Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Japanese Culture & Education

I have visited amazing places , met wonderful people from Japan and the U.S., and have had an intense experience of the rich and complex Japanese culture and education. I have so many experiences and vast amounts of information and photos ( more than a thousand photos!) still to add and share here.

Here's a little bit about one of the schools I visited:

Below are a few snapshots from Kunimi Junior High School in Unzen. The soccer team there is one of the best in Japan and known nationwide, leading some families to even to move there so their sons can compete for Unzen. The other photos show students in a calligraphy class and a Japanese class. Kids are under a lot of pressure to do well on high school entrance exams so many attend "cram schools" after school. Classrooms are very quiet and focused with as many as 4o students in one class. When students change classes, the hallways are pandemonium and teachers don't mind. It seems they recognize that kids need the time in between classes to relax, talk and kid around in order to handle to focused serious classroom environment. At the beginning of each class, students stand, bow and formally greet their teachers (sensei). During lessons, students do not often raise their hands to ask questions and the classroom is very quiet. Students listen intently and without interruption.

This is just one short snippet of the many insights I gained on Japanese schools and education system. More to come when I come home. I am leaving soon and will see everyone in no time at all. I miss Japan already!

Japanese Schools: Unzen City in Nagasaki Prefecture

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More from Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Unzen to Come Later

I have so much to share about the past week and the week ahead, but no Internet access until next Monday. I traveled in beautiful Kamakura outside Tokyo on Saturday. Sunday we traveled to Nagasaki and visited the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park. Today I am visiting Nagasaki University and traveling on to Unzen city to visit schools for the remainder of the week. Unzen is a rural area of about 50,000 people in the mountains outside Nagasaki where we will get to visit several different schools. Our hotel has no Internet access in Unzen, so I will catch up later on all this and and the events and experiences of the week ahead. I am learning so much and having an amazing time here in Japan!

I have noticed that the popular things in Tokyo are argyle sweaters, anime comic books, long knee socks that go just above girls' knees worn with boots, and converse high top sneakers just like the ones American kids wear. Most of these photos were taken in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.

Hiroshima Survivor and Peace Education

Mr. Keijiro Matsushima was a young boy when the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. He survived the blast on August 6, 1945 and shared his experiences with us. He is such a funny and charming man.

Japan is the only country to experience atomic weapons at a time of war. 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima from the explosion, and he described the sad and horrifying effects on the Japanese people just after the bomb exploded and in the years afterward. He was just 14 years old and remembers sitting in his classroom when he felt the explosion, light, and powerful heat. "Everything was decided for us in a moment. I am one of the fortunate survivors."

He said that this is a time to cooperate and to stop the use of atomic weapons in the world again. " We want you to know what a thing this was. Once we learned what a thing this is, we must never use it again."

More from the Fish Market

Here are some more of the many kinds of seafood I saw at the fish market--seaweed, scallops and squid. Amazingly enough, the market didn't even smell "fishy" which is because the fish are so incredibly fresh!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market

We visited the Tokyo Fish Market at 4:30 in the morning. It is HUGE and so busy! There are workers zipping around on trucks and scooters as they bring in the fresh fish and seafood. Buyers and sellers are everywhere. One even gave us a ride on the back of his truck. So many kinds, and many I did not recognize. It is one of the world's largest fish market and handles over 2000 tons of fish a day.
We also observed an auction of some huge tuna fish and many customers choosing the best for their purchases.