Archive for July 2nd, 2012

Japan Day 4

Day 4: Tokushima

Today was another early start to a long day beginning around 8am where we all met a hotel to get on the bus. We took a ride over to their famous whirlpools. Under the largetst bridge in Japan there is a lookout area with a glass bottom floor so you can see the whirlpools. Unfortunately when we got there, there were no whirlpools. Immediatly after that we were on our way to lunch. This time it was at a place called Halleluah Sweet Shop which is owned by a fellow Rotarian. There we indulged in a fabulous buffet with all different types of food. Once again the students where quite open minded about what they are eating which is great.

After lunch we made our way over to Toko Highschool. Here, our students participated in an English class. The Japanese students were so happy to see us Americans and gave us a good welcoming. After “class” the students were broken up into groups including archery, caligraphy, tea ceremony, and music. I visited each of theses classes and was very impressed on how the Japanese students were teaching our American students, their English is very good.

When it was time to leave we found out that one of the students was very homesick and wanted to go home. We had her call her parents from the hotel but they refused to pay for a plane ticket home. Hearing that conversation was heart breaking. After a few changes to the room stays, we were able to put her with her best friend for the duration of the trip.

At night, I went to dinner with my host family in honor of a long term exchange student that stayed with them. There was about 20 people at this dinner including 2 of my students. We had a lot of different food at this dinner including squid and mango yogurt which was yummy.

This day ended with a great nights sleep.

Japan Day 3

Day 3

I didn’t get a chance to write this down yesterday as I was too tired and went straight to bed after getting to my first host family’s home.

The morning started off at around 6:30 and breakfast at 7. Like yesterday, the breakfast was both Japanese and American food which was a great start to a long day. At around 9:45 we loaded up the bus again and made our way to Nara which was about 1 1/2 hour away. Once there we visited the “Big Buddah” temple. Once you walk inside the temple, you are greeted with the largest Buddah statue in the world. This statue was massive. Once we walked around to the other side, there was a hole in a pillar that symbolized buddah’s nostril. The idea behind it is that if you can fit through the hole, you will be on the path to enlightenent. All of the students were able to fit through so I guess we are a pretty enlightened group :).

Once we left the temple, we went on our way to lunch. Yup, you guessed it, another tofu restaurant. This time however, they did have some fried crab and a few other unrecognizable items. I must say, the students have been great with trying everything that is served to them, even if it looks a bit scetchy.

After lunch we loaded back up and began our 3 1/2 hour journey to Tokshima on the Shikoku island. Once there, we were greeted by about 30 rotarians, including our host families. The mood changed a bit when we all realized we would be parting ways, though, there weren’t any tears so I am sure everyone is going to be fine. I am staying with a lovely couple, Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka. Once we arrived at their home, Mr. Tanaka was gracious enough to take me on a tour of his house and downstairs to meet his parents who were very happy to meet me. We sat in the takami room and Tanaka Senior took at a world atlas so that he could see where I was from. We had a great conversation even though they could not speak English, Mr. Tanaka was able to translate. His mother has invited me to a tea ceremony on Sunday in honor of July 7th which is a Japanese honoring when a prince and princess meet for the only time each year. I believe we will also be going to a Tokoshima soccor (futbol) game on Sunday.

That’s all for now!!

Japan Day 2

Day 2 in Japan June 27

This morning I was up before the son at a very early 4:30. It was really nice to see the sun come up over Osaka. After going for a short walk with Stacey, another leader, I was able to come back and access the internet for a very short 10 minutes to let my family know I was safe, cost 100yen for 10 minutes which is roughly $.70 American. We all sat down to a very traditional breakfast with different foods such as miso soup seaweed and a sticky soybean mixture called Nautto. The students and leaders kept a very open mind and tried pretty much everything.

Right now I am writing to you from a tour bus on our way to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. Our tour guides name is Yumi, she is very knowledgeable about Japan so we will be learning a lot today on our journey.

Well, that is all for now! Stay tuned to find out what type of adventures we had today!!

Once we made it to Kyoto, we visited 3 different Buddist temples and at lunch at a tofu restaurant, which was actually a lot better then it sounds. We got back to the hotel around 4 and the students got a chance to explore Kyoto for a bit on their own. Dinner was a delicious Japanese meal with some recognizable food thrown in and everyone agreed it was delicious.

After dinner, the group went out on a Gesha Hunt. I know this sounds completely insane and in the US would not actually be an acceptable act to go out in search of an “escort”, though, in Japan it is widely accepted. Our host explained that a Gesha is someone who is paid to keep a gentleman company. For example, they would acompany the gentleman to dinner and serve his dinner, pour his wine and dance for him. Basically in our culutre it is a more traditional escort. I digress. After dinner, we all got in cabs and make our way to what I can only call Kyoto’s red light district, though not as seedy and crime ridden as it sounds. Unfortuneatly, after walking for a while, we did not find any Geshas. We all walked over to the shopping district but were too tired to do anything so we went back to the hotel.

I am off to bed now as I think the jet lag is setting in and I have only had about 4 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours.

Tommorow we are off to Nara and our first host family!!

Japan: Day 1

Day One:

The day began at about 6am when I woke up to get ready to meet the group at the Madison YMCA. After checking the students in and collecting their passports we were on our way to JFK airport. The drive went off without a hitch. Once we made it to the airport, we were able to fly through security and check our bags with ease. Once we reached the gate, the students went off on their own to find some lunch for themselves. Roughly 10 minutes before boarding time (2:30pm), a voice came over the loud speaker that there was a delay of about a half hour. We did what we had to do and waited patiently. Once we boarded the plane there was more maintenance to be had on the plane delaying us for another hour. Just as the plane was fixed, the rain came on in, delaying us another 45 minutes or so.

Finally, we were in the air around 5:00. The flight that seemed like and endless trip to no where was actually quite entertaining with many movies, games and tv shows to choose from. Of course after 10 or so hours in the plane, who wouldn’t start to get wrestless. The staff was quite accomodating to us, serving us two full meals and a “midnight” snack along with tea and coffee just about every hour.

Right around 8:30pm we landed in Osaka and were able to get through customs quickly to meet our fellow Japanese Rotarians in the lobby where they were waiting with open arms. A short 15 minutes ride and were were at the Bellevue Garden Hotel where there was a very American buffet with chicken fingers and pizza waiting for us. While it did comfort many of us, I could also feel some dissapointment in the room as we were all excited for some local chow.

Now I am in my hotel room, tasting my very first Japanese vending machine beer and very much enjoying it. Stay tuned for some more adventure…