Funny story - the first word in Japanese that I learned (in a formal setting) was "keitenzushi" and Haruto Kusaka taught it to me when he was in my 5th grade class. Keitenzushi, also known as conveyer belt sushi, is an experience! I loved it!
Next to our table is a conveyer belt that has a continuous stream of sushi - maki, nigiri - everything! You just pick up the plate that you want and enjoy! When you are done, you put the plate into a slot and that is how you know how much to pay - each plate is 100 yen (about 89 cents). So cool!
I can't even believe how delicious the sushi was. It was perfect - sweet, fresh, and easy to eat! Here's what I had (or saw the kids eat).
My first piece of sushi was chopped maguro (tuna) with egg yolk. Totemo oishi!
Inari - fried tofu skin on rice. Sweet and savory - my favorite and so easy to eat!
This is maguro (tuna) nigiri. Simple and so yummy!
This is chopped toro - tuna belly. So soft and rich!
Corn and mayo - Haruto A. had this and let me have one - soooo good!
This next one is tobiko - I did not eat this, but it was pretty!
This is bonito - when bonito is dried, it turns into katsuobushi. I didn't eat this, but took a picture of it because I was so interested in bonito!
This is salmon roe and cucumber. Again, I didn't eat it, but it's pretty!
Fresh wasabi is NOTHING like wasabi in America. It is fresh, spicy, and fragrant!
Chocolate pudding - Japanese desserts aren't as sweet as American desserts. This was so good - great way to end an incredible meal!
For my last picture on my blog, I think it is fitting to share the Kusaka's license plate. They love Brookline and it is so clear. For those of you from New York (or elsewhere!) Brookline's area code is 617
Thank you for following my blog! This has been the trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful to everyone who made it possible! ありがとうございます
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.
When I met with the SET-J committee to plan my trip, I mentioned that I really wanted to experience nature - maybe go on a hike. I couldn't have imagined that I was opening the door to an experience like this!
I started my day very early (left at 6:30 am) and met the Kusaka, Arai, and Hirano families at 8:30 near the base of the mountain. Takaosan is not as big as Mt. Fuji, but is a popular mountain to climb because of the shrines at the summit. Here we all are at the top (spoiler alert - we made it to the top!):
This next picture is strictly done for Ben and Alex, my brothers. You're welcome.
The hike was INCREDIBLE! I started the hike with the three boys - their mom's took gondolas up, similar to a ski resort. They made a good choice - the hike up was KILLER! It was so steep, similar to walking up Summit Ave for 2 hours. For those of you not in Brookline, Summit Ave is an incredibly steep street near Coolidge Corner. I think you probably got that from context!
It was totally worth it! About halfway up the mountain we stopped at a monkey park and hung out with monkeys for a while!
The whole time I kept thinking how lucky I was to be spending the day with such wonderful people doing such wonderful things. I am so lucky. Haruto, Haruto, and Taichi were so happy to see each other and I am so happy to see them enjoying the time together.
And now: NATURE!
This was such a special night. It really made me appreciate the Lawrence School community and the strength that community can have. Many former Lawrence students and their families came to the party in Tokyo and I was so happy to see everyone! My heart was full while watching the kids so excited to see each other. I saw so many former students and I am so proud of them and how much they have grown!
Many former students are adults now and were so excited to hear that their favorite teachers are still at Lawrence! I never knew them, but I was so happy that they came to the party!
I was overjoyed to see Halna, Hitomi, Namiho and Haruka, former 5th graders who are such incredible people!
Can you tell I was happy to them???
The younger students were so happy to be there and see their friends! Their joy was so clear and contagious! Their parents were so happy to see each other too!
It was a very emotional night for me. Seeing such a loving and warm community, I was overwhelmed by their strength - it is hard to be away from home. Not knowing the language and culture is challenging, to say the least, and Lawrence School's Japanese families are so strong. I am moved by them. I am strengthened by them. I am learning from them, and I am forever grateful for their kindness and friendship.
After a feast the night before, I couldn't believe that breakfast could compete, but it did! Hiroyo prepared a traditional (not typical) breakfast and it blew me away! There is too much to describe in this picture, so I will share the highlights:
1) Shabu shabu beef (incredible)
2) Maitake mushrooms and beef
3) Pumpkin salad
4) Shredded daikon and carrots
5) Assorted fruit
6) White rice
7) Bean salad
8) Miso soup (from homemade miso!!)
9) Incredibly soft and delicious tofu
10) NATO - wild!
After breakfast, Hiroyo and I went to view old Japanese traditional homes. Hiroyo described it as being similar to Plymouth Plantation. It was such a beautiful day and Hiroyo, in her kimono, made the day perfect!
We met some men who weave materials to make sandals and other household objects. They made a ring toss game. I did not play this game well. Surprised?
After we left, we went for a head massage! It was so relaxing, I almost fell asleep! The man started by washing my hair. I thought that was the head massage, but then they moved me to a chair and gave me an great neck massage too! I have been carrying a heavy backpack all day, everyday, so he was surprised at how hard my shoulder muscles were! Thank you Hiroyo for an amazing experience!
Hiroyo's son, Haruto, took me to Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and we went to Ramen Road, a stretch of ramen shops right near my hotel. We used a machine to pay for our meals, then gave the receipt to the waitress. So easy! I FINALLY ate tsukemen! It is similar to ramen, but the noodles are thicker and separate from the broth, which is incredibly thick and flavorful, almost like a gravy!
What a wonderful day! I was so tired, but rallied and then went to the reunion party. That will be for the next post!
Wait until you see these pictures! I got out of my cab and got into Kida san's house. Hiroyo Kida is always dressed perfectly in her kimono and is the most gracious host. Once I got inside, she whisked me downstairs to the tatami mat room and immediately told me to take off my shirt - what!? She gave me a kimono and the rest was magical!
The first pictures are the sweets that you eat to match the matcha. They are sooo beautiful. The tea ceremony was amazing, and I even got a chance to make my own matcha. I was so worried about doing it wrong because every. single. movement. is very specific. They were so kind and helpful - I love it! My matcha was not very good - no foam and very light. I'm not an expert!
This was something I'll never forget!
Cooking - so much cooking!
So much food! I wanted to make gyoza and we did! Then Hiroyo started making soup. I made some spring rolls with ham, cheese and shiso leaves. Holy cow was that good. Look all we ate. I am so lucky. Everything was better than the last and I couldn't stop! I filled ALL (except 4) of these dumplings!
Here's what you are looking at:
1) Bean sprouts and greens sauteed and topped with roasted garlic sauce
2) Frying gyoza with a cornstarch slurry (extra crispiness)
3) Egg, tomato, and shrimp
4) Gyoza filling (pork, scallions, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, sake, mirin, shoyu, oyster sauce)
5) Copper rice cooker (with rice inside!)
6) Pork shabu shabu salad (cold)
7) Ham and cheese spring rolls with shiso
8) Homegrown bean sprouts (!)
tofu and kombu soup
Me smiling a lot
After dinner, Haruto, Hiroyo, and I made origami!
It was an incredible day, but all of my days have been incredible so this one was no different!
Enjoy my pictures from yesterday! I am so behind on my blog! This trip is amazing and exhausting and I am struggling to keep up!
Bukko Elementary School
I really loved learning how to write "Hana" in kanji. Hana means "flower" and it also means "nose" but this kanji is for flower. After working on my Kanji, I made a thank you card for the boy who lent me his ink. I wrote his name in Hirangana (my secret special talent). After making his note, there was a line of kids wanting their own name written by the teacher from Boston!
One kid said that I looked like a Backstreet Boy.
Best day ever!
Then we learned Kanji. The kids were very hard on me, making sure I wrote everything correctly, but it was so fun! They loved seeing me struggle, then get it!
Lunch was really good! We had chili con carne, cabbage salad (delicious), orange, very soft bread, and really great milk. The milk is fattier in Japan - instead of 1% or 2% they have 3.5% and its reallllly good.
Super short post today! No pictures yet, but I had a great day! Went to Bukko Elementary School and had a wonderful time observing and teaching! I even got to try Japanese Calligraphy - the kids were amazed that I knew how to make characters! I ended up writing one kid's name in Hiragana as a thank you for letting me use his ink. There was a line a kids behind me waiting to get their names written by the sensei from Boston!
After school I went to Kida san's house in Kawasaki. The first thing we did was a tradition tea ceremony which was amazing! I then ate the best meal of my life. More to come!
This is going to be a shorter post than usual, not because I didn't have a great day! In fact, it was AMAZING! It will be short because I am tired and spent almost 5 hours on the Shinkansen.
I spent the morning and early afternoon with the Kozono family: Shiho, Saku, Soe, and Sei. They are delightful and we spent the day laughing and reminiscing! Saku was in my first 4th grade class and is now just starting 8th grade, Soe is just starting 5th grade, and Sei is starting 1st grade. Sei was a baby when I first met him!
We took a ferry to Miyajima, an island about 30 minutes from Hiroshima, that is home to many shrines and beautiful torii. It looks like Jurassic Park - really!
I absolutely loved the beautiful shrines and gates (torii) that are spread out over the island. Soe and Saku kept pointing out all of the statues of dog/lions that guard the shrines.
Did I mention there are deer on the island? They *probably* weren't drunk. Some were blocking store entrances. Some were head butting tourists. It was hysterical.
We visited several museums on the island, my favorite was a tradition Japanese home, complete with tatami mats and koi in the garden.
A unique thing about Miyajima is that the water comes in and out with the tide every day in extreme ways! The shrine has been built to withstand the water and appears to float at high tide. At low tide, people can walk up to the shrines!
We went to a market and ate a lot of really cool things! I ate a grilled oyster (takigaki) that was the size of a small child's fist. It was so sweet and delicious, but I was so worried about eating it that I forgot to take a picture! The pictures below are of me and Soe eating them, a bit trepidatiously! We also ate Momiji manju, a filled cake shaped life a leaf. It was so good too! I had one with custard and Shiho sent me home with a box of chocolate ones! Thank you Shiho!
The best part of my day was spending time with the kids, Saku, Soe, and Sei!
Seishiro, Saku and Soe's younger brother was new to me, since he was a baby when I last saw him! You see, I know Saku very well because I was her teacher, and I have known Soe since he drew a picture of me when he was in 1st grade and wrote about me being Saku's teacher. The picture is still up on my wall! I got to know Sei today and he is a ball of energy and precociousness!
What a great day!
This is a tough one for me. It was a powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring, and moving day. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I have been struggling with how to share this day in this medium. My guide for the day, my former student Takuma Miyamura, told me that I should not shy away from tough things. I will keep things relatively light, but the power of the day is still with me. It will be with me for a long time.
I want to talk about what I learned today - we all need to know and remember what happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am. I have decided to not share the terrible details that Keiko Ogura shared with me today. She was 8 when the bomb was dropped and shared her story - every detail of it. Every sense that she experienced that day and for the past 74 years.
Instead, I will focus on the beauty of the Hiroshima Peace Park, the power of the monuments, the images that will stay with me and make me smile. Please ask me what I learned from Keiko san. I want to, need to, share it with you.
Ok! So let's start with the beauty of my day! It started off taking the Shinkansen - the bullet train! It goes 186 mph and was smooth as ice. Loved it. 10 out of 10. The seats were comfortable and everyone had TONS of legroom!
I met up with Takuma in Hiroshima station - he looks exactly like he did 9 years ago when he was in my 5h grade class! Here we are:
We took a bus to the Peace Park and stopped for a quick lunch, Onigiri - rice balls wrapped in nori and filled with different ingredients. I got wasabi and nori in one, and beef and spicy mayo in the other. Takuma got wasabi and nori in one and katsubushi in the other. Soooo good!
Once we walked into the Hiroshima Peace Park, I was overwhelmed by the beauty around me. It is truly a special place.
The park is full of monuments dedicated to peace. Too many to count, each one stops you in your tracks.
The names of every single person who died because of the A-bomb are in the center box. Every year, names of survivors who pass away are added. When standing in front of this monument you can clearly see the Atomic Bomb Dome. More on that later.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a structure that is still standing as a reminder of the destruction. For more than 10 years the citizens of Hiroshima debated if the structure should stay or be demolished. I'm glad it is still here.
After Masako san (most amazing tour guide in the world) took us around the park, she brought us to the museum. It was devastating. I didn't take many pictures.
Takuma and I did get to see some incredible cranes. The first are the actual cranes made by Sadako, using small pieces of paper from her hospital bed. More on her later. The second are the cranes made by President Obama in 2015. His visit had an incredibly huge impact on the people of Hiroshima. Masako-san was moved by his 17 minute long speech and the cranes that he presented.
These next pictures are tough and need no explanation.
After touring the museum, Takuma and I met up with Masako-san again. We presented flowers and cranes made by Lawrence School 4th graders. I was very proud. Enjoy the pictures! It was an honor of a lifetime to present these gifts.
This is a gorgeous monument in honor of Sadako, a 12 year old girl who died from leukemia, 10 years after the bomb. She was 2 when the bomb fell and seemed perfectly healthy, but became sick later in her childhood. While in the hospital, she folded over 1,000 cranes with the hope that it would make her healthy again. The 1,000 cranes that Lawrence School students folded are in honor of her.
This sign says "minananakayoshi" which means "Everyone is good friends" and is outside where I presented the cranes.
The final part of our time at the Hiroshima Peace Park was meeting with Keiko Ogura, a woman who was 8 when the bomb dropped. I am a lucky man. She spoke with just the 3 of us in a huuuuuge lecture hall (with my name on a sign). The biggest surprise from her story was how much secret was involved in the bomb. She and her friends never spoke about their injuries. They never spoke of their fear and their trauma. That is why she felt it important to speak about her story. Not keeping it a secret. She is a special person and I am better for knowing her.
After an emotional day, Takuma and I were hungry and that means RAMEN! He got akaumanikuiri (deep red ramen) and I got shiroumanikuiri (white tonkonsu pork broth). We tried each other's and they were both amazing! The chasu pork was melting in my mouth and the noodles we firm and perfect!
Takuma, Masako, and especially Keiko - thank you for a day I will never forget.
I will leave you today with words from Keiko:
"Over the past 30 years, I have interpreted the testimonies of various atomic bomb survivors on the one hand, while on the other communicating my own experience in English to the people of the world. I do this because I do not want humankind to ever again experience the horror caused by nuclear weapons. I know that retribution and hatred mean nothing under that mushroom cloud, and that the people of the world share the same fate."
Today was my first school visit and it was full of joy and laughter! I met Yuu Kimura early and we took the train to Doshisha School. This is a really cool school with a great story! In the 1860's the founder of the school travelled to Massachusetts and wanted to set up a school based on what he saw in New England. The school was founded in 1875 and had 2 teachers and 8 students. Now there are over 40,000 students from Kindergarten to graduate school. Amazing.
On the train to school, I noticed that many students take the train alone. In Japan, people take care of the children who ride alone and make sure that no one messes with them. Really cool! Here I am with Yuu!
When we got to the school, the first thing that I noticed was how beautiful it is. The mountains in the background were stunning, framed by the ever present sakura.
When I walked in, I took off my shoes and wore super stylish slippers. The displays in the hallway were awesome! They even did a production of Aladdin Jr.!
I spent some joyous time with 1st graders learning English. We played Simon Says and they asked me questions about America. My favorite questions you ask?
"Do you have bugs and insects in America?"
"Do you have cars?"
"What does America look like?"
The English teachers were amazing. Arisa was so helpful all day. She made me laugh when she told me she lived in Australia for a time and sometimes her accents comes back and she says "G'day mate!" Lyle was a visiting researcher from the UK. They were so good with the kids!
After visiting 1st grade, I spent time in a music class with 3rd graders. It was so fun! The music teacher was so engaging and played the flute for the kids. We learned a song together, then they asked if I wanted to sing for the kids. Of course I said yes. I chose Hallelujah because I thought the kids would know it from Shrek. They did and sang along with me while I played the piano. So fun! This picture was from a dancing and singing activity that the kids were going wild for!
I spent a lot of time with a 4th grade class and their teacher Mr. Takai. I started by sharing the video I made about Brookline and Lawrence School and then they asked me a ton of questions about schools in America. We spent a long time talking about similarities and differences. It was great! They loved seeing Ms. Gannon's Japanese art (you can even see it in the picture below!). I even showed them how to use an area model to multiply! I have evidence - do you think I can use it for my teacher evaluation in Brookline?
After my lesson we had lunch! The kids are totally in charge of lunch. They set up the tables and serve each other. I'm not kidding. It's amazing.
Lunch was oishi (delicious)! I had soup with tofu and greens, shredded daikon with ground meat and chili, rice, milk, and a stew of potatoes, carrots, and thin sliced pork. The best part was how they set up their classroom! They set their desks in a circle and eat in the classroom. There was no room for me in the circle, so Mr. Takai joined me in the middle of the group. So funny!
After eating lunch, the whole school stops so everyone can clean for 20-25 minutes. Everything gets cleaned by students, with the 6th graders helping the 1st graders who are still learning. They kids had fun and the school is immaculate.
The rags are labeled so some a used for the floors, some for desks, some for lunch.
After leaving the Elementary School, Yuu and I visited the Middle School and High School. The kids use a lot of technology and art - it was great! They liked that I knew a little Japanese and even tried to talk to me in English. I really liked interacting with the older kids.
We ended our tour in an English class. They were working on turning present tense verbs into present perfect. For example, "She eats" would become "She has eaten". They had "Soak Up the Sun" by Sheryl Crow playing over the speakers while the class played a game to practice these verbs. You roll dice and move your piece (I used a 100 yen coin from my pocket) and then use that verb in a sentence, changing its tense. It was fun and the high school students were happy to get help from a native speaker!
I'll leave you with some of my favorite images from the day. The first one is from PE class at the elementary school.
Finally, imagine being a high school student, and this is what your classroom was like:
Tomorrow I'll be taking the Shinkansen to Hiroshima for a beautiful and thoughtful day with Takuma Miyamura (former 5th grader who is now in college).