Satoru Tanida aka Sammy

This trip would never have been as memorable and informative if we didn’t have Sammy as our amazing tour guide. His never ending narrative and pride in his country helped us understand the history, little known facts and anecdotes. He was always upbeat, positive and eager to help in anyway. IMG_1287 IMG_1301 IMG_1339 IMG_1344 IMG_1377 IMG_1435 P1120015 IMG_1510 IMG_1685 IMG_1729 IMG_1809 photo 4

Hakone – hot springs

Hakone is the site of Hakone volcano. After a huge volcanic explosion the crater collapsed and now there is a lake, this occurred 3000 years ago. Hakone is considered a resort area. The hot springs and lake are attractions. We stayed in a Japanese Inn and experienced the hot spring baths. We traveled the Hakone Ropeway funicular to see the volcano site.IMG_2019 IMG_2018 IMG_2014 IMG_2020 IMG_2029 IMG_2031 IMG_2032 IMG_2035 IMG_2038 IMG_2039 IMG_2049 

During our 2 weeks in Japan there have been 2 earthquakes, a minor tsunami and a typhoon. The Japanese are very respectful of nature.

Visit to Asuka Elementary School

After spending a delight night with our host family in their homes, we attended a closing ceremony to say good-bye to them. Beautiful countryside, lots of rice paddies and family gardens.

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Asuka Primary School – opened in 1981 – 243 students grades 1 – 6 with 2 sp.needs classes; principal & vice principal

We observed an English language class – voice training; watching “Annie” sing “Tomorrow” and listening for English; teacher (Japanese American) sings beautifully, then students sing
Classroom visits – grade 1 pool, 3rd grade – math, 2nd grade – Japanese calligraphy 5th grade – sewing, 6th grade – Japanese poem, 6th grade – Japanese calligraphy
Educational objectives – To cultivate human power to open the door of future by cultivating firm academic ability and humanistic healthy body. Primary goals – listen, speak, and try
English 1 hr/wk 1 – 4 gr.;  2 hrs/week 5th and 6th grade
Classrooms have a teacher and a TA to assist with students who struggle – 28 – 30 kids/class
Home room teacher does a home visit for every student early in the school year
Kids train for marathons
They have 6 “happy days” during the school year
Lunch with the children and then games in the gym before we departed.

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Asuka – National Historic Park

This is considered the birthplace of Japan and at one time was the capital before Nara and Kyoto.

We visited Ishibutai ancient tomb Japan’s largest stone chamber. Probably early 7th century, one side was estimated to have been 55 meters. The soil cover has been removed. The huge stone chamber revealed could be the origin. Of the name Ishibutai (little stone stage), although many stories surround its origin; a fox changing into a woman who then danced on the stones; a traveling player dancing on the stones…It is unclear who was buried here, but with political power concentrated locally in the latter 6th century, it is likely that it was Soga no Umako.

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A birthday celebration for JenniferIMG_1903 IMG_1909 We engaged in a cultural experience Kusaki-zome (organic fabric dying).

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Sightseeing in Kyoto

For 400 years Kyoto served as the capital of Japan.

Visits to the Rock Garden at Ryoanji Temple

IMG_1689 IMG_1695 IMG_1697 IMG_1698 IMG_1703 IMG_1709 Kinkakuji Temple – Golden Pavilion – the original pavilion was burned down in 1950 by an apprentice priest. It was rebuilt in 1955.IMG_1711 IMG_1724 IMG_1726 IMG_1730 IMG_1735 Gekkeikan Okura Sake MuseumIMG_1738 IMG_1748 IMG_1747 IMG_1756 Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine – guardian of the harvest – hundreds of tori – Christo’s “The Gates” exhibit in Central Park NYC mirrored this shrineIMG_1762 IMG_1769 IMG_1773 IMG_1776 IMG_1777

Kiyomizu TempleIMG_1783 IMG_1784 IMG_1799 IMG_1800 IMG_1802


IMG_1610 IMG_1611 IMG_1628 IMG_1633 IMG_1646 IMG_1654 IMG_1658 IMG_1675 IMG_1598 imageMiyajima has been worshipped as a divine island since ancient times. This is why the Itsukushima Shrine was built on the seashore where the tide ebbs and flows. The contrast of the blue sea, green hills and the vivid vermillion-lacquered shrine is breathtakingly beautiful.

Itsukushima Shrine was first built in 593, then rebuilt by Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1168. The shrine was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1996.

Hiroshima Waseda Junior High School











Small public junior high school filled with happy youngsters eager to share their culture with us. Principal, Mr. Morikawa; Vice Principal Mr. Mihara
Whole school ceremonial assembly with drumming,flute then whole school singing; children all sit in the same manner.
Tea ceremony – must be learned by all students in this school
1st eat sweets (served a cake called pure stream), then drink tea
Classroom visits – Japanese games, origami, calligraphy, visits to classes – math, physics, Japanese, also saw music and cooking rooms, saw sewing class – making a tissue box, lunch in classroom
Closing ceremony in gymnasium 190/grade level – 32 students/class
Students were being dismissed early due to weather warnings (thunderstorms, torrential rain and “super typhoon” in the region).

Hiroshima – meeting with survivor

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Keiko Ogura – 77 years old – Director of Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace and Atomic Bomb Survivor – she was 8 years old and in 2nd grade at the time of the attack. On August 6,1945 her father told her to stay home as he had a “feeling.” She was outside ( 2.4 km from the hypocenter) when the bomb hit, she was thrown to the ground and unconscious, then it was dark.
There were fires after the bomb and people jumped into the contaminated rivers to escape them. The rivers were filled with dead bodies. Then there was the “black rain” further contaminating a large area.
In the center of the city many students died – 6000-9000. Many children were orphaned and died of starvation.
Flying glass was stuck in buildings and people. B29 aircraft were flying overhead.
The trauma was intensified with air raid drills all the time.
After there was discrimination toward people who had survived the A-bomb – they had burns, a lack of energy caused by the radiation and illnesses such as colds and stomach problems. Mothers kept silent about their exposure until daughters married and delivered normal babies.
After the bomb, Keiko walked out in the street and people were begging for water, she gave them well water. Her father told her not to give the water. She was so distressed that she had she told no one. After her father died, she told her story and the nightmares stopped. It was her remedy.
August 6, 1945 – Hiroshima bombed, August 9, 1945 – Nagasaki bombed, August 15, 1945 – Japan surrenders
She graduated from Hiroshima University in 1959. She married the Director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – he died when she was 42. In 1984 she established Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace and deepened international exchanges with writers and journalists. Her books include Hiroshima Handbook and Hiroshima Peace Park Guide (English translation).

3.11.2011 Earthquake and Tsunami Minamisanriku

IMG_1434 IMG_1435 IMG_1436 IMG_1449 IMG_1454 IMG_1457 IMG_1458 IMG_1460 IMG_1461 IMG_1464 IMG_1466 Minamisanriku mtg w: Shinto priestess Shinto priestessThis area in northern Japan suffered the worst devastation. 850 of the 17,000 people living here either died or are missing. The tsunami was 20 meters high and arrived approximately 20 minutes after the quake. 5000 are still living in temporary housing. The area is being completely rebuilt. We heard a moving story from Amina Sato, she was in 7th grade in 2011. Her family survived, however she lost her aunt. She had several messages from her experience – always say thank you and appreciate your environment. The 12,000 remaining people in this coastal community see their recovery as a slow and natural process.

We had a traditional Japanese lunch served by the women who fed and served survivors. The owner’s niece joined us with her beautiful baby. We visited a small business center called YES formed to keep people working and productive. They are known for their reconstruction project character products “Octopus-Kun.” We also visited a Shinto shrine and met with a priestess. The colorful sign says “Smile Again Project.”