Elena and Kate report that they landed at Boston Logan International Airport on time. They had an easy flight and everyone is happy to be almost home. Once they gather their luggage and pass through customs, they will board their bus back to campus. At this point their ETA is around 8pm or so.
The group is en route to Farmington! After an afternoon goodbye to host sisters and departure from Kichijo, they made their way to Narita Airport! They had some time for food and rest before boarding their Japan Airlines JL008 flight for Boston. They departed on WED 1/22 shortly after 6:30PM local time (4:30AM EST).
The group is due to arrive in Boston at 5:20PM EST on WED 1/22. I’ll update the blog when they land as they make their way back to Farmington!
We spent the first hour of the day in reflection, writing thank-you notes to our host sisters, families, and buddies, for their warm welcome and generous care and kindness during our time in Tokyo. Our host families opened their homes and hearts to us, and saying goodbye tomorrow will be an emotional experience. How hard to is to say goodbye to those we love and honor! Perhaps it is best to think of our goodbye as an opportunity to stay in touch, foster relationship, and look toward a return to this wonderful city and country–its people and this culture. Let’s plan for our NEXT trip to Tokyo!
After reflection time, we took the train to Odaiba and enjoyed free time in the harbor area before our tour of Fuji Television, one of the world’s largest global media hubs.
As were were exiting the train at Tokyo Teleport for our Fuji Television tour, we heard this family–also heading to Odiaba–talking energetically about Miss Porter’s School. As it turns out, they were on a holiday to Japan from China; they’ve visited our campus and they’re eager to learn more about our IM curriculum–the very one that brought us to Tokyo! All roads lead to Farmington!
In Odaibo, we were lucky enough to have an extensive tour of Fuji Television–the media equivalent of ABC, NBC, CBS, and maybe even Apple TV +. Fuji Television is a global hub of news and media technology, and though we were not allowed to take photos during most of the tour, the facilitators gave us permission for a few awesome photo opportunities.
“Puppy Rafa-kun, whose name is derived from the English word, ‘laugh,’ was originally a character for TV show broadcast in 1998.” Rafa-Kun is the mascot of Fuji Television.
Students enjoyed free time in Odaiba before heading back to their final night with host families. As overwhelming as it was to arrive here, it is equally overwhelming to say good bye to a place and the people we have come to love in a brief and powerful moment in time.
As we prepare for our leave-taking tomorrow, we are enormously grateful to all who have made this experience possible. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes an army to send 80+ students to six disparate and diverse global classrooms! Thank you to all who have had a hand in making this experience a profound opportunity for all of us to reach and grow, build and support, learn and live together. Domo arigato gozaimas: thank you so very much.
Finally, here is a haiku poem that, for me, describes an incredible season of growth in our students’ experience. Though it is not yet spring, in Japan it is not far away from sakura-time.
This haiku expresses the anticipatory light and bloom of spring, a similar experience to our illuminating time in Japan:
The light of a candle
is transferred to another candle–
(“Lighting One Candle,” by Yosa Buson).
See you in the sates.
When you’re with Porter’s people you’re usually in for a grand adventure of ideas, action, adventures, and inspiration. With Yasuko and her family, hold onto your hats! We began the day with a beautiful, traditional Japanese breakfast at our ryokan: grilled fish, miso soup, steamed rice, natto and rice, pickled radish, steamed spinach, and soft-boiled eggs in broth. Strong tea and western coffee complemented the meal, and after folding our futons and a final visit to the hot spring, we boarded the us to Katsamasuri.
There, we made soba noodles from buckwheat, flour, and water. The process is loving and forgiving, and relies on touch and texture as the foundation for creating a delicious and traditional regional food.
From there, our soba noodles became our lunch. The texture was toothsome, almost nutty in flavor, and served cold. To them, we added soy, thinly sliced green onions, and wasabi. Perfection!
From Katsamasuri, we took the train to Odawara for a brief respite at the Odawara Castle, “a former stronghold of the Kamakura period,” and later revived as a Shogunate holding during a tempestuous and fluctuating time in Japanese history. While original parts of the fortification remain, much of the first structure was destroyed by a significant earthquake in 1703. The castle was rebuilt (and refortified), and serves as an important shrine and landmark to the country and its cultural heritage.
Our nest stop took us to VENEX, where we met the founders and directors of Recovery Wear, a technology fiber company dedicated to the healing and restorative properties of “platinum-mixed minerals and polyester fibers” to stimulate the parasympathetic / sympathetic nervous system. Research in the US and in Europe suggests a booming global market, and anecdotal evidence–including our limited but powerful experience–provides an overwhelming affirmation of VENTEX as a global industry and powerhouse.
From Kanazawa we took the train to Shinjuku, allowing a 15-minute door-dash for food and other treasure and trinkets. We boarded a rush-hour train back to Nagano and then Nishiogikubo to meet our host sisters. After long days of activity and transportations transfers, it’s safe to say that we were ready to be in hearth and home with our wonderful host families.
Until tomorrow, sayonara.
We left Tokyo this morning en route to Hakone, a destination lake resort at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
The Romance Car–best name ever, for anything–is a separate (train) carrier from the JR line that services this particular region of Japan–about 90 minutes east of Tokyo. Train service here is efficient, comfortable, and offers spectacular views of the countryside and shifting landscape from city to suburbs to more rural communities.
Last August, a damaging and destructive typhoon (is there any other kind?) hit the Hakone are especially hard, destroying local rail lines and making access and egress to these small but important mountain towns particularly challenging. Because many local rail lines are still recovering, travelers–both local and tourist travel–have had to rely on “replacement bus service” which we did in plenty today. (Hot air balloon never happened, though we might have wished it did.)
Today, Porter’s students taught English language lessons in Kichijo classrooms. The presentations were intended to be engaging and interactive, and Kichijo students were treated to rounds of charades, step-in / step-out, hangman, fruit salad, school comparisons, and “the north wind blows,” as conversation between school groups grew into peals of laughter that rang and echoed throughout the building. Once again, Porter’s students-as-teachers found their way to a student-centered experience that created a welcoming environment to support long-term learning.
After lunch, Ancient Yasuko Nagase ’96, facilitated the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) curriculum for Porter’s and Kichijo students. About 50 students gathered in the Kichijo Conference Room to play the SDG card game, an exercise that requires students to find creative, collaborative solutions to global concerns such as climate change, poverty and food insecurity, carbon emission and fossil fuel reduction, clean water initiatives, and gender equity.
Our day began with the usual gathering in our Porter’s classroom at Kichijo, then homeroom with host students. Today was our last day of Japanese classes, and students were applying their newly-acquired language skills throughout Kichijo classrooms, in local shops and markets, and with host families and friends. Later this morning we visited another all-girls school in Tokyo, Joshigaikuin, with whom we have developed a close relationship over the course of our InterMission years.
Joshigaikuin is a faith-based school, similar in many ways to Kichijo, yet the differences are apparent immediately: to start, the students at Joshi do not wear uniforms and dress expressively! (Sound familiar?) Joshi students prepared an interactive classroom experience for us, after which both groups of students presented a power point about their respective school communities. Porter’s created a wonderful presentation and spoke about Traditions, athletic teams, the arts, and living in the dorms; additionally, they were filled with pride to share their Farmington home with their new friends at Joshigaikuin.
Porter’s engaged in conversation with all levels of English-speaking students at Joshigaikuin, and made fast and lasting friends with whom they’ll connect, follow, and tag on social media. And who knows–maybe we’ll even see them again in person!
But we’re not all work here in Tokyo:
More and more to come as this grand adventure moves from Kichijo to Hakone over the weekend. The blog never sleeps, so stay updated on our experience as we add to it each day: “Oh, must we dream our dreams / and have them, too?” (Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel.”) Yes. Yes we must.
Busy academic days, robust afternoon activities, time spent with host families in dinner preparation, and travel throughout Tokyo… We’ve embraced each part of our very full days! Today we enjoyed another day of Japanese instruction, took a yoga and fitness class hosted by six seniors from Kichijo. These six seniors also served as our mentors during calligraphy, where Porter’s learned how to write their names artfully painted in the katakana syllabary. Yesterday’s afternoon activities concluded with ikebana, traditional flower arrangement, Japanese archery, animation recording, and soccer. We’re feeling comfortable making our way around school, building new and lasting friendships with host sisters, buddies, and families.
At the close of another school day, off we go to homeroom for final clean-up and another evening with our global families!
It was another full day at Kichijo, with our second of Japanese instruction, cooking and music classes, ikebana, animation recording, Japanese archery, and dance. It seems we’ve found a rhythm and pace that suits our time in Japan, which last week felt as if it would stretch in front of us forever, and this week feels all too brief. Today’s experiental adventures afforded students an opportunity to learn and play, play and learn.
Earlier this morning, students paired with their Porter’s buddies to share a snippet of their experience so far:
Today was our first day of classes at Kichijo School. Porter’s students arrived with their host sisters by train, bus, and on foot. (Students and families are not allowed to drive to school.) Most Kichijo students have an average commute of 45 minutes–often more–and take a variety of trains and/or buses to arrive on time. Porter’s students followed along carrying backpacks with artfully-presented bento box lunches; clothes for afternoon activities, and “inside shoes” for the school day.
After homeroom, we had reflection time in the classroom designated for Porter’s students. As we finished our time together, our Kichijo coordinator, Kat Hatsugashi, arrived and divided us into two groups: “Pinks,” since the Kichijo School color is pink, and “Daisies.” Imagine the sweet, collective “awwwwwww!” when the Porter’s students heard their prized Daisy name applied here at Kichijo! Each group began the academic day with two hours of Japanese instruction.
Following our lesson, students met Yasuko Nagaske ‘96, who is also a former Kichijo student. Yasuko arranged our excursion to Hakone on Sunday. Yasuko has been gracious, generous, kind, and inspiring to all of us as we’ve navigated our IM Japan for the last four years. We are tremendously grateful to Yasuko for creating meaningful opportunities and experiences from which we learn more about this country, its spirit, history, traditions, imagination, and culture.
Once the academic day concluded, we turned our attention to homeroom clean-up, an important moment at the end of the school day.
Afternoon activities resumed in full, with students engaged in softball, track and field, and Chinese language class.
At 6:00 p.m. sharp, the school chimes rang softly to the tune of “My Grandfather’s Clock,” and the Kichijo gates closed quietly behind departing students. “Sayonara” until the morning.