Thursday, December 18, 2008

Daruma Legend

Japanese Folk Dolls
Signifies good luck
Legend says .... The Dharma was a Buddhist priest. He sat and meditated for nine years. When he finally moved to stand up, his arms and legs were too stiff to stand upright.Nothing can stop the teachings of the Buddha, the Dharma thought to himself. I must move from village to village, sharing with the people what I have discovered while meditating. Since the Dharma could not stand up and walk, he rolled from village to village, spreading his teachings.

The "wishing" daruma doll has a face that is painted without eyes. One eye, usually the right eye, is painted on the "wishing" doll when a wish is made. The second eye is painted when the wish is fulfilled.

Daruma Dolls

My class spent some time creating their own Daruma dolls. The dolls are said to bring good luck, and in Japan it is common to make a wish on one for the New Year. You make a wish and fill in the right eye. When the wish comes true, you fill in the left eye. First we molded Celluclay around a plastic egg.Then we shaped it to make a nose and an indent for the eyes. Using a Daruma I purchased in Japan as a model, we painted the details on our dolls.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Package from Japan

I have been keeping in touch with the wonderful family that hosted me while I was in Japan. The Takahashi family surprised me today with a package! What a great surprise. There were beautiful postcards, a kimono for Dixie, a doggie keychain, a beautiful cloth, chopsticks, and recorders for my whole class! Takahashi-san owns a music store, so we will do our best to learn and play a song on our new Yamaha recorders. I'll post a video when we do! My favorite thing, though, was the kimono for Dixie. She's adorable!

Now she has an outfit to wear when I make sushi, and she gets a little rice to eat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Calligraphy - The Real Thing!

Today, Mr. Hashiguchi visited to show us how to do calligraphy. This time we were learning from someone who really knew what they were doing. We used rice paper and ink (yes, there was a bit of an accident on the floor with that), so it was far more authentic. He also wrote each student's name on a piece of paper, and they wrote them on their best example of "tomo" or friend. Then we made a small samurai helmet from origami paper and mounted our work.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Today Mr. Hashiguchi returned and showed us pictures of his school and students. Then he treated us to an origami lesson. Students first had to create a square from a piece of newspaper. Then, they were instructed step by step how to fold a samurai helmet. Origami has to be folded carefully so it takes time and patience. Some of us were in a hurry and had to fold and refold. In the end we all had a samurai helmet! They were worn throughout the entire day.I only had a half of a newspaper so I made a smaller helmet. Lucky Dixie!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Visiting Teacher from Japan

One of our fourth grade teachers, Mrs. Fahey(center right), is hosting a Japanese teacher through a program sponsored by the government of Japan with the partnership of WEAC. Mr. Jun Hashiguchi will be observing and teaching in our school through the end of the month. He is a second grade teacher in Japan. Today we were lucky enough to have him visit our class! We have a BIG school, and he is very much in demand. He showed us the many ways to write his name, and he explained that in Japan your last name is said first. So, he is Hashiguchi Jun back home. He then led a lively instruction on counting from 1-6 in Japanese. The class really enjoyed his enthusiasm! After the class was comfortable with the numbers they played a game where one student called out a number in Japanese, and the other two or three students tried to slap the number first.
The student that won called the next number. The class was very excited to have him visit and look forward to having him in class again!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Popcorn, Rice, and Chopsticks!

To continue our study of cultures, my class took their first lesson with chopsticks. It won't be our last. It started out very frustratingly and I heard a lot of, "I can't do it," and "I need help." The real problem was it was hard to explain how to hold the chopsticks. I was able to show them how to hold them initially, but you really do kind of adjust the grip to work for yourself. After much urging on my part to "keep trying", and the addition of popcorn to pick up, most of the students started experiencing success. When I ate with the students at Inagi Dainana Elementary School, the man helping me was very impressed with my ability to use the chopsticks. Not that I was an expert, but I could get the food to my mouth! He said that chopsticks are hard even for the Japanese children, so I guess my students should be pretty proud of themselves. When the popcorn started to run out, I scooped out rice for those that wanted it. I think everyone tried a little. I explained that the rice I made was short grained rice, so it was stickier and easier to eat. That is what they eat in Japan. I also showed them that in Japan it is perfectly alright to hold your bowl closer to your face to eat rice and noodles. Surprisingly enough, they were able to use the chopsticks to pick up clumps of rice, or to scoop it up. I was nervous about the activity at first, but they ended up doing a great job. Of course everyone wanted to take the chopsticks home. We'll have more opportunities later this year to eat with chopsticks. Now we have some practice under our belt. I am getting these pictures posted right away, because everyone was eager to be on the blog. If you haven't been pictured yet, don't worry, there will be other chances!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trying Something New

We have been studying different communities and cultures. It was a perfect lead in for introducing Japan. We have been working on a few words and phrases, but today we tried some calligraphy. Our reading series story this week was The Ballad of Mulan, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to introduce calligraphy. We watched a YouTube segment on how to hold the brush and the different types of strokes. I found some pictures of Chinese characters and the stroke order so I had a helper enlarge them. When we visited Inagi Dainana Elementary School in Inagi, the students had tracers under the paper to help guide their strokes. I wish I had found a pad of those when I was there, but we made due with what we had. I bought a bunch of brushes at the 100 yen store, and we used black tempera paint instead of ink. We also used white newsprint instead of the paper used at the school. First we practiced holding the brushes. Then we practiced tracing the characters. The students found the way they held the brush made it a little difficult, but they had a great time working on the characters. We wrote person, day, and above. They wanted to try more, but I told them we would practice another day. It was a fun activity, and the kids are more interested in Japan every day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting Ready for the Year

Today was my third day in my class getting ready for the new year. I'm getting ideas straight in my mind for teaching Japan by blending it into the curriculum I'm required to teach. These are a couple of photos of things that will help me fulfill my follow on plan. The bulletin board is in the hall, and on the first day of school the students will all make their own beckoning cat.
The other display is in my classroom.
That display will probably change throughout the year. I'm ready to go!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I'm making sushi - sort of

Thursday was the Wisconsin State Fair. Well, it's the best place to buy gadgets and stuff. I found a sushi maker that looked fairly easy to use. So, I bought it, and today was my first attempt at making sushi.

Here I am with the head sash and knife that came with the kit. Don't I look official? First, I had to wash the rice. I've never done that before. It took several times to get the water clear. These are all of my ingredients. I wasn't very creative. I have seaweed, avocado, cucumber, fake crab, and salmon.

It took a few tries to get into the grove, but it got easier. I think I need less rice and more filling. The mold is pretty easy to use. You choose the mold shape that you want. Then, you put the seaweed liner in and fill with rice part way. You use a little pusher to smash the rice down and make an indentation. Put whatever filling you want in the indentation. Fill with rice and then fold the seaweed over the top sealing it with water. Then, the top piece goes on to finish the shape and push it down. There are slits in the side of the mold to cut perfect thicknesses.

This is my first attempt at sushi. I need to work on the inside out rolls. First I forgot the seaweed, and then I made it look like an eye! Oh well, practice makes perfect.

Like I said, less rice, more filling. I bought plum wine and sake, so even if it doesn't taste good, I'll think it does. My sister and brother-in-law came over to try the sushi, and they said it was good! I have to agree. I just need to get more inventive with my fillings to shake things up a bit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two down - two hundred to go?

Yea! I've sent the follow on to Seattle Pacific AND JFMF. That's two major tasks done. Now I have many thank yous to write. I've started the main letter that I will work off of, but I have a think and write process that has dogged me since high school. I can't just sit down and complete the writing. I think about it and write a bit, and I do that over and over until its done. It works, but it sure takes a long time! I also pared down my pictures to 536! Now I need to put them in albums and label them with captions. That shouldn't take too long! Right.

I've actually gotten out to walk a few time to prepare for the race although it wasn't with a smile on my face. I'm sure when I'm there in the middle of the excitement I'll feel pumped about it, but right now I keep saying to myself, "What was I thinking?"

Monday, July 7, 2008

Now the work begins!

OK, I've been lazing around putting things away and thinking about all that I have to do. I don't know how the teachers do this in the fall. I'm very grateful that I have the summer to plan and complete all I need to do. I've already submitted my follow-on to Seattle Pacific University, and now I need to send it to JFMF. Then I have a bunch of thank you letters to write. Some I think I will formally type and others I will hand write. I hope I don't offend anyone. Then the big task of planning activities and lessons for the year will begin. I don't feel as though I learned enough about subjects in the short time I was in Japan, so I'll be researching things to make sure I know my stuff. I'm still thinking about the race I'm in on Sunday. I hope thinking about it will help me finish. Let's just hope it's not 90 degrees!

Last night I went to dinner with a friend and his family. They took me to Honadas in Kenosha which is a Japanese restaurant. It was very good! Then we looked at my pictures and ate mochi (which I didn't try in Japan). It was a really nice evening. His daughter knows Japanese and is very interested in the culture. I really hope she has the opportunity to go someday. She won't be disappointed!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Feeling Human Again!

Stealing a line from Beauty and the Beast, I finally feel human again! It was really tough getting over the jet lag this direction. I'm glad it wasn't this bad for the trip. My flight home was a bit uneventful. We were in economy plus which gave us more leg room. That made the flight so much better than the flight to Japan! When I got to Chicago it was time to say goodbye to everyone. We were heading to different gates and different terminals. Most of us just had enough time to go through customs and get to our gate before the next flight started loading. My flight was delayed of course. Then they started to call for people to give up their seats because the flight was oversold. I have always wanted this to happen so I could get a free flight somewhere. At first I thought, no, because I just wanted to get home and the bus would take longer. The lure of a free flight was too much though. The funny thing is that the plane was so late that the people on the plane and the people on the bus got to the baggage claim at the same time. Then, many of our bags weren't there. Somehow, even though the flight was late, our bags didn't make it! My bag with souvenirs made it, but my clothes were still in Chicago.The bag was delivered by 8:40 the next morning. It was all good. Now I'm trying to clear up the debris in my house that I left as I prepared for the trip. I'm getting laundry done, and then I'll tackle the lawn. I even planted flowers yesterday. I guess I'd better think about the triathlon I'm supposed to do the running/walking leg for. Hmmmm. That's it for now. I figured I should at least let you know that I'm home safe and sound.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fish Market

We were up early today 5:15 which probably wasn't really early enough, but we wanted to go to the famous Tsukiji fish market. We were told that the people working there don't really appreciate the tourists, because they get in the way and cause confusion. There are no flash pictures, and if you value your life, you won't get too close to the people cutting fish and you'll watch for the motorized carts. They won't stop for you! I'm hoping I got some good pictures. I didn't use a flash and they were all moving very fast, so things could be blurry!

We had yet another huge breakfast brunch, but this time I loaded up. We have to check out by 12, and I don't leave until 2:30 for the airport. I really don't want to go out. Some people are rushing out to buy last minute things. You know how I feel about shopping. Just so you know, if I don't have something for you, I was thinking of you. Heh, I just sent my last postcards yesterday!
I really should get out and walk though. I will be sitting on the plane for 12 hours! The lucky people going to D.C. have a 14 hour flight! Yikes! Someone said that for $100 you can upgrade to economy plus. I may think about it. The cramped 9 hour flight was tough enough. I'm hoping I'll sleep since I got up early. Well, I think that's it for me from Tokyo. I'll either update this blog with more information and pictures when I get home, or I'll link it to a web site. Thanks for tuning in. I've enjoyed the emails and comments!

Last Official Day - June 25

The day started with the presentations from all of the groups. They were all very interesting and entertaining. The Superintedent of the Inagi City Schools and two school board members attended the session. It was so nice to see them. The group from Ichinoseki had some pretty sobering pictures from the earthquake that happened over a week ago. They were very thankful to the people, because despite the natural disaster, the group was still warmly welcomed. They said an earthquake of that magnitude happens about once a century. After that, what else? We had a gigantic buffet. I'm glad only our bags are weighed on the way home! Then we had wrap up and registered for our class through Seattle Pacific University. Not everyone is taking the class, but it's basically just completing what we've already agreed to do. We had a break before the final farewell buffet, so a group of us hopped the train to the Meiji Shrine and the beautiful iris gardens.

Apparently the emperor would often walked these grounds because they are so beautiful. It took us awhile to find where we were going, so we had a whopping 20 minutes to walk the garden. That was too bad, because there were trails beyond the garden. Once again the Shrine is now located in the midst of a very busy business district, but when you are on the grounds you would never know it. It is so quiet! Of course you rarely hear cars honking horns or sirens anyway. We made it back to the hotel with about 45 minutes to freshen up before the Sayonara Buffet. Oka-san was able to attend the buffet after attending the session in the morning, so it was nice to spend one last night with her.
I ate sushi until my eyes popped out! Then we were treated to an Aikido demonstration.
Finally we sang "Auld Lang Syne". The Japanese speaking guides and guests sang it in Japanese. I think I wrote earlier that this is a popular song in Japan to sing at graduation. It is so popular that many Japanese students think it is Japanese folk song.
Then we sang in English. I think that's when it hit many of us that this is it. It's over. Our journey began 17 days ago and the time has just flown by. Our experiences have been very different but the feeling about Japan and its people is the same. This is a country of gracious, sincere, and friendly people, and the similarities between our countries far outweigh our differences. My unending gratitude goes out to the government of Japan and the JFMF organization for this opportunity of a life time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Art Education and the Tokyo Tower

Today we heard from Chihiro Tada. He operates a toy museum in Shinjuku ward. His father originally opened the museum encouraging children to explore the joys of low tech toys. He is concerned about the inability of children to be creative and communicate with one another, and he believes that turning off the television or computer games and playing with simple toys that use the imagination will help improve those two things. He showed us a toy that children used to be able to make on their own out of leaves. Today the only way they could make this toy is bringing in an older person to teach it to them in a workshop. The toy is called a snake. It works like Chinese handcuffs. You put a finger in the mouth and if you pull away it won't let you go. We made two simple toys that he said had been in existence for 350 years. Basically, he said someone had thought these up, and children used to make them all the time. He also said that when he was a student he never went anywhere without a spinning top.He would meet friends and play. The toys in the museum include toys made from wood by crafts people in Japan. He gives workshops to teachers and students and people come to the museum to work with the children. They make things with their hands, and their excitement about what they are doing causes them to communicate that excitement with the people around them. It was a very interesting talk, and I will definitely be using the items we made in class.
Our Inagi group met during the lunch break to discuss our presentation. We go first, so we want it to be decent. Cari has been doing the lion's share of the work pulling together the pictures in Windows Movie Maker. We'll have an opening and closing statement, so we hope it will be sufficient.
Then a former Fulbright Scholar who studied in Madison, WI took our questions about Japanese Education and Society. Clearly, the national curriculum is a point of contention among some teachers and society members. They feel it focuses too much on the basics and not enough on creativity. We seem to have the exact opposite in the states. Maybe we need to get together and develop a more balanced approach.
After the sessions a group of us took off on the Metro to see the Tokyo Tower. It looks just like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It even gets lit up at night. We even got a faint view of Mt. Fuji! It was very hazy, but I can at least say I saw it! Looking down on this city is an incredible sight. It is just solid buildings, and then you'll see a shrine, and then maybe a bit of green.
Alright, I had to do the fake fall off of the tower.
Then of course we had to eat, so we wandered down the street a bit to what we thought was a noodle shop. Well, we walked in the wrong door and ended up in a Korean restaurant. I have to admit that I wasn't to courageous. Everything sounded spicy and that is not my thing. I got potato pancakes and they came drizzled in cheese sauce with spice. It was actually very good. Everyone loved what they ordered, so it was a happy mistake. We headed back, and I was suddenly tired. So, I'm blogging, finishing the last of my postcards, and making sure everything is ready to go for Thursday. We give our presentations tomorrow and then there is a farewell dinner. Most of the people we hung with tonight were Inagi. We really had a good time together. It will be weird not to see them anymore.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ryokan in Hakone National Park

Like I said it just gets better and better. We had to say goodbye to our families on Sunday afternoon. We were dropped off at 4:00 and we heard from the Superintendent of the Inagi Schools, Sachie Matsuozawa. She was instrumental in arranging the school visits, home visits, and all of the wonderful things we did during our Inagi stay. We truly can't thank her enough!It was sad, but we were all flying high from the wonderful experiences we had. Everyone did different things, stayed with different family make ups, and in different types of homes. The one thing we had in common was that we agreed it was an incredible time! The superintendent knew we were headed to Hakone, and reminded us to noticed the beautiful hydrangea which are the most beautiful during the rainy season. We then started our trip to Hakone National Park and the ryokan where we would be spending the night. The joke in our group is that Oka-san always says the trip will take about 30 minutes no matter where we are headed. This time she said, "It will not take 30 minutes." It took about 2 hours. The only downside was that the rain finally caught up with us, so seeing Mt. Fuji was not going to happen. Ah well, I have two fantastic photos of it from someone who did see it! While on the bus Oka-san explained that the rooms are all tatami mats, and we should not wear slippers on the tatami. We were to put on our yakata (summer kimono) and meet for dinner at 7. The rooms were gorgeous! Cari, Cindy, and I shared the room. The guys REALLY loved the yukata. I wasn't sure they were going to wear their regular clothes home. Here is Oka-san with the coat that you could wear if you were cold. I was too warm, and all the eating I do makes me sweat. I'm very glad I haven't seen a scale in a while. We had low tables set with a ton of Japanese food. I figured that was the meal. No! The food just kept coming. We had shabu shabu, which was boiling water where we cooked our own meat and vegetable. They also lit a fire under the rice, and when our fire went out, the rice was ready to eat. I can't tell you what everything was, and quite frankly, I probably don't want to know what everything was. But, it was delicious. I was hoping someone would come along and massage my stomach so I could just continue eating.
We had plum wine, cold sake, warm sake, and many different kinds of soft drinks. We also had the use of a karaoke machine for two hours. So of course, we sang our hearts out.
We kept trying to get Oka-san on the stage, but she wasn't very cooperative. However, she did treat us to a song at the end of our time. Then it was time for the hot springs bath. Yes, this is the traditional communal bath with girls on one side and boys on a different side. Totally different rooms actually. First you have to completely wash yourself in a big open room - locker room style. Once you are completely cleaned and rinsed you enter the hot springs bath. The water is naturally heated in the earth and is often about 42 degrees Celsius. You enter sans clothing. It sounds a bit intimidating, but actually you just get in and forget that everyone is bare! No pictures for this part of the tour! You can only stay in for a short while at a time. Oka-san said someone stayed in too long the last time and fainted. When I started feeling a bit light headed it was time to go. I did some email and hit the sack. Oh, I forgot to mention that while we were eating, the hotel fairies came in and laid out our beds. I was pretty tired after the dinner and the soak, so it was time for bed. I slept very well. There was a waterfall and a rushing river outside our room, so we left the window open to hear it. The futons were so comfy that I chose to sleep in instead of going back to the hot springs bath. Instead, I chose to soak in the tub in our room. Notice there is a separate shower to wash BEFORE you enter the tub. The tub is just for soaking. Japanese families share the soaking water. The tub will often have a heating element in it to keep the water hot. We met at 8 for our last meal on the road.
Today we returned to Tokyo. Things are winding down, and it's sad to think that in a couple of days we won't see the people that have become our family in Japan.