Porter’s students engaged in biology classes, learned the fundamental purpose and practices of a traditional tea ceremony, and joined a Japanese archery class. Kichijo students have gone to national competition in archery for many years now, so our students were eager to learn from their peer experts. After school–Kichijo has Saturday classes–students traveled with their host sisters and buddies to cat cafes, dinner, or a shopping excursions in Harajuku. We feel comfortable and at home in Tokyo:
To an old pond
A frog leaps in.
And the sound of water. ~Basho, 1686
Here, we have one of the most famous Japanese haiku poets reflecting on both the familiar and the transient; a moment in time, an observation of the natural world, its impermanence and timelessness. We feel that way, too, as if we’ve been connected to this culture and its people for a very long time, even though in so many ways, we’ve really just arrived.
From Mia Gergis:
My day began at 6:30 a.m. where I got ready for school and began walking to the train station with my host student by 7:15. We arrived at the school by 8:00 a.m. and parted ways in order to prepare for our classes. After classes, I attended tea ceremony as an after school activity. Later, I went to Harajuku, one of Japan’s most famous tourist spots, with Olwyn and her host student to shop and further explore Japan. It was very crowded, but I’m glad I was able to experience it.
From Jenna Hall:
Unlike Porter’s, girls at Kichijo have Saturday morning classes. My day started off at 6:00 a.m. I woke up, got dressed, and headed downstairs to eat a delicious breakfast that my host mother had prepared. It was a mix of different fruits and pastries. So far, I would say Japan has the best pastries I have ever tasted. After eating, I quickly brushed my teeth and my host sister and I headed to the train station at around 6:45 a.m. Upon arriving at the train station, I board one train that brings me to Akabane. Then I get off and make my way to the Saikyo Line, and get off Shinjuku. Finally, when I arrive at Shinjuku I get off and take the Chao Line (Rapid) to Nishi- Ogikubo. Even though this sounds long we have still not arrived at school. I still have a ten minute walk from the train station to school. Along this route there are cute shops and restaurants that glow at night with all the lights that hang from the roofs of buildings. All in all my trip is about an hour and 15 minutes long. This is very different from what I am used to because from my house it only takes me about 20 minutes to get to school. After entering campus, Mia and I walked to homeroom and after a long morning this is where my host sister and I part. In homeroom, we talk to our Kichijo buddies and wait for the teacher to arrive and take attendance. After that, we walked downstairs to a room that is only for Porter’s students. In here, we reflect on the experiences we have had so far and talk about how we are feeling. This is an essential part of the day because I do not get to see my Porter’s friends throughout the day, and this helps me remember that I am not alone. Later on I attended calligraphy for two hours where we spelled our names in Japanese characters and tried making origami. My last class of the day was biology where I got to participate in the preparation of a lab that will be done with the students next week. After lunch, about thirteen Porter’s students had the opportunity to sit in on a tea ceremony (chado). In this activity, we got to see how tea is made and we even ate little snacks with our tea. It was very interesting to see how every hand movement meant something important when working with tea. After the tea ceremony, I departed campus to go to a hedgehog cafe in Shibuya with my host sister and some of her friends. The hedgehogs were so cute and it was fun exploring Shibuya, especially walking across the Shibuya crossing. Then we made our way to Asakusa, a famous district in Tokyo, and saw Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple. We walked around shops and tried new foods. Some were delicious and others were not my taste. I took so many pictures and had an amazing time. Before we left we stopped by a Japanese fortune teller where I got to take a sheet of random paper that told me how my year would look. Before we left we threw coins into the temple and made wishes for the year. After a long day we took the train home. We waved goodbye to my host sister’s friends at their stops and sat and waited for our train to arrive. When we got home I helped make dinner which consisted of Japanese style hot cakes. They were very enjoyable. It was around ten o’clock when I washed up and went to sleep.
My days here are very long yet happy, and I hope to make the most out of each day I am here. I am grateful for my host family for providing me with a house to sleep in and food every day, though I miss my friends back home in Farmington and can’t wait to see them when I get back. I love Japan and wish my trip didn’t have to end so soon. I will miss the friends I made here and will try to keep in contact with them when I am back home.
Porter’s students have free time with host families on Sunday, and Monday is a a National Holiday: “Coming of Age Day.” We’ll post photos and student updates throughout the weekend. And should you be interested: somehow there are pansies, petunias, geraniums, and camellias in bloom… in January. We’re mystified and curious… and happy every time we see the anticipation of spring.