2013 Tokyo Program

2013 Tokyo Program

Sunday, July 7: At SD Airport

Welcome to our blog. We are now at the airport and waiting for the time for boarding. We are all excited about the trip. For what we blogged in the pre-travel sessions, please see the following.


We will be blogging from Japan as soon as we arrive there. Please stay tuned!

Boeing 787 direct flight from SD to Tokyo!

Tokyo Program members

Tuesday, July 9: Day 1

Phew, we made it through our first official day and what a day it was!  My roommate, Kathleen Hambel, and I started the day at 4:00 a.m. suffering from jet lag.  We decided to hit the hotel gym and by 4:30 a.m. we were getting our sweat on.  We found an unusual exercise machine that we’re still not sure what it is used for.  The motions of it resembled that of a mechanical bull.  Perhaps a secret Japanese ab workout?...perhaps, but like I said, we still don’t know what it is.

Ride 'em cowboy!

After our workout, we got ready, went to the hotel restaurant, and dined on our first meal in Tokyo.  We ate croissants, cereal, and the cooks even made Kathleen an egg white omelette, special for her allergic needs.  Then off to the races we went.  Dr. Inoue and Masami Inoue lead seven loud and clueless Americans through the Shinjuki train station.  It’s reported that 3 million people pass through this train station every day and I think I saw every one of them.  I’ve never seen so many people in one place at one time.  I’ve even been to Las Vegas and New York City for New Year’s Eve and I still haven’t seen so many people.  As our train arrived, people just poured out of different sections of the train like water.  It was incredible.  What was more incredible was in the quiet and orderly manner the passengers walked from the train and through the train station.  There was no pushing, shoving, or short tempers.  They were quick and efficient.

So patient, these two.

So we made it on the train then over to Waseda University.  We were warmly welcomed by Professor Asada and the Waseda students, many of which spoke English.  We spent the entire day discussing teaching methods, analyzing video, lesson study, and organizing thoughts in a new way to me called the KJ Method.  The KJ Method stands for the man who came up with it whose name is Kawakita (last name) Jiro (first name).  It’s a method to analyze field notes that was developed in Japan.

Waseda University students and me working on KJ Method

KJ Method
After we took care of business, we got the party started!  A big group of us, at least 25+ Americans and Japanese walked to a restaurant where the Waseda student hosted a welcoming party for us.  We had some drinks, cut loose, and this is where friendships begun.  I was given an informal lesson on proper ways to bow from Shun.  There was lots of conversations and giggling throughout the party.  It was around 10:00 when the party was over and we all went back to our homes and hotels.  The long ride home had most of us sleeping during some parts of it.  I even captured Dr. Inoue dozing off too (he he he).  When we got back to the hotel, I think all of us got in our pj’s and were out for the rest of the night.  For me, it was an unforgettable day.
Shun and me at Welcoming party


"My heart is hot"

Exhaustion and delirium set in

Tuesday, July 9: Day 1

My dearest readers,

Wow, what a day! We were gone from 7:45 in the morning and did not return until after 11p.m. We began by taking the train to the Tokorozawa campus of Waseda University. This is where we had the pleasure of meeting our Japanese counterparts. Our first tasks were video analysis and lesson study. As a collective whole we shared our observations and reflections that we made about the video. After a traditional Bento Box lunch it was back to work. Next, we learned and practiced the KJ Method before ending the session with a presentation by Principal Takahashi.

Even though it had already been a long day that did not stop us from having a drinking party. Everyone had fun. All in all it was a great first day!


P.S.: The greatest discovery of the day was learning the toilets in Japan have sound effects.

Wednesday, July 10: Day 2

Wednesday…Second Day

Another successful day in Tokyo! Today, we got to visit Waseda University’s main campus near Shinjuku. We spent our day sharing our Action Research with our new Waseda comrades and learning about the Action Research they are conducting. We exchanged ideas, received helpful feedback, and had our “kizuki” about how big of an impact culture has on our differences in learning and teaching. 

And this was only part of our adventure….

Our gracious hosts and new friends treated us to traditional Japanese cuisine throughout our day. For lunch we had another delicious, and this time very fancy, bento box. Rumor has it that we dined on the same bento boxes that are served at the Imperial Palace! For dinner, we dined on a variety of Japanese Cuisines at a traditional Japanese dinner table. We continued building our relationships with our new friends while they helped us learn about the fun things to do in Tokyo –aside from Action Research ;).

After another day of fun and learning with new friends, we are exhausted! We are all looking forward to a good nights sleep to prepare us for tomorrow’s adventures visiting Japanese Middle and Elementary Schools.

Until Tomorrow,

Kathleen and Melissa

Thursday, July 11: Day 3

My dearest readers,

Wow what another great day!!  It was the hottest day Tokyo had seen in years. After a long, sweaty, hot walk we finally arrived at Tokorozawa Middle School.  When we first arrived at the school we took off our shoes and put on blue slippers.  What a great idea.  The slippers cut down on dirt entering the school.

 I think we all had a great time visiting. It was wonderful to see all the great programs the school has to offer. The principal was extremely welcoming. Our next school tour was at Meiho Elementary School. Like Lauren said, I think we were all a little nervous to teach the 6th graders. After our kinesthetic lesson, we were able to watch our students serve lunch, then eat with them. It was a great experience!

Next, we were off to find our own way home.  I was a little nervous we would get lost, but we followed the leader and we made back safely without getting lost.

We stopped at the hotel to freshen up then we were off to explore. We had a great first night out. We found a restaurant near Mori Tower. Then it was off to bed.


P.S.: Note to self, next time I’m in Tokyo during a heat wave, bring a sweat cloth J

Thursday, July 11: Day 3

Today was quite an eventful day!
First stop, arriving at Tokorozawa Middle School. I don't think we could have been more grateful for an air-conditioned room than after the tour of the school! It was quite impressive to learn about the many programs the school offers its students, from swimming to music to kendo. How great was it to see the English teacher use "Call Me Maybe" in her class?!

Second stop, Meiho Elementary School. I'm not afraid to admit I was nervously excited to teach the 6th graders. Excited to teach, but nervous because they were 6th graders. 6th graders can be terrifying!! But we had a blast was we taught our very entertaining and kinesthetic lessons to the intrigued students. From learning Simon Says, the Cupid Shuffle, and the Electric Slide hopefully these kiddos learned that young American teachers like to get up and MOVE! Eating lunch with the students was quite an experience of miming and gesturing as we tried to communicate. The students were very sweet and there was lots of giggling (at my expense I'm sure!)

Next stop, getting home on our own! After a quick refresh and relax time we got all dolled up to explore the wonderful city of Tokyo. We hopped on the subway (first time and all by ourselves!) and safely made it to Roppongi Hills. Although we didn't make it to the tip-top of Mori Tower, our dinner at Wired Cafe was tasty and our first excursion on our own was a success!
Kanpai!! (Cheers in Japanese)
Ready for our first free night out in Tokyo!

Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills

Friday, July 12: Day 4

TGIF! Friday marked our first official opportunity to spend the day exploring Tokyo. However, that didn't mean we finally had a chance to sleep in a little bit. The morning was dedicated to a cultural tour of the city, and we had to meet in our hotel's lobby at 8 a.m. again! I was definitely running on adrenaline and caffeine by this point. Melissa did a wonderful job writing about the group tour, so please check out her post and pictures below!

After the tour ended in Asakusa, we split up into smaller groups, and I explored the city with Lauren and Lexi. We spent a few hours exploring Asakusa, buying trinkets at the stands that serve the throngs of tourists visiting the Sensoji/Asakusa Kannon Temple before walking a few blocks to Orange Street. We stumbled upon Stars Plaza in front of the Asakusa Public Hall. Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the sidewalk here displays the handprints of famous Japanese performers. The three of us then found a fantastic little home goods shop where we all bought gifts -- such as dishware and nice chopsticks -- for family and friends. We ended our afternoon in Asakusa with a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

We then began our journey to Tokyo's famous Harajuku fashion district, which included a pit stop for dessert at a Hard Rock Cafe! Once we made it to the neighbrohood, we strolled down the crowded Takeshita Street (which is not pronounced how it looks!). Although we were surrounded by fun and trendy boutiques, we spent most of our time in Daiso Harajuku, a multilevel 100 yen shop -- or Japan's version of a dollar store. This place is AMAZING. I bought a ton of fun souvenirs here ranging from Hello Kitty chopsticks to stationary to tea!

Although we were exhausted after a day of sightseeing and shopping, we joined Dr. Inoue and his wife, Masami, at a small cafe near the hotel for an informal conversation about our adventures  ... and some wine! Even though we were exhausted, Lexi, Lauren, and I were also starving, so we stopped by a noodle house where we tried tsukemen -- or dipping noodles -- for the first time. The noodles and soup are served in separate bowls, and once you wrangle some noodles with your chopsticks, you dip them into the broth and chow down. With aching feet and full stomachs, we finally journeyed back to the hotel and passed out. We definitely had a fun and memorable day!


Friday, July 12: Day 4

Another fun and exciting day in Tokyo!! Today we had the culture tour and we were able to do some sight seeing around Tokyo! To begin the tour we hopped on the bus and met our tour guide. Our tour guide was very informative and had quite the sense of humor which kept us all entertained during the tour. On the bus he even taught us some Japanese words and phrases! We learned to count to seven in Japanese...

Itch, Knee, Son, She, go, hatch, hitch!! 

and another phrase, "donttouchmymoustache" which supposedly translates to something in Japanese.

Our first stop on the tour was Meiji Jingu Shrine! This is a shinto shrine is dedicated to protecting the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife. On our walk to the shrine, we passed a wall full of barrels of sake which I learned were donated to the shrine. Before entering the shrine, we cleansed ourselves with water. There is water located outside the shrine and everyone who enters is supposed to pour the water on both hands then rinse the mouth with the water. This ritual is supposed to cleanse each person before going into the shrine. Inside the shrine we all made wishes. To make a wish at the shrine, one must clap twice, make a wish, then bow. 

Our next stop on the tour was the Imperial Palace. This is where the current Emperor of Japan resides. The outside of the palace is surrounded by a large moat and there is a large bridge that leads up to the palaces doors. Unfortunately we were not able to go inside the Palace :(

Our last stop on the tour was the Asakusa Sensoji Shrine. This one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo. The shrine honors the three men who founded Sensoji. At this shrine we also made wishes. We also bought fortunes. I found the fortunes to be quite interesting because not all fortunes were good. One could get a bad fortunes, a good fortune, or a half fortune (good and bad). I got a half fortune which said that both marriage and new employment are bad. I'm choosing not to believe this!!! 

The tour ended around 1 and we had the rest of the day to explore on our own! Kathleen, Kristy, and I choose to stay in Asakusa and shop around!! I got a cute little geisha lantern and a samurai sword for my boyfriend!! It was a very successful day :)

Saturday, July 13th: Day 5 (Last Full Day!)

Today was the VERY last full day in Tokyo and we were going to soak up as much of it as possible! It all began with our Polo t-shirt photo shoot in front of the hotel then off to explore Odaiba, or as Karen so creatively named it "Garbage Island" due to it formerly being a landfill. How did we get to Garbage Island? It wasn't by taxi. It wasn't by subway. It wasn't by train. It was by Monorail! (See what I did there with the reference to our tour guide's phrasing??)

The monorail station dumped (get it? "dumped") us in somesort of Japanese cartoon toyland with a chocolate-smelling tunnel and creepy kuwaii characters. We quickly made our way to the ginormous shopping mall where we spent our hard-earned cash on clothes and souvenirs. After lunch we split ways. Lexi and I headed to the Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari hot spring where we changed into colorful yukatas and walked in a shallow stone lined foot bath. Some stones were like daggers to our little feet and others were gentle and smooth. Because it was so hot and humid, sitting outside was like sitting in a sauna...with 40 of our closest Japanese-stranger-friends and a few foreigners. The main selling point of this onsen was the nibbling fish who eat dead skin cells. When in Rome, right? Er, rather Japan. It was quite ticklish as swarms of these little fishes suck on our feet and ankles. I think Lexi put a sweet-tasting lotion on her feet because they were going bananas for her! We saw Kathleen, Kristi, and Melissa in the changing room, said "hello!" then scooted off to revisit Asakusa for some last-minute souvenir shopping. 

Wearing our lovely yukatas before heading out to the foot bath

Despite being lost and very late to the meeting spot at Cafe La Vie, our moods couldn't be dampened because we had the last night tradition of KARAOKE!! Nori-san and Masami-san WOWed the crowd with their talent and fun was had by all. What a perfect night to end our fun-filled week-long adventure in Tokyo!

Final reflection meeting at Cafe La Vie

The singing dynamic duo: Mr. & Mrs. Inoue

Karen & Kathleen rockin' out!

Sunday, July 14: Day 6

Sunday… Sixth Day… LAST DAY

Today was the last OFFICIAL day of our Cognition and Learning adventures, however, many of us extended our travels and kept the fun alive. As for me (well, us), Kristy, Melissa and I all traveled to Kyoto.

Our days were filled with fun new adventures. We traveled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and were shocked at how fast the train went.  We traveled almost 300 miles in less than three hours! The breathtaking views along the way also amazed us; my favorite being Mt. Fuji.

When we arrived in Kyoto we were lucky to learn that we had arrived just in time for the Gion Matsuri (festival).  We spent our days walking and bussing around the historic city taking in the beautiful sites of Nishi Honganji Temple, Kinkakuji Temple (The Golden Temple), the Original Imperial Palace and Fushimi Inaei Shrine. We also ventured to the Gion Matsuri and checked out all of the different floats that were getting ready for the parade. In Gion, we took in the traditional Japanese dancing, entertainment, and dress that the festival and its visitors had to offer.

We have had a fantastic time so far, and continue to look forward to our travels.



                                                         Nishi Honganji Temple

                                                             Kinkakuji Temple

                                                    The Original Imperial Palace

                                                             Fushimi Inaei Srine

                                                             Gion Matsuri Floats

               And last, but not least, our daily dose of asking the nice people around us for directions :)

Infinite Scroll | My blogger Tricks