Thursday, June 30, 2005

Back in the USA

My Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund trip is now totally complete. I landed at LAX today, before I took off in Tokyo (the wonders of a large time difference)! I had to say many goodbyes to some great friends, and that was tough. It has been an absolutely great trip and I feel really thankful to have been chosen to participate. I highly recommend this trip to all teachers--please follow the link to the right to the JFMF homepage to apply. Although I will not be home in Fishers, Indiana until July 7th, I am back in the States where people drive on the right side of the road!

To any newcomers to this blog: Please start reading at the bottom so you can go in chronological order. This blog was created to be daily communication with my students and family, but now that my trip is over, it will remain up, unchanged, so that any interested parties can read it. Email me directly at or with any questions or comments. Thank you.

Departure from Tokyo

Today I depart for the States. I have to admit that it is bittersweet. I met some really wonderful people on this trip, and it will be hard to say goodbye. On the other hand, it will be good to be back in the United States, although I will not get to Indiana until July 7th because of the NEA RA that I will be attending in Los Angeles. I depart the hotel today at 11 AM and then Narita Airport at 4:20 PM. After the ten hour flight I will arrive in Los Angeles at 10:25 AM on the same day I left Tokyo.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Final Day

Today was the last official day of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund trip. We met in the morning after breakfast to have each of the prefecture groups do a presentation about their time in their Japanese host city. Our Tokaimura group went third and presented a song to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. It recounted twelve memories of our Tokaimura experience. The ten group presentations took the whole morning, and after lunch the last group finished. After a brief wrap-up session, we had the afternoon to ourselves. I used the time to pack my suitcases for the return trip. This evening we had the Sayonara Banquet. Sayonara means goodbye, but it is usually used when you will not see someone again. After the banquet, a group of Tokaimura people went out to karaoke. After that we returned to the hotel for the final evening in Japan. The picture I attached below is of Tokaimura group members Steve, LeRoy and myself. We spent a lot of time together during our trip.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Giants Baseball Game

We had to leave the ryokan early to make our way back to Tokyo via bus, then train, then another bus. We arrived back in Tokyo by noon and I had a little time to explore some parts of Tokyo with a friend. Later that evening I met up with a bunch of other teachers who were going to attend a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. It was quite a sight to see baseball in Japan. The Giants were playing the Swallows, and the crowd was lively. There was much chanting and cheering from the respective groups of fans in the outfield bleachers. Also, the vendors at the game were a little different than the ones at American baseball games-they were all girls dressed in uniforms that matched the products they were selling (everything from beer to coke to whiskey). Cheerleaders came out at several inning breaks to pump-up the audience. The game I saw was quite exciting with lots of hits and runs. The Giants ended-up holding on for the win over the Swallows. The picture below is from my seat at the baseball game.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Ryokan

We had about an hour and fifteen minute drive to our traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) called Omoide Romankan. The traditional inn is a custom in Japan and the Japanese people love to visit them. They are known for their traditional rooms, feasts, and hot spring baths. One Japanese custom that may seem strange to Americans is the custom of public baths. All over Japan there are bath facilities that are open to the public. They are separated by male and female baths. The procedure is to clean yourself thoroughly at one of the showers and then to enter the bath. The water is usually hot, so you do have to be careful. Westerners sometimes have difficulty with the concept of bathing with others, but to the Japanese it is part of their life. Our ryokan was up in the mountains and was beautiful. The traditional room had reed mats and very low tables and cushions. Slippers were to be worn inside the room. After getting a few minutes to explore our room for the evening, all of us met for our dinner wearing Japanese robes (yucatas). Dinner was a multi-course meal that had many interesting (and some that were gross to me) foods to eat. After dining for several hours, the group broke-up and everyone began to make their way for a bath in the hot springs. It was one of those experiences that probably will not be repeated any time soon for me, but was worth it. The picture I attached was the view from our balcony. Down towards the bottom you can see the hot spring baths.

Last Day in Tokai

We checked-out of our hotel and went for one last day in Tokaimura. The day began with a discussion with the local PTA (Parent/Teacher Association). After that we learned how to make buckwheat noodles and rice cakes. Then, we were served our noodles and rice cakes at a nice lunch provided by the community of Tokai. After this we were off to visit a temple and a shrine in Tokai before seeing an old family home. The old house was over one hundred years old and was roofed with a thatch roof. It was very neat to see a traditional Japanese house that was so old. Following the house visit we saw one more shrine before we headed back to the bus. The next stop would be the ryokan. The picture below is from the Buddhist Nyoiringi temple.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Ocean with my Homestay Family

Today began with waking up at 9 AM-it was amazing because I got more than eight hours of sleep and that was the most sleep I have gotten since I was in Los Angeles. After a huge breakfast (pork loin, asparagus, ham, egg, soup, rice, mixed vegetables, and apple juice) Katsuhiro, his mother, his brother, and I set out for the ocean in a boardering town. After going up in a tower to have a great view of the ocean, we went to the Ibaraki Prefecture Oarai Aquarium. I was really excited about this because of my salt-water aquarium. It was a really nice aquarium with exhibits showcasing many types of fish and other aquatic life. There were some great coral reefs, reef fish, jellyfish, sunfish, sharks, rays, otters, seals, penguins, and many more. Having been to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I compare everything with it, and this aquarium, although probably not as big, was excellent as well. After this we went to a nice little restaurant that I believe was French. I had a beef dish, pasta, bread, and an excellent dessert. Finally it was time to head back to the meeting place for me to return to my group. After a fantastic send-off by the locals, our group headed back to the hotel for the evening. The evening festivities were a shopping trip and a group meeting to plan our group presentation that is upcoming in Tokyo. Tomorrow we go on one last Tokai tour and then we are off to a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) called Omoide Romankan. Below is a picture of me with Katsuhiro and his mother and brother (Katsuhiro is on the right).

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Japanese Family Homestay

Today at 10 AM each person met their homestay family in Tokaimura. I am staying with Katsuhiro Mizukoshi and his family-his parents, sister and brother. The day began with a drive to Mito to eat at a nice restaurant. Then we visited the Kasama Inari Shrine and did some browsing of the local merchants. After that we drove to the Crafthills Kasama. There we spent time creating pottery by hand in a workshop. It was a really cool experience. I made a bowl and a leaf. I think the crafts will be mailed to me in a month or so. After all of that, I returned with Katsuhiro to his parents' house (he has an apartment, but I am staying at his parents' home). There we had a dinner that consisted of fried shrimp, fish, vegetables, rice, mixed sprouts, and ice cream. After the dinner Katsuhiro and I went to his weekly English speaking class. At the local community resource center a lady from Canada gives weekly sessions on how to speak English. It was fun to spend time with about a dozen Japanese who want to learn English. The ages in the room were varied, but everyone was doing a great job speaking. After all of this we went back to his parents' house. One interesting and different thing about Japanese culture is that the bathrooms are quite different from western style bathrooms. First, the toilets and the showers are in separate rooms. Second, the shower is a sit down version that is taken first, then a soak in the hot bath is next. The key is to thoroughly clean yourself before the bath because the whole family will use that water and you don't want to dirty it. Also, the beds in a Japanese home are usually a futon that is brought out and laid on the floor for the evening. My family was very considerate and laid two out for me because of my height! After getting to experience all of this, I went to bed. I attached a picture of Katsuhiro's family home below.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tokai High School Visit

Today we visited Tokai High School. In Japan compulsory (required) education only goes through junior high school (9th grade). Most students (97-99%) go onto high school, but they have to apply to gain acceptance. This is one reason why junior high school is so stressful-because the students, and their families, wish to go to a good high school. So, they have to study hard to do well on the exams. Tokai High School is considered a middle of the road high school. The top students from Tokaimura tend to go to Mito for high school. The high school observation began with a greeting from the principal, announcements and greetings over the PA, and then classroom observations. Like most schools, there were classrooms that were under good discipline, and there were classrooms that did not have good classroom management. Also, the majority of the teaching that we observed was lecture, which is probably more common at the high school level than at the junior high or elementary levels. After lunch and more observations, we were invited to an after school club tea ceremony. In Japan the tea ceremony is a very sacred and well liked traditional ceremony. The students who were studying this art in an after school club served us in the traditional way. Although I do not like tea or coffee, it was really neat to experience this tradition. After all of this we returned to the hotel. A group of us went out to shop at the local Wal-Mart type store, Jusco. Then, it was on to a sushi bar for dinner. Tomorrow I leave for my Japanese family homestay.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Elementary School Observations

Throughout the day I got to see math, art, cooking, music, English, Japanese, penmanship, swimming, reading, special education, and others. The first grade math lesson I observed was teaching how to subtract numbers like 3 from 5. It was interesting to see the lesson progress from pictures and stories to equations. After school we did also get to observe club activities like music, art, woodcraft, and PE. Overall it was a very good day and I came away with some ideas of things that I will consider implementing in my own classroom next school year. After our visit was complete, we returned to the hotel and a group of us went out to an Australian restaurant. Tomorrow we visit a high school. The picture I included below was of a penmanship bulletin board that amused me because Japanese penmanship is a little different from the penmanship we see in the States.

Tokai Village Ishigami Elementary School

Today we visited Tokai Village Ishigami Elementary School. The elementary schools here are first through sixth grades. The bus dropped us off about a half mile away from the school so we could walk to school with the students. The students here walk to school because there is no busing. The students will meet up at various locations and then walk the rest of the way together. All of the students had matching yellow hats and mostly matching backpacks. There were crossing guards along the way and there were some volunteers that also walked with the students. The older students also watched and directed the younger students. Upon arriving at the school, we had a quick briefing and a short tour of the building. The building is a three floor campus that really reminds me of a high school or junior high school. Although the building seemed to be much larger than even Brooks School Elementary, it only had a capacity of about 420 students. Whereas BSE uses just about every square inch of space (and more outside in portables), this school does not do that. It was a beautiful school though. After our tour we were led into the gym for a welcome ceremony. It was opened by a great performance by the school jazz band. The jazz band was so good-I am sure it outclasses almost any elementary school band in Indiana. After speeches and introductions, we were allowed to roam and observe classes. It is always interesting to see another school and how it runs, but this was on a different level because of it being in a different country. There are certainly many differences and many similarities between this school and American elementary schools. Once again lunch was served in the classroom by the students. The lunch was noodles with shrimp and mushrooms, bread, milk, and a desert salad. It really was quite good as well. After the meal we began observations of the students cleaning up lunch and the school. I have attached a picture of the opening convocation below.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

School Lunch and Club Activities

Next, it was time for lunch. A neat thing about Japanese schools is that the students eat in the classrooms with a teacher everyday. They just arrange the desks into little groups of six and then the students help to serve the food. They had a school lunch ready for me, and even instructions in English of how to eat it. I attached a picture below. The green sheets are seaweed. The way you eat it is to place a piece of seaweed in your hand, then put some rice on it, and then a piece of meat or vegetable. Although it doesn't seem like it should be, the lunch was really good. It is one of the favorite schools lunches for these Japanese students. After lunch the kids clear away the dishes and trash and have a short recess time where they could talk with their friends in the classrooms or hallways. I ended up arm-wrestling two students (I was 2-0!) before I told them my arm was tired! I did not want to take-on the entire school! I had a good time talking with the students and enjoying their company. They were all excited to try some English, and did a great job. They were not fluent, but knew quite a bit, which was impressive for junior high school students. After recess the students actually clean the school for about ten minutes. Supposedly they do most of the cleaning that the school requires. After this we had a discussion with some of the teachers and then we got to observe the club sports after school. They have some interesting ones like Japanese archery, martial arts, and cricket. They also have the classic activities like band, baseball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, track, etc. I went out and played some tennis with some of the boys and girls for a little while. They play on clay or sand courts with rubber balls. I did not get to stay long, but the students looked pretty good. After all of this, we departed the school and went on a short excursion to the Pacific Ocean. Then, it was back to out hotel. Myself and some others went to the laundry to clean some clothes and then ate dinner. Tomorrow we are visiting an elementary school.

Jr High Class Observations

Next we were allowed to wander around the school and observe whatever we were interested in seeing. I started first by a special education room with two students that had disabilities (probably MIMH). As soon as I walked in the students became distracted, but the teacher handled it well and we talked a bit. I moved on next to an English classroom, a math classroom, chemistry, PE, industrial arts, and science. Then, I saw a calligraphy lesson, and was invited to try. It was funny to think about it, but my calligraphy skills probably look like a kindergartener's writing to them. I am sure I was not very good. However, the boy was a great teacher and it fun to try. I attached a picture below from the experience.

Tokaimura Minami Junior High School

Today was a day to look forward to because it is our first official school visit. We are visiting Tokaimura Minami Junior High School. A Japanese junior high school consists of grade 7 through 9, so it is a little different than our junior high schools or middle schools. When we arrived we had to take off our shoes at the entrance, as is commonplace in Japanese schools, and put on our slippers. After a quick briefing, we were brought into a school convocation to clapping and excitement by the Japanese students. A band was playing as we walked in, and it was by far the best junior high school band I have every heard-they were amazing. After some speeches and a slideshow, we were exited and got to begin our school observations. Attached below is a picture from the convocation. The Japanese students were extremely well behaved during the convocation, but they were not totally silent. So, the myth about Japanese students being extremely well behaved is true, but they are not silent statues during a convocation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

An Evening Reception

After the busy day of meetings and presentations, we went to a house near the government building for a reception. The house is made to resemble a house that would be in the Tokaimura sister city of Idaho Falls. It has a grandfather clock, western paintings, a wooden beam roof, etc. I think it was a very noble effort to convert a house to look like one from another country. The reception was quite an event because all of the local government and school officials were there, along with the host families. All of us got to meet the family that we would be staying with for the home stay later this week. I think I am lucky because I am paired with a 31 year old guy and his family. He actually has the same music likes as I do, and has even seen U2 in concert (the 1989 Lovetown tour in Tokyo). Although he has his own apartment, we are actually going to stay with his parents and sisters because they have a larger home. But, to continue with the present, the reception was great with traditional Japanese music and lots of food. The welcome from the Japanese present was just about as warm as a welcome could ever be. They have been preparing for our visit for a long time, and now that we are here, they are very excited and ready. The evening closed with a rendition of the Hokey Pokey demonstrated by us, and joined by the Japanese. Then, they showed us the traditional way to end a Japanese reception (it involved clapping in a pattern and yelling something I did not understand!). It was a really great evening that did show us how welcome we are here. The picture I attached shows the traditional Japanese music performers.

The Nuclear Power Plant Visit

After the presentations of the morning, we went to the local nuclear power plant for lunch and then a tour. Tokai is best known for its nuclear power plant (they even had an accident several years ago-google Tokaimura and you will be able to read about it). We were kept in the tourist area of the nuclear plant-for some reason they did not let us wander around the reactor! But, it was interesting to hear about the plant. After that we went to the very impressive Tokaimura General Welfare Center (like a community center/YMCA) and the town library. The picture I have attached is from the lecture at the Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant. The woman at the right is our translater.

A Visit to the Tokaimura City and School Leaders

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then traveled to the Tokai town government building. (The town is really Tokai-the mura on the end refers to the word village, so when you say Tokaimura, you are really saying Tokai Village.) The mayor, deputy mayor, superintendent of schools, and many other important local government officials were present to welcome us to Tokai and to speak to us for the next few hours. We had addresses from each person in which we heard about their community and schools. One interesting thing about Tokaimura is that they are sister cities with Idaho Falls, Idaho. The picture I attached below is of the banner in the lobby of the government building.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dinner at a Sushi Bar

After the university visit, we took a 35 minute bus ride to Tokaimura, the city that my group of 19 teachers will be in for the next week. After checking into our hotel, the Crystal Palace, we had the evening to ourselves. A group of 7 of us went out exploring and found a great sushi bar that we stayed at for hours. I actually had some great different types of sushi and other dishes. The picture I attached below is of the group in front of the restaurant after dinner. The reason for the peace signs is because it seems that all Japanese students do that whenever you take their picture. It was a great evening that was culminated with us finding a supermarket and doing some browsing of Japanese groceries. After all of that we made it back to the hotel for the evening.

The Train to Mito and University Visit

Supposedly there was an earthquake in Tokyo overnight, but I must have slept right through it. I don't think it must have been a very big deal because no one was worried. We were up early this morning to board a train to Mito, Ibaraki. Ibaraki is the prefecture (similar to our states) and Mito is the capitol of Ibaraki. We took the train, which was about an hour ride, and then did a little exploring of Mito before lunch. After lunch we went to Ibaraki University to meet with the president of the university, professors, and students. It was a really good three hours of conversation both about Japanese teacher preparation and about American similarities. I have attached a picture of the president of Ibaraki University, Ryuzaburo Kikuchi.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Visiting Harajuku and the Tokyo Museum

Harajuku is known for its famous Meiji Shrine, and for the youth that gather here dressed-up in crazy outfits. Both are a great reason to visit this area. The shrine was really neat, but the best part was witnessing several Japanese weddings. I have attached a picture of one procession below. We did get to see all of the Japanese young dressed-up in everything from goth (all in back with crazy face paint, etc.) to Little Bo Peep costumes. They all gather there to see and be seen. They usually have a bag of their regular clothes so they can change before they get back home to their parents! After this we boarded the subway again to visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It is a museum that shows Tokyo history, including when it was Edo. The name was changed to Tokyo when it was named the capitol of Japan. It was a good place to visit. After all of this we made it back to the Asasaka area where I grabbed some McDonalds hamburgers for dinner. Tomorrow morning we leave via bus and train and then another bus for Tokaimura, Ibaraki. I will be spending the next week there with nineteen of my colleagues visiting schools and learning about the area. Tomorrow we visit Ibaraki University before having the evening to ourselves.

The Big Egg and a Colts Sighting

This morning I got up and dropped my suitcase at the lobby. Tomorrow we leave for our host cities, so we have to give-up our luggage now. It will magically appear in my hotel room on Monday. Steve and I went out exploring again, this time to the Tokyo Dome, known affectionately as the Big Egg. There is a home baseball game on Tuesday the 28th that a bunch in our group decided to get tickets to attend. There were signs everywhere for the upcoming Atlanta Falcons/Indianapolis Colts NFL football game! After getting tickets and exploring the really neat area around the dome, we set-off via the subway for a neat part of town called Harajuku.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Afternoon in Kyoto

Kyoto is a beautiful city that is very different than Tokyo because of its age. It is much older because unlike Tokyo, it was not rebuilt in the 1940s and 1950s. It was the capitol of Japan before the capitol was changed to Tokyo. It has the mountains at its side and is full of shrines and temples. When you are up in the mountains, it reminds me of a mountain town in Mexico because of the old buildings and the winding roads. The tour in the afternoon took us to three more famous sites including Sanju-Sangen-Do. That is a temple with 1000 golden Buddhas. The picture I included below is of one of the shrines we visited. Once the tour was over, Steve and I skipped out on the ride back to the hotel to walk around and explore the area. Even though we had no idea where we were, we walked and found some interesting things before stopping into a little roadside restaurant for some noodles before we took a taxi back to the hotel. Once there we realized that we were too tired to wait for the last Shinkansen train, so we traded our tickets for an earlier train. We got back to Tokyo and the hotel by 11 PM. It was a long day, but I was glad to have seen another part of Japan.

Touring Kyoto

Once we arrived in Kyoto, we walked to a local hotel to meet-up with our bus tour group. The tour is for an English speaking guide and trips to six major sites in Kyoto. The tour also included lunch and the opportunity to shop at the Kyoto Handicraft Center. In the morning we saw the Ninomaru Palace. This is a famous old palace that has 'nightingale floors.' These are floors that squeak intentionally to let the Shogun know if anyone was approaching. We saw one other shrine and then we visited The Golden Pavilion/Rokuon-Ji Temple. It was a breathtaking sight with the gold standing-out against beautiful gardens. I included a picture of it below. After touring the three sites, we had lunch at the top of the Kyoto Handicraft Center and then worked our way down the floors shopping. I bought several items here for gifts and spent more money than I had intended, but I have most of the souvenirs and gifts purchased now.

The Bullet Train to Kyoto

I got up and grabbed a taxi to get to the train station to catch the Shinkansen Bullet Train. One thing about the Japanese transportation system-it always runs on time! The Shinkansen arrives on time, and does not wait for any latecomers. The train certainly seems to travel quickly as the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto only took a little over two hours with four stops along the way.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Ginza Area, a Boat Ride, and the Tokyo Tower

I did go out with a group of teachers to see the Ginza area of Tokyo, which is probably even brighter and more exciting than Asakusa area. After walking around quite a bit and taking the subway to a different part of the city for the boat ride, we took a boat ride down the river. It was quite scenic to see Tokyo from the water. When we got off of the boat, we had no idea where we were, so we just walked towards the Tokyo Tower, and eventually got to it. My group and I ended-up going up in it. I have included a picture below, taken from the tower, for you that shows Tokyo at night. Once we finally got the subway back to the hotel, I got a few hours of sleep before waking up at 4 AM to catch the bullet train.

Tickets for the Bullet Train to Kyoto

After the math session today Steve and I went and bought our tickets on the bullet train to Kyoto for Saturday. We will be leaving Tokyo on the train at 6:00 AM and arrive at Kyoto at 8:16 AM. We have a tour of the city scheduled that should bring us to the best sites in this historic city. We are then going to take the 9:32 PM bullet train back to Tokyo to arrive at 11:48 PM. It should be a very long day, but hopefully it will allow me to see another part of Japan. Following lunch I attended a session on art education in Japan. It was interesting, as most of the sessions have been. Below is a picture of my tickets for the bullet train. I believe that a bunch of us teachers are going out to the Ginza district of Tokyo this evening for a boat ride and night out on the town. Hopefully it won't be too late of an evening because of course my train departs at 6 AM tomorrow. (But, when you are in Tokyo there is so much to see and do that often sleep takes a back seat!)

Mathematics Instruction in Japan

The mathematics session was very interesting for a number of reasons. First, it was neat to hear about the way mathematics instruction has changed throughout the last few years. There has been quite a bit of reform towards helping Japanese students enjoy math because although Japanese students still do well in math comparisons with other countries, they do not like math as the Japanese government feels they should. This is a concern for the Japanese society. Also, the Japanese education officials keep an eye on American trends and do mimic some of the changes (such as textbooks becoming thicker and fuller of pictures and colors). We in America tend to believe that Japanese students are far ahead of American students, particularly in math. This is probably not as true as we may believe, although certainly Japanese students do out-perform American students on international tests. When I looked at a second grade Japanese math book, it was only slightly ahead of an American second grade textbook. For instance, Japanese students learn subtraction with borrowing in second grade, whereas American students tend to learn this in third grade. So, the Japanese students do learn things slightly earlier. Also, I think that more Japanese students take advanced subjects like calculus in high school than do American students. I have included a picture of the mathematics session presenter, Mr. Nagasaki. He is a very well respected and influential person in mathematics instruction in Japan.

A Visit to a Kindergarten

This morning I got up after a nice full night of sleep, which was my first in a long time. After breakfast Steve (a teacher from Massachusetts) and I went out to see the Emperor's palace, the Japanese Supreme Court, the Diet (Congress) building, and some general sightseeing. We even were lucky enough to stumble upon a Kindergarten with the students arriving. The security guard welcomed us into the school speaking English well enough to understand that we were American teachers. It was a Catholic Kindergarten, and we got to meet the head nun and a teacher. All of the students were in uniforms, and it was probably the cutest bunch of children I have seen, all of them matching with uniforms and hats. Both of us gave them our business cards and answered some questions before we departed. We had to hustle back to the hotel to get back in time for a session on mathematics education in Japan. I have included a picture that I took of the school (I took it from my waist without looking to not offend anyone)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Shrine Visit

Right after the political discussion, we boarded a bus for a quick city tour until we arrived at the Asakusa district of Tokyo. On our way to this area we did get to see the Imperial Palace grounds and government buildings like the Diet building (similar to the US Capitol Building). After we arrived in the Asakusa district, we set-out to visit the Senso-ji Temple in the Asakusa Shrine. It was quite a sight. On the way to our restaurant, we were able to shop at a bunch of little stores with many different things to buy. Then, everyone was treated to a traditional and formal Japanese dinner, complete with us removing our shoes to walk on the reed-like carpet and sit at low tables on pillows. The meal was OK, but I still don't have the stomach for Japanese food! On the way back to the hotel after our meal we took the scenic route through the Ginza section of Tokyo, which is probably even more like the Times Square than is the Shinjuku section. Since I stayed-up late last night out in Tokyo and still got up at 4 AM for the fish market, I am calling it a night early and trying to get some sleep for a change. Below is a picture of the shrine we visited.

Japanese Politics Discussion

After lunch today a friend and I finalized plans to travel to Kyoto on this Saturday during the weekend off from JFMF programs. We will take the bullet train to Kyoto and then tour the old city that was spared during the WWII bombing. After the tour we will take the bullet train back to Tokyo. Then, I will spend Sunday in Tokyo. After this interesting transaction, we had the honor of listening to a discussion by two Japanese politicians in the Diet (the Diet is the Japanese equivalent of the US Congress. Mr. Yuji Tsushima of the House of Representatives and Mrs. Wakako Hironaka of the House of Counselors held a discussion about current issues confronting the Japanese people and government. The Japanese government is set-up like the British parliamentary system, not like the US governmental system. It was an honor two have these two leaders of Japan give us an hour and a half of their time. Below is a picture of the two speakers.

Tsukiji Fish Market Visit

This morning I got up at 4 AM local time to depart via taxi for the famous Tsukiji Fish Market here in Tokyo. After I placed a quick call home, 4:45 AM here--2:45 PM Indiana time, Myself and three others shared a taxi to the fish market. It cost 1380 yen to get there, the equivalent of about $13.80. We split it four ways, so it was very reasonable. The fish market was incredible-it was a huge market of fish that was very freshly caught. There was everything from tuna to eel to crab to snails. It was quite a sight to see with all of the busy activity and yet a certain order to everything. I included a picture from the trip below. After the early morning trip, I came back to the hotel and cleaned-up for breakfast and the meetings of the day. Today's morning events include a presentation about some Japanese books that we are to be given, an orientation meeting about the city we will be visiting soon (Tokaimura), and a speaker on Japan's economy history.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Exploring Dazzling Tokyo

After dinner a large group of us went out to explore Tokyo. We took the subway system to Shinjuku, a part of town that is like Times Square in New York City. The subway was so packed that we were squeezed in the car very tightly. This part of town was a dazzling display of lights and activity. We mainly waked around before trying to figure out how to get back to the hotel. It was quite a time and adventure. I have attached a picture of one of the streets of Tokyo below.

First Taste of Sushi

After the performances of this afternoon, there was a short break before reception banquet. The banquet was very unique because there were no chairs, only some scattered tables for the nearly 300 people to stand around and eat. There were many buffet lines to choose from for many types of Japanese food. I mainly ate teriyaki beef, but I did also get my first taste of sushi. I did make a poor choice when I chose the eel, because it is hardest to chew and swallow (I didn't know what it was, only that it was sushi). But, it was a good time with good food and plenty of interesting people to talk with. A picture below is of me pretending to eat sushi-I had already eaten my first piece and elected to stick with cooked meat for the rest of the evening!! The picture was just for show.

Traditional Japanese Theatre

Both the Japanese traditional theatre and the Kabuki theatre were demonstrated for our group. We also received a lecture on the history of Japanese theatre. The performer shown below is a famous performer and the daughter of a very famous Japanese performer. She demonstrated the application of make-up and the donning of the Kimono before she danced for us. Then, she posed for pictures with us individually. My picture with her is shown below.

The second day in Japan

I had breakfast this morning in the hotel. We had both Japanese and American breakfasts. I started with the Japanese breakfast and then saw the American eggs, sausage, bacon, bananas, orange juice, etc. They even had forks for us to use (which are much easier than chopsticks!). After breakfast we had another orientation session followed by an excellent presentation by one of the top education officials in Japan. After the presentation we had an an absolutely fantastic lunch. This afternoon we have a Traditional Japanese Theatre performance and then Kabuki (I'm not sure what a Kabuki is yet!!). After that we have a reception. I think after the reception some friends and I are going to explore some of downtown Tokyo using the subway system! (If you don't hear from me for several days, then I am probably still lost in Tokyo!!!!) The picture below is Mr. Kimura, the speaker on education reform in Japan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My first meal in Japan

Our student took us to a little restaurant where I had noodles in a soup with fried shrimp/vegetables. It was pretty good, although I admit that a steak might have been better! I did get my chance to try to use chopsticks and slurp my noodles. After our dinner we went and explored a subway station before we went back to the hotel for the evening. I did stay up a while to watch CNN American Morning-the amazing thing is that the show is shown live on CNN, but that it is evening here when it airs. We are 14 hours ahead of Indiana time here. I think I am almost over my jet lag now fortunately now. I have to get dressed up (it's pretty much suit and tie from here on out!) for breakfast and then several events and speakers. The picture below is my meal from the restaurant--overall it was pretty good, although I did make some splashes using the chopsticks!

I am in Tokyo!

I have an incredible room to myself for my stay in Tokyo. The treatment here was very nice as we were welcomed by many very considerate staff members. The hotel is one of the top in Tokyo because of its beauty and fine services. Once I got into my room at about 6 PM on June 14th, I had a few minutes to explore the room's interesting qualities (including some Japanese baseball live on TV) before I went down to meet some local Japanese college students for a dinner in Tokyo. The picture below is from my first night in Tokyo on our way to the restaurant.

The Flight to Japan

We had a nice flight over that took a little over nine hours. We got to watch four movies: Sideways, Coach Carter, Robots, and X-Men. Those movies definitely helped the flight go faster. Once we did land in Tokyo Narita Airport, we went through immigration and customs and then boarded a bus for the hour and a half drive to our fantastic hotel, the Akasaka Prince Hotel. I posted a picture below of the flight path we took. My students from this past school year know about why we would fly all the way up to Alaska, instead of going straight across to Japan (it is a shorter distance to go up and around because of the curve of the earth).

Monday, June 13, 2005

Leaving for Japan today

The plane for Japan departs at 1:35 local time (3:35 PM Indiana CST) today from the San Francisco International Airport. It will be about a 12 hour flight to Tokyo Narita International Airport. Because of the International Date Line, which we will cross, we will lose a day and arrive on Tuesday the 14th at about 4:30 PM. Coming back I will actually leave Japan and then arrive in LAX before I left because of crossing the International Date Line coming the other way. The flight back will also be shorter because of the jet stream.

After arriving in San Francisco on Sunday morning, I met-up with a lot of other JFMFers and we took a bus to our hotel, the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. I had a few minutes to eat lunch before I had to get dressed-up to attend the orientation meetings all afternoon and evening, culminating with a banquet at 7 PM. The Japanese Government really has treated us in a first class way! Once the dinner was over and I was free for the evening, I met-up with a friend of mine from Alexandria-Monroe High School, Nathaniel. He now lives in San Francisco and took me on quite a tour of the city. I got to see a trolley car in action, the Golden Gate Bridge, an incredible garden with pillars and a dome, extremely nice and expensive houses (10 million $ plus!), the beach, the famous Trans-America (pyramid) building, the Bay Bridge, and even Alcatraz. Once I got back to my room I got some sleep and now I am ready to begin my journey across the Pacific. I have included a nighttime shot of the Golden Gate Bridge below.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I'm in Los Angeles

Well, I did make it to Los Angeles today. The flight was late taking off from Indianapolis, but I still made it here to LA with much of the day left. Once I landed in Los Angeles, I tracked down my bag and grabbed a shuttle to my hotel--the Renaissance Hotel. After I checked in I was able to find a Burger King to get lunch--I was happy to avoid the over-priced hotel restaurant food. Now I have the afternoon to myself. I am thinking that I will probably work-out and then swim a little. This may be my last chance at some free time in quite a while. My flight to San Francisco leaves LAX tomorrow at 9:51 AM. After I arrive in San Fran, I have an hour or two until my JFMF Orientation Meetings. Those meetings will last the entire afternoon and then culminate with a dinner. After dinner a friend of mine from high school, who lives in San Francisco, is going to take me for a quick tour of the city. So, it will be a long day tomorrow. I took a picture of the Rocky Mountains from my airplane window--enjoy!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Just two days left

Well, I leave in just two and a half days now. I am getting packed and ready little by little. My main concern while I am gone is my saltwater aquarium, because although it is well established, a lot could go wrong while I am gone. I am very lucky to know an expert in the area who is willing to take care of it while I am gone, so everything should be OK. Here is a picture just in case it doesn't look as good when I return.
(to see the full-sized picture, just click on it)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Only 1000 days until I leave for Japan

Well, I only have 1000 days until I leave for my trip to Japan. Of course my classmembers probably realize that I am not counting in base 10! I could also say that I will leave for Japan in 13 days. Can any of you figure out how many days it is in base 10?

Try on your own first, but then if you get stuck, or need to check your answer, check out

I'll be checking the comments section to see who is still using their math minds even with school being out for the summer. Also, if you would like, perhaps post a countdown to something that is coming for you soon (try it in a different base!).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

School is Out

It is hard to believe, but school is now out for the summer. Although I will be at school quite a bit over the next few days, the teaching aspect is now over until August.

The end of school is always an emotional day for teachers and students. On one hand, I was excited to complete the school year. But, on the other hand, it is difficult to realize that your time to teach this group of kids is over. I know that the students are very excited to get out for the summer. I can remember that feeling as a kid, and I know I still feel it today!

Now the focus can be on wrapping up the end-of-year paperwork and packing up my classroom. After that I have to attend a meeting on Saturday in Indianapolis about the National Education Association Representative Assembly that I am attending in California from June 30th until July 7th.

After all of these meetings are done, I can finally begin to focus on Japan early next week. My sister Andrea graduates from Alexandria-Monroe High School later that week, so I will have to spend some time back home as well.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Just two weeks left.....

It is hard to believe that I will be leaving for Japan in just two weeks....keep looking here for updates....