Monthly Archives: January 2017

Questions, Part 3 of 3

For one of our last reflections, we composed a list of questions we are still thinking about for our experience. The focus of our course on women in modern Japan combined with our experiences with other young women at three different schools in Japan has left us with more questions than answers.

  • What’s your image of a typical American?
    • What surprised you about your visit to QMS or having visitors from MPS?
    • What would you want to do if you visited MPS?
  • What do you think about the Japanese education system compared to what you know about the US and Canada?
    • What do you love about it?
    • What would you want to change?
  • What do you expect for your life after university?
    • Do you plan to return to work after marriage and/or childbirth?
    • Can you see yourself working at the same level or above men?
  • What do you know about US politics and the new president?
    • How often do you talk about politics in school?
    • How often does the US come up in those conversations?
  • What are the benefits of girls’ schools?
    • If you could create your own school…?
  • What do women need to be successful?
    • What is the definition of a successful woman?
    • Do you have female role models?

Some of our questions have as many answers as there are girls at Kichijo. Others are ones we will continue thinking about during our spring semester, as we move into the next phase of InterMission. We look forward to putting them together with some of our more lighthearted experiences in order to show our community what it was like to spend two weeks in Tokyo.

Wheels are up and the Japan group is on their way to New York!

Minor delays and rain in Tokyo on the way in, minor delays and rain in Tokyo on the way out. And so much love and happiness in between!
#portersinjapan #porters #mpsintermission #missporters #narita
  • mpsiimjapanMinor delays and rain in Tokyo on the way in, minor delays and rain in Tokyo on the way out. And so much love and happiness in between!
    #portersinjapan #porters #mpsintermission #missporters #narita

    The group’s flight was delayed about 1.5 hours, therefore, the expected time of arrival for Japan Air Flight #004 at JFK International Airport will be 8:00 pm local time.

Questions, Part 1 of 3

For one of our last reflections, we composed a list of questions we are still thinking about for our experience. The focus of our course on women in modern Japan combined with our experiences with other young women at three different schools in Japan has left us with more questions than answers.

Here’s Kelly Choi on the experience…

“Drafting questions with our group of students was an easy process because we are almost at the end of our trip and there are many pressing questions in our minds that we would like to ask the Kichijo students.

Some of the starting questions were, “What’s your image of a typical American?” or “What surprised you about Miss Porter’s School?” We also had many questions comparing our school to Kichijo because we noticed many differences as well as similarities. Many students in our group also wanted to ask if Kichijo students were to create a brand new school, what would it entail? I personally was very curious about the topic of politics and whether the students here followed American politics and knew anything about the coming inauguration.

Once my partner Annie and I were back in our Senior home room, we were split in 4 different groups and we went around in a circle going to each group. The students were very well prepared with statistics and facts about modern women in Japan. The common themes that I observed in each group was that they all agreed men are seen as superior to women in Japan which was supported by statistics of the large wage gap and how most women quit their jobs after giving birth.

When I asked, “What does a successful women look like in Japan?,” one group showed me Yuriko Koike, who they explained was a role model for many girls at Kichijo Girls’ School. She was the first woman in Japan to challenge many gender barriers and stereotypes by becoming Tokyo’s first woman governor. They explained that they looked up to her because Kichijo teaches girls to be independent and that their goals and dreams are to become successful independent woman in Japan. Since our main goal and theme of this trip was to learn about modern woman in Japan, it was great to hear that they wish to follow in the footsteps of independent women such as Yuriko Koike.”

Questions, Part 2 of 3

For one of our last reflections, we composed a list of questions we are still thinking about for our experience. The focus of our course on women in modern Japan combined with our experiences with other young women at three different schools in Japan has left us with more questions than answers.

Here’s Georgie Harrison on the experience…

“For our meeting with the 11th grade English class, we had to come to class prepared with questions on the theme of Japanese women. I found the question ‘What were your expectations of American teenagers?’ most interesting because everyone has stereotypes and I was wondering what they thought. Their responses were surprising, but the discussion illustrated a common theme I have found throughout my trip in Tokyo – to not have any expectations.”

The juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern in Tokyo is everywhere you look. Sometimes, it even comes out in our conversations with students at Kichijo.

The juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern in Tokyo is everywhere you look. Sometimes, it even comes out in our conversations with students at Kichijo.

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 3 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Mariana Vargas Lacouture on the conversation…

“The Japanese system tries to create extremely capable women in various career fields and in athletics and other physical areas. Since the students choose to focus on a specific field of study early in their schooling, they reach a high level of understanding and capability before university. They also do not change their after-school clubs (sports and other activities) for several years. Dedicating such a long time to the same sport or activity for so long creates excellent players, meaning they could pursue intermural sports or even longer term commitments later in life.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

In Japan, the percentage of women who work outside of the home is very small, particularly after starting a family. Success and high-level positions are usually occupied by men, leaving women with two options: they must be incredibly skilled in their field or they must be willing to endure criticism. Culturally, people are not expected to be outspoken, so skill and endurance are the main ways for women to gain success and respect.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Even though the education system does not give students much freedom, like choosing their classes or trying different activities, it helps to create the kind of skilled and intelligent women that will be able to achieve success in their careers. I think that this system is pretty amazing. Being able to focus and achieve high levels of mastery before university is impressive.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

I do think that many other education systems, like that in the US, should learn and consider implementing some qualities of the Japanese system, like organization and dedication, because I feel that they are clear paths to success.”

Ikebana

After school on Wednesday, we were lucky enough to participate in a special after-school session. The teachers used a guiding text, written by Akane Teshigahara (the fourth Iemoto of the Sogetsu School), to introduce ikebana, the art of flower arrangements.

The flowers and plants chosen for us offered the perfect combination of texture, color, and seasonal flare.

The flowers and plants chosen for us offered the perfect combination of texture, color, and seasonal flare.

Students learned the basic upright style, moribana, which begins with the shin, soe, and hikae elements. These foundational terms describe the architectural basis for the structure and form of traditional floral and plant arrangements.

Porter's students listening to the sensei before the cutting and arranging began

Porter’s students listening to the sensei before the cutting and arranging began.

Children as young as 4 or 5 years old begin to practice this art form which combines height, width, and depth to create three-dimensional expressions of the heart and mind. Materials include flowers, branches, leaves, and other elements from the natural world (gourds, vegetables) that blend together in color, harmony, and design to reflect the feelings of the person who arranged the composition.

Here’s Elizabeth Davis on the experience…

“Today at Kichijo, we had the opportunity to take a flower arranging class! It was something that many people in our group, including myself, have wanted to do from the start.

In addition to the fun and excitement, the process was very surprising to me. There are so many considerations that go into flower arranging of which I was unaware. It is all so precise.

Flower arranging takes an eye for simple beauty. Here's a Kichijo student quietly working on the angles in her kenzan.

Flower arranging takes an eye for simple beauty. Here’s a Kichijo student quietly working on the angles in her kenzan.

Every piece is placed at a certain angle in order to have a strong and beautiful structure to the creation. We were also told that the outcome should portray its creator in some way, making all of the flowers different and beautiful in their own way. Even though we each had a slightly different arrangement at the end, they all looked wonderful.

This small exposure to such a surprising and different art form was definitely an incredible experience and I know we are all so grateful for it!”

Extra! Extra!, Part 2 of 2

On Tuesday, four Porter’s students were interviewed by members of the Kichijo School Newspaper for their spring edition, out in March 2017. The school paper is published five times a year.

Here’s Maddy Pavlovich on the experience…

“After a day of classes at Kichijo School, we sat at one large table and everyone quickly introduced themselves to the group. The three Kichijo students asked us many questions about the differences between Porter’s and Kichijo, Japanese food, our impressions of Kichijo students, and many other topics.

At first, the interview discussion was very organized. One student asked a question and each Porter’s representative took their turn to answer. By the end of the interview though, my favorite form of chaos had emerged: a comfortable and fluid conversation. It reminded me a lot of the conversations we have in my classes at Porter’s.

The students wrapped up the interview by asking some travel advice for America. If a Kichijo student was going to America, where would we tell them to go? After naming some big cities like New York, Boston, and D.C., I told them that they should go somewhere unexpected. See the big cities, but at some point visit a small town just outside of the city.

As I reflected back on this advice, I realized that some of my favorite things in Tokyo so far are the things I have found just outside the popular streets and shopping areas. There is a beautiful shrine down the street from my host family’s house and a restaurant that serves delicious udon and soba just outside the train station. But my favorite place in Tokyo is a small, narrow street with tiny restaurants that always smells so amazing as I walk past on my way home from a long day at school.”

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 2 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Tina Feng…

“We started off the conversation with accumulated observations and superficial judgments based off of those details that we noticed with our 16 host families. Almost everyone’s comments on the Japanese lifestyle and education system were in comparison to the American ways and portrayed the Japanese culture in a negative light.

Finding simple beauty in this very large city is is easier than we might have previously thought. It's everywhere you look, from the street art to the efficiency of the trains.

Finding simple beauty in this very large city is is easier than we might have previously thought. It’s everywhere you look, from the street art to the efficiency of the trains.

We covered topics such as a women’s role in the household, which seemed to solely be “housewife” (cook, caretaker, and janitor) within our small sample population. With minimal information (our observations were mostly visual since the language barrier prevented most of us from having in depth conversations) on moms from a non-diverse (only host families from Kichijo School) group, we assumed that that was the image of a typical mom in Japanese households.

However halfway into the discussion, a couple classmates mentioned how many of the families who could host us had stay-at-home moms because they would actually have the time to take care of us. This comment was followed by many other bias-breaking and eye-opening comments on how limited our perspectives were. Soon enough, it seemed like we realized that we had made inaccurate assumptions and stereotypes, and we immediately started to challenge those assumptions.

I’m really glad that we were able to bring it back and stick to our Porter’s 2016-2017 school year theme of challenging assumptions, even if those assumptions were ones that we created about other people.”

Extra! Extra!, Part 1 of 2

On Tuesday, four Porter’s students were interviewed by members of the Kichijo School Newspaper for their spring edition, out in March 2017. The school paper is published five times a year.

Here’s Audrey Wallace on the experience…

“On Tuesday we met with three Kichijo students from the school newspaper.  Our interview began with the questions anyone could have predicted: ‘How do you like it here in Japan?  Was there anything that surprised you?  What are some of the differences between Miss Porter’s and Kichijo?’  These were easily answered. We loved it in Japan, and almost every day had a new surprise and difference in store so there were no shortages of stories and examples to share. 

Saho, Maho, and Nozomi prepared their questions and sat for the interview with a scribe, a recorder, and a full panel of questions.

What I only realized after our interview session was that we never considered all of the similarities of the two schools.  Of course the schools are on opposite sides of the world so the differences will seem overwhelming. I wasn’t lying when I said we had no shortage of stories of things that surprised us in Japan. 

Lots of conversation at Kichijo today! #mpsintermission #missporters #porters #portersinjapan #kichijo

A photo posted by MPSIIMJapan (@mpsiimjapan) on

Here though, Kichijo teaches young women to be successful in their country and in the workforce.  Isn’t that one of the goals of Porter’s? It was evident in our conversation with the Kichijo students interviewing us that they were very intelligent and preparing to go out into the ‘real world’ just as we are.  Our countries are different, and there is no one way to prepare us to go out into them, but it is clear that both of our schools are the same in that they ensure their students will have amazing opportunities to grow and become the person they want to be. All in all our similarities may be why it has been so easy to connect with Kichijo students, teachers, and especially student journalists.”

Come back soon to see the second part in the series!

Role and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 1 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Emily Howell…

“Because today is MLK Day, we had a conversation on the role of schools in a changing world. We quickly got off topic and started talking more about the similarities and differences between Porter’s and Kichijo, and what they said about the US and Japan.

Lanterns seen above a restaurant in the Ueno neighborhood of Tokyo.

Lanterns seen above a restaurant in the Ueno neighborhood of Tokyo.

I think that the most interesting thing said was that both schools are preparing young people for a life of success in their extremely different ways.  Kichijo seems to prepare students by giving them a very specialized skill set for their interests, which will help them gain respect in the world. Porter’s prepares students by giving us the tools and opportunities to learn how to be balanced and confident in our abilities. I think both methods seem to work well, and prepare graduates for the post-high school world!”

Emily also shared during the conversation that perhaps each school is, in their own way, preparing the young women that their society does not want. Jillian spoke up to add that patriarchy and misogyny are not simply American phenomena. Emily went on to make the point that the outspoken Porter’s graduate and the highly capable Kichijo graduate shatter the expectations of their societies in different ways. This is something for us to keep thinking about in our last few days in Tokyo.

Come back to see parts 2 and 3, coming soon!