Author Archives: katherinedoemland

Porter’s + Joshigaikuin

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!

Bonnie-san and classmates.
Alizeh’s on it!
Mojo in motion.
Aimee in action!
Blythe and her cohort.
Elena in her element: around the table with students!
Maya–all smiles at Joshigaikuin!
Seo alternating fluidly and fluently between English and Japanese.
Lydia’s lessons…
Samar gathering discussion points!
Porter’s + Joshigaikuin!
In the Joshi auditorium.
Porter’s in the world: bold, resourceful, ethical global citizens right here!

But we’re not all work here in Tokyo:

Alice and her host sister….
Alice and her… friendly frogs? And has anyone ever seen Alice without a smile? Documented here.
Georgina and her Glam Girls.
Post photo-booth photo?
Alizeh, Lydia, and Amanda under the city lights.

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.

So much to do!

Through the gates of knowledge at Kichijo School.

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.

Alice, Samar, and Alizeh in Japanese archery!
Samar, Alice, and Alizeh prepare for the challenge!
Louise creating ikebana.
Blythe with the master.
Lydia and Aimee working the angles of shin, soe, and hikae.
Mojo on the soccer field.
Calligraphy class.
Intense focus in a delicate process.
Working it!

At the close of another school day, off we go to homeroom for final clean-up and another evening with our global families!

Kichijo daisuki! (“I like Kichijo!”)

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.

Maya making dumplings.
Aimee hard at work folding the dough.
Bonnie rolling the dough.
Mouth-watering deliciousness!
Alice’s restaurant?
And mango pudding for dessert. Yes, please!
In case anyone wants the recipe.
Amanda and Samar in music class, singing a soprano part of “Hail, Holy Queen” from “Sister Act.”
Blythe, Miki, and Lydia lifting their voices.

Earlier this morning, students paired with their Porter’s buddies to share a snippet of their experience so far:

Bonnie and Blythe: Our host families are very sweet and have taken us to so many amazing places including Asakusa and Tokyo University!
Miki and Alice: We are having fun at Kichijo, making new friends and eating amazing food! We’re excited for what’s to come!
Samar and Aimee: Aimeee has gone to a fish market, a Japanese garden, Asakusa Palace, and Disney Sea with her host sister. Samar loves her experience with her host family. They’ve taken her to Tokyo SkyTree and Senso-ji Temple. t home, her host mom teaches her how to cook!
Georgina and Maya: We’re having a great time exploring Tokyo with our host families!
Louisa and Alice: “Us when we eat Japanese food!”
Amanda and Lydia: We went to Asakusa with their host families, dressed in Kimonos, explored the shrines, and ate amazing food. We are enjoying new experiences in a very different culture.
Alize and Mojo: We’ve been having an amazing time in Japan so far! We’ve been to several areas of interest in Tokyo, visited multiple animal cafes, and tried lots of new foods. We’re looking forward to spending more time at Kichijo and we’re excited for our excursion to Hakone!

It’s a School Day!

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. 

IM Tokyo 2020 at the entrance of Kichijo School.

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.

Japanese class this morning: “Hajimemashite.”

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.

Mojo in the air…
…and Samar and Maya in lift-off!
Lydia, Aimee, Blythe, Alizeh, and Georgina loved a throw-around in softball this afternoon.

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.

National Coming of Age Day; Porter’s in Tokyo

Alizeh and her host sister experience a moment of shared experience in Japanese culture. Below are images of Amanda, Lydia, and Marjorie in their elegant kimonos.

“Seijin-no-hi” (Coming of Age Day) occurs annually on the second Monday of January to mark and honor the transition from childhood to adulthood. At 20 years of age, young people throughout the country engage in ceremonies that celebrate their new role and responsibilities as adults. Women wear traditional, elegant, kimonos; men, too, wear kimonos (far less ornamental) or a suit and tie. The day is filled with visits to local shrines for prayers, blessings, and well-wishes for health, happiness, success, and longevity. Families host special (sometimes elaborate) dinners to mark this important rite of passage. 

Amanda, Lydia, and Mojo at an owl cafe!

Here’s a glimpse of what our students experienced today. Many were invited by their host families to participate in this tradition and ceremony.

Lydia, Amanda, and Mojo with host sisters wearing colorful and elegant kimonos.
Lydia, Amanda, and hosts sisters with some wonderful-looking snacks!

Blythe and her host sister dressed in traditional clothing.
Beautiful Asakusa Temple, an icon for the Coming of Age ceremony.

Other students experienced a variety of activities throughout this expansive city:

Bonnie and her host sister at Tokyo Stadium!
Potential Alma Mater? (Tokyo University)
Georgina and the Tokyo 2020 Tennis Team !
Georgina and her host sister in the Tokyo twilight.
Who doesn’t love some Disney? Thank you, Miki!
Seo’s omikuji predicts a successful 2020. Best intentions for the New year!
Samar spent the day with her host family at Asakusa Temple.

After a busy weekend with host students and families, we look forward to reconnecting at The Kichijo School tomorrow for our first day of classes. We are eager to share our adventures with one another and begin the next phase of our InterMission immersion together!

Today in Tokyo! Saturday, January 11, 2020

Tokyo 2020 had a busy and wonderful day exploring Shinjuku, Odaiba, and Harajuku.

After breakfast we walked in the area of our Shinjuku Hotel before we departed for the Mori Digital TeamLab Borderless Museum. It was an overwhelming experience at the intersection of art, design, music, and movement.

Mori Digital Art Museum

Students enjoyed free time on their own in the Odaiba area, after which we returned to the hotel for some much-needed rest. True to the commitment of this international experience, students navigated the subway system to expedite our trip to the hotel in one of the most bustling transportation hubs in Tokyo.

Staying healthy in Tokyo during flu season!

This evening finds us exploring Harajuku, a popular and colorful cultural hotspot on the edge of the Meji Shrine.

We are adjusting well to the time difference and immersing ourselves in this incredible cultural experience. Tomorrow morning we’ll meet our host sisters and families to being our exchange program with Kichijo friends. It’s hard to describe the breadth of this experience already; 24 hours ago we were sleepless with excitement, and this evening we are feeling comfortable learning from one another, sharing and supporting group goals and expectations, and building relationships with each other and our host country.

Weekend Activities: Tokyo-Style!

Students enjoyed free time with host families after classes on Saturday. They spent the weekend in a variety of ways, from traditional family activities to spiritual retreats at local shrines and temples. As always, these days included wonderful food and budding friendship.

From Olwyn Voss:

This weekend on Sunday, I went to Kawagoe with my host family. We walked around the town and ate various foods from street vendors, such as eel on a stick which was actually so good, and I ate a tofu doughnut! It was delicious! I was lucky enough to go to a kimono shop with my host family. I went through the process of putting on the kimono with its many layers and then we walked around the town. I visited a shrine and my host mother taught me how to pray, which was an amazing experience. We washed our hands to purify them using a bamboo spoon, and then put coins into a wooden basin and rang a bell to pray. The entire time we were in kimonos and the layers kept me warm, but my feet were so cold because I was wearing the traditional sock for sandals that have a separation between the big toe and the first toe. We went into a tea shop and my host mother taught me how to make tea using a special pot. I bought one for my own mom! I was able do see things that I never thought I would get to see in real life, including a bell tower called the “Bell of Time,” which is over 400 years old. We spent all day there, trying new foods together, laughing, shopping, and taking pictures to preserve our memories!

From Sofia Olivares:

My stay in Japan so far has been incredible everyday, and Monday was no exception. It was especially amazing because I was able to witness a national holiday, the National Coming of Age Day. First thing in the morning we visited the Tokyo Sky Tree and enjoyed beautiful, everlasting views of the city. Far in the distance we could see the peak of Mount Fuji in all its glory as it highlighted the skyline. Spread out below us were old and new buildings. We could see the Imperial Palace, central Tokyo, Asakusa, Tokyo Tower, and so much more. My host mother pointed out popular and important spots. My host sister and I took many photos together as well. Although Tokyo has felt small due to the narrow streets lit by many beautiful lanterns, I was reminded of its size at the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Afterwards we passed through a large mall called Solomochi where we bought sweets, souvenirs, and ate lunch. We also enjoyed matcha ice cream. Then we took a Sky Duck bus which is a tour bus that turns into a boat. So we drove around the Tokyo Sky Tree Town then we travelled on the Naka River. Once again, I was gifted with amazing views of the city. Finally, we went to Asakusa. This is an area rich in Japanese culture and history. We visited a grand temple and proceeded through a street busy with small shops. There were good smells wafting from all sides. I tried dango, a chocolate-covered banana, and several other sweets. When we reached the temple, my host sister showed me how to wash my hands and mouth. Then we entered the main temple and threw coins into a large vat. Everywhere we went, we took several photos and made wonderful memories. By the end I knew so much more about Japanese traditions. I’m so thankful to my host family for showing me their city and their culture.

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Weekend with Host Families in and around Tokyo

We spent the weekend with host families, enjoying everything Tokyo has to offer, from sushi to the Meiji Shrine, the Tokyo Sky Tree to beautiful parks and gardens, shrines, temples, and celebrations in honor of the National Coming of Age Day. As we enter week two here in Japan, we feel so lucky and grateful to be immersed in our neighborhoods, new friendships, Japanese culture, and the Kichijo community.

From Haley Baum:

Yesterday was the first day of the Sumo Wrestling season. My host family took me to see the arena with all of the stands outside and the famous wrestlers coming in and out. My host mother printed a little pamphlet for me with all the information about sumo. I learned that sumo began over 2,000 years ago, originally as a religious activity, then for military training, and then it became part of a festival. After 2,000 years, none of the rules have changed and the platform is still made of clay and rice-straw bales. I also read that it is the national sport of Japan and my host mother told me it is extremely popular. We waited with the crowd outside of the arena and watched the famous wrestlers enter the arena. I was surprised at how respectful their fans were. People clapped and were very excited as the wrestlers came by but there was no screaming or asking for selfies. After, we got some houjicha and matcha ice cream, which was delicious, before going to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. We got to see some really cool artifacts and learn all about Japan’s Edo period. My favorite thing that we saw was “Mihara”, the sword that was passed down in the royal family starting in the 18th century. (photos don’t do it justice)

We left when the museum closed and it was finally time for me to try Japanese sushi. It was absolutely the best sushi I had ever eaten and the miso soup was unbelievable. I tried so many different types of fish and I was so full, exhausted, and happy. 

On our way back to the train station we stopped at Tsukiji Hongwanji, a Shinshu Buddhist temple and it was breathtaking. When we got home, my host mother’s parents were waiting for us. They had covered the table in beautiful handmade bags and scarves and told me to take as many as I wanted, some things for me and some for my family members. My host mother told me her mother loves to sew and make art and she is overjoyed when she can give things to other people. She also gave me a little frame with a picture inside, made from precisely cutting and layering a photo over and over again and applying a special gloss. These are absolutely the most amazing gifts I have ever received and I was so touched. This family is so incredible and I can’t believe I have to leave them in just five days.

From Charis Ng:
Sunday was a day dedicated to shrines and shopping. Starting the day off right with a hearty
breakfast of miso soup, rice, eggs and vegetables, my host family and I headed out at 10am for
the Meiji shrine. (except for the eldest sister, who had to study for her exams). Before this, the
family had asked me what I wanted to see in Japan, and I said the Meiji shrine, because of its
historical significance. According to research, this shrine honoured soldiers who had died in
wars, such as in World War II. I wanted to see Japan’s side of history, because all my life I had
only learnt how World War II and Japan’s occupation had affected Singapore. The shrine was
beautiful, and my host family taught me the proper routine of bowing, washing and making
wishes. Unfortunately, the museum that showcased artifacts from wars required a ticket, so we
just decided to go and buy some non-alcoholic sake.


From the Meiji shrine, we took a walk around the area, with my host parents pointing out significant buildings such as schools, or historical landmarks like the preserved wall of an ancient castle. After visiting another smaller shrine, we had lunch at a famous nabe restaurant, which was almost exactly like Chinese hotpot, except with really fat udon noodles. The meal was piping hot that my host Father started sweating like mad!
Our next stop was the popular tourist shrine, the Asakusa shrine. I had been there before, but there weren’t as many people as before! Japanese people and foreign tourists flocked the food stalls and shrine steps, armed with their cameras and wallets. Thank goodness for being short, because we managed to duck under outstretched phones and peace signs. After having our mid-afternoon snack of takoyaki, candied apple, and chocolate banana, (this whole day was just composed of good food and walking), we began to head home. I was delighted to find out that my host family had booked a sushi restaurant for dinner near home, and the day came to a perfect finish with drool-worthy sushi and chawamushi. If anything, this day only proved to me how kind my host family is. They planned today according to what I was interested in, even when my host sister had a lot of homework. Now, I ought to find some way to give back to them.

Views from the Tokyo Sky Tree 

Tomorrow morning we are headed Miura Beach to explore Japan’s fishing industry and economy. Additionally, we’ll be celebrating the start of the new year for the area fisherman, which culminates in a festival of blessings and well-wishes for a successful season. Due to limited internet connection, we’ll be unable to post for the next 36 hours, but we’ll have lots to catch up on when we return. Stay tuned!

Today in Tokyo

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.

Mori Digital Lab and Palette Town

Students navigated the Tokyo JR (Japan Railway) line from Nishi-Ogikubo–our Kichijo School
train stop–all the way to the Tokyo Teleport Station in Odaiba, home of the Mori Digital Design
Museum. Crushing into crowds of rush-hour commuters on the Yellow, Blue, and Green lines,
students took turns leading the group to each platform, escalator, and line change, finally
arriving at Tokyo Teleport and Palette Town. The doors to the Mori Digital Design Museum
(teamLAB) opened at 11:00 a.m., and though photos cannot do justice to this mesmerizing and
astonishing interactive experience, you’ll have a sense (below) of our boundless, borderless
sensory experience.

Leading the way to Palette Town!

From Sarah Spence:

We started our day by getting on a crowded train at the metro station near Kichijo. All the seats and handles were taken by stressed-out businessmen and women on their way to work. Amongst the crowd were six year olds, who looked like they knew the metro more then the adults themselves, traveling alone to school. The train was absolutely quiet despite the number of people.

We got off the train relieved not to be sharing such a small space with strangers and went to the second train line which would take us to Shibuya station. We gasped as the doors of the train slid open and revealed a train cart with twice the number of passengers as the first train we had taken. We squished in. The cart was so full that there was not enough space for us to move our arms, let alone sit down.

Our experience at the metro helped me understand the Japanese culture better. Being one of the most crowded cities in the world, organization and efficiency become essential to their everyday life.

After three train rides, each twice as packed as the last, we finally arrived at the Mori Digital Design Lab Museum. There are no words to describe the magnitude and creativity of each installment. The museum is composed of many large rooms all connected by dark hallways. Entering into each installment is like entering into a different universe. My favorite was a maze made of hanging string lights, all coded to replicate different scenes in nature by acting together to change patterns in their small light bulbs. Mirrors cover the maze walls which help to give the impression that the lights go on forever in every direction. When combined with music, it gives the impression that the observer is in a magical alternate universe. (Photos may be slow to load.)

At the Mori Digital Design Lab.

Tokyo by night.

At the Mori Design Lab Museum.

Sky Ride at Palette Town.

From Marissa Chow:

We have been in Japan for about five full days now and it has been an amazing time. Somehow, I didn’t come to the realization that I would be in Japan, until we were on the plane! Being in Japan is surreal. These past few days I have really tried to step outside of my comfort zone, whether it is doing sports I haven’t done in years, or trying new foods. Soccer and volleyball are for sure not my best sports, I am very bad at both, but the girls at Kichijo Girls School are so nice and they laugh, smile, and encourage us all the time. Two days ago, we had a free period and some girls and I sat in a circle, and we took turns asking each other questions. At first, I was worried that it would be awkward and weird, but instead the room was full of laughter. The girls at Joshigikuin were also very nice and welcoming! It was very easy to create conversation with them! My host family is amazing. The mother is very good at cooking and my host sister is so nice. I have tried many new foods, such as octopus, mushrooms, and sashimi, and I have liked them all! The culture here is very different from America and I have so much to learn. Everywhere is quiet, steering wheels are on the right side, and even the swimming pool is different. Today we went to teamLab (Mori Digital Design Museum) and it was an incredible experience. The rooms were very pretty and intriguing, there was so much to do with so little time. Overall, I have really enjoyed my experience and I cannot wait for more memories.

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