Japan Day #14 Tokyo tour and then long flight home…

The morning had us bidding farewell to host families and Kita City educators. It was a bittersweet farewell. Then we were off to see a few more sites:

The Meiji Shrine (a Shinto Shrine)

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The Edo Tokyo Museum

and one final Buddhist temple, Naritasan:

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Then we were off to the Narita airport, some very long immigration lines, a hop on the plane and and nine hours (and one red eye later) we were home to SFO and families greeting us!

Stay tuned for a Post-Script!



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Japan Day #13 school day and farewell assembly

Students went to school today with their hosts and then we all met at the Kita city offices today for our Farewell Assembly with the host families.

During the day the chaperones had the chance to visit the Tokyo Sky Tree and have a little fun seeing the city from amazing heights. Yes, it was clear, but not quite clear enough to see Mt. Fuji.

We agreed that watching the window washers on the outside of the sky tree made us recalculate what it means to “work” for a living.

On to the farewell assembly… one last version of the school song:

Lots of speeches and farewells; Jacob and Lauren did a great job. I did give the beginning portion of my speech in Japanese! Huzzah! It was a lovely closing!

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The we took our leave and students had one final night with their families.

Chaperones had one final dinner and a small visit to a local karaoke establishment. What’s a trip to Tokyo without Karaoke?


No evidence of this visit, but definitely a renewed respect for Gladys Knight and the Pips has been reborn…

One last day of touring Tokyo!

That’s all for now…




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Day 12 Part #2 Chaperone escapades…

So on Sunday, some of the chaperones saw some of Tokyo’s sites: Disneyland and a visit to one of Tokyo’s many animal cafés. In this case, an owl café.


Japanese manicures…


and the owl café…


to be continued…

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Day #12 Free Day!

Students spent the day with their host families. The chaperones explored the sights and sounds of Tokyo. Navigating the railway system, people watching and understanding just how vertical Tokyo is was all part of today;s education.

I found myself feeling quite  uncomfortable navigating the city alone when I started out yesterday afternoon, but by this evening, I felt much more at ease with the “not knowing” aspect of being in a new place. Tokyo is densely populated, some sections are very loud and the railway system and subway systems can seem like an endless maze, but, really, once the senses adjust, it is as navigable as any other city.

It is easy to get overstimulated by  lights and sounds, the pulsing beat of music blaring in different areas, the visuals that feel “Time Square-like” in lots of areas, and the vertical and horizontal miles of shopping. That combined with the gardens and temples and art and landscapes are all part of the experience.

Submerged in a new culture, learning happens at every level, from the very superficial, to the deeply visceral. It’s interesting and overwhelming and so enjoyable, in a kind of dizzying rotation.

More tomorrow as we have a free part of the day and then meet up with students and host families for our farewell assembly tomorrow afternoon.

I will be giving at least a portion of my farewell speech in Japanese. Just how much remains to be seen.

Sayonara for now…



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Japan Day #11: morning in Iwai and then…

Back to Kita City and host families for the next two days…

Sleeping in a traditional Japanese hotel on tatami mats and futons, we were awakened to the sounds of pounding rains, thunder and lightening. A very stormy morning outside.

We did some indoor gymnastics (morning exercise), then breakfast, then fun and games and performance practice for the farewell assembly.

Bus ride back to Tokyo and students are back with their families again…

Sunday is a free day with host families and then they attend classes all day with their host students on Monday. We will gather as a group one final time for the farewell assembly on Monday afternoon. Our time in Japan is winding down, but there are so many impressions to process and think about as we get ready to return…


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Japan Day #10: half day school visit, then IWAI

The morning was spent at our various schools having one more visit. Some groups had assemblies and did performances; others took classes and learned more about language and culture. Volleyball, group dances, origami, tea ceremonies and delicious school lunches.

Jon Copeland’s quote of the lunch hour:

This is way better than choice lunch!

Lunch has been a little different at each school. Today was rice with Sunn Ma, a very moist grilled fish, miso soup, pickled salad, milk and an apple jello-like dessert. These are lunches made on site by kitchen staff; each day . They are healthy and delicious!

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We arrived in IWAI late afternoon. We are about 90 minutes from Tokyo by the sea. This is a traditional Japanese hotel and very beautiful. We had a delicious curry meal prepared by the students and then had the option of a traditional Japanese bath.

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Japan Day #9: Small Group school visits, again!

Homemade sushi, a restaurant and an aquarium made entirely by kindergarteners, a lunch of ramen and an afternoon of dodge ball? My group was super happy today…

Lots of cuteness here…

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