 15 minutes. The worst part was the seats were not any bigger than regular airplane seats. I thought they would be. We were allowed to get up and move around a bit and that helped.

Even though I left SF at 11:30 Monday morning, I arrived in Tokyo Tuesday afternoon. That was weird for me. There are several people who are suffering from jet lag. I am doing ok I just don't have a very good grip on what time it is.

The Japanese government is called the Diet. It is similar to Parliament. We toured the building but were not allowed to take pictures inside. The lower house might be dissolved soon since the Prime Minister recently resigned.
This is a picture of a gate leading up to a Buddhist temple. The place was crowded because there was some sort of ceremony going on. As a foreigner I was not allowed in but I still enjoyed walking down the streets and standing outside the curtain of the temple.
That's me on the temple steps.

We were treated to a performance of traditional Japanese theater this afternoon. It was in the Kyogen style. It was a short play and had some humor to it.

This is a picture of one of the many vending machines I have seen. These were mostly juices and some water. The machines really are everywhere.

I can't believe I'm really here, doing what I've been looking forward to since March. I have met some wonderful people and know that the next 15 days will be a big adventure!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Here we go!!

I fly to SF tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. I am so excited about this I can hardly stand it! I think I've packed everything. It only took like 5 tries! ;)

I will not post again until I'm in Japan, so come along with me on the biggest adventure of my life!! I am so grateful to my friends and family who send me off with love and best wishes! I love you all!!