The staff at the elegant Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo was helpful and friendly. I will miss Tokyo. It’s a happening city — very much like what I envision New York City, where I’d like to visit one day.
Going on a ride in the Shinkansen (bullet train) was a lot like flying in a plane, except everyone must board in 60 seconds or you are left behind!
What a cool experience! We zoomed all the way to Toyota City in 2 1/2 hours; by car this would take about three times longer!
Mount Fuji was spectacular! This picture doesn’t do it justice since we were going too fast, but we could see it from our seats. It was a bit surreal.
We toured the Toyota Factory: Motomachi Plant and then went to Toyota Kaikan, where this picture was taken. In a word: efficiency! No pictures were allowed in the factory. It was clean, orderly and in some places there were plants and large colorful murals.
Later, after a wonderful lunch, I met my host family at a cultural center. Oh. Wow! What a wonderful family! There is a mom, dad and two girls ages 11 and 15. They are all incredibly gracious and sweet! For safety, I won’t post the children’s pictures, but they are a beautiful family – inside and out. I was extremely fortunate to have them as my host family!
They welcomed me into their home and made me feel at ease. They even brought their niece (who’d previously lived in America) to translate. Bless her!
They settled me in a lovely room with a tatami covered floor and shoji sliding doors. We had a oishii (delicious) dinner of fresh sushi, which we wrapped ourselves in thin seaweed. Their father arrived home pretty late which is typical of Japanese men. They work long and hard. He was also friendly and welcoming.
I walked to school with the oldest, who’s in 9th grade. We walked for about 10-15 minutes across streets, over a short bridge and often times, there were no sidewalks. This is typical in Japan. Children walk to school by themselves without fear of getting mugged or abducted. Imagine that. The elementary students in this area wear yellow hats so that they are easily seen by cars – much like construction workers wear in America. In other areas, they may wear a different color. No one gets bused or driven to school.
I visited three schools: junior high school, elementary school and later, the Kindergarten school. Their Kindergarten is not like ours. It is more like a nursery school and Kindergarten combination since the ages range from 3 to 6. Also, Kindergarten is not a public school. More details about their schools will be in my October Power Point, but again, much like the previous school I visited in Tokyo, the children were well behaved and took pride in their schools.
The Japanese Culture (and Writing) Teacher was gracious enough to hold a calligraphy class for us. It’s NOT easy, but it was fun. This says “Peace” in Kanji.
I borrowed a sun umbrella from my thoughtful Japanese host mom, for my walk home. This is typical in Japan when it is sunny out. The umbrellas are beautiful and light weight. The weather turned pretty hot and humid, which is normal this time of year. In the beginning of our trip, we were lucky because the weather was cooler.
My amazing host family treated me to two Japanese traditions: koto and a tea ceremony.
The grandparents live next door. They have a huge garden, complete with vegetables, flowers and trees.
The grandmother was incredibly patient and sweet. She did not speak any English and we mostly communicated through smiles and gestures. I loved her! So precious! I can see that passing on Japanese traditions to her granddaughters is important. I love all this tradition.
Koto is a musical instrument that is unique to Japan. My gracious grandmother wore a beautiful kimono and started off the evening with the koto. She directed her granddaughter, who played a beautiful song. Then she played two mesmerizing songs. I didn’t want it to end and it really made me feel like I was taken back in time. Priceless! I will be forever grateful for the experience!
The tea ceremony was beautiful and each step was precise and intricate. We ate a tasty snack and then proceeded with drinking the tea. There is even a correct way to rotate the tea cup prior to drinking it.
Love these traditions!
Later, we had a barbeque which included both Western and Japanese food. I am sure my host family did this for me. We had a blast! They are a fun group and we got to know each other. My grandparents came over too. It was bittersweet because it would be my last night with them. Despite the short time I was with them, we grew close and felt like we`d known each other forever. We ended the evening with fireworks! It was thrilling and I know, again, they did this in my honor.
Stay tuned for Hiroshima next.