Toyota City was an interesting place. While in my Japanese homestay, I felt like I was in the country side because there were many trees, gardens and nearby rice fields. However, the town is very much a Toyota manufacturing town with buildings sprinkled throughout. There were trains, cars and buses running at all hours of the day and night, yet many people walk to work. It was such a mixture of nature and industry. Despite that, there was a peace among the people, who smiled at you on the streets.
After breakfast, I went with my Japanese family to watch the youngest (6th grader) play basketball at another elementary school. When you go to the school, including the gym, you take off your shoes and put on slippers, which are provided for you. (By the way – I did this at most of the other schools I visited.)
An interesting thing about the basketball game is that the younger girls (5th graders) wore uniforms, but they didn`t play. Instead, they are there to support the 6th graders. They literally fan them (with Japanese fans) when the girls take short breaks on the bench. How sweet is that? Also, the team`s coach is their teacher and he does this on a volunteer basis. Incredible.
I was fortunate to meet with former students who live in Toyota City. They met me at the school and we took a drive around town. It was so good to see them. It was my first experience in the front seat of the car. It was very strange to sit on the left. The streets are incredibly narrow too.
We went to a University and met with a friend of theirs who is a professor. He created an app for language and asked me to be the female English voice. How cool is that? I will be on an app called Let`s Talk. Once it comes out, I will post it here. The main purpose of the app is to help non-verbal autistic children communicate. The app is already available now in Japanese and with a male English voice. I will be the female English voice. I felt honored to do this and can`t wait til it goes live. Coolness!
Then it was time to say good-bye to my host family and former students. Sniff – sniff. It was sad to say good-bye. I will be forever grateful to my Japanese family for hosting me. I hope I can repay the favor and they visit me in America.
There is also a huge area with shops, restaurants and fun places. We ate at an American restaurant, since many of us needed to eat something familiar.
After that, we went to a karaoke bar! It was SO MUCH FUN! It`s unlike any I`ve experienced. It`s a private room and the acoustics are amazing. We had a blast! By the way — American music is played EVERYWHERE!
We cracked up because most of the videos (that went with the songs) did not match up with the songs and the words were often wrong or silly. You pay by the hour and of course, we had to do two. It was too fun to stop at one. They also gave us tamborines and maracas! LOVED IT!
It was fitting that our first rainy day in Japan was when we visited the A-Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It was an emotional experience. We heard from a survivor and his hope for harmony and peace,
I was especially moved when I heard stories of children prior to their deaths. So sad.
The good news is that the message of peace is everywhere.
After lunch, we took a bus and ferry to Miyajima. Breathtaking! It was not high tide so the temple was above water.
There were so many beautiful things to see, including a Pagoda and other temples. There was also a lot of shops and wild deer everywhere.
Later, I met with two other Japanese families, who were former students that lived in the states. They were adorable! It was two sisters from one family and two brothers from the other. Both moms and dads came too. What a wonderful reception in the hotel lobby when I got off the tour bus.
I felt so honored that they came out to meet me. We went to a restaurant nearby and had a fabulous dinner of okonomiyaki, which is different from the one from Tokyo because it has noodles. YUM! This is one of my favorite Japanese foods!
Next stop is Kyoto!