Author Archives: katherinedoemland

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.

Attachments area

Shuji, St. Germain, and Sashimi

Here are two student observations that reflect our most recent days at Kichijo and evenings with host families. Enjoy!

From Meghan Keating:

I can’t believe that it is already the end of our fourth day here in Tokyo, the time has really flown by! Today we spent the day at Kichijo learning traditional Japanese calligraphy and origami, as well as attending classes with our school buddies. In calligraphy, we practiced writing our names and numbers, and learned the techniques and traditions that go along with it. It is a required class for all students at Kichijo and Joshigakuin and my host student, Akane, says that it is her favorite class and that she started when she was just six years old. We had an hour of free time after lunch, so we went to the St. Germain bakery about a mile away from the school and treated ourselves to doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, breads and amazing sweets. In the afternoon, I joined the volleyball team with Marissa, Haley and Olwyn. The girls at Kichijo are insanely good, but they were so kind and willing to help us learn. It was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far. All of the girls at Kichijo are extremely kind and welcoming. They love talking to us about our hobbies and school life at Porter’s. My host sister and I have become so close in the few days that we have known each other, we have so many similar interests and we love listening to Taylor Swift on the train ride to and from school and watching iCarly together when we get home. I was very nervous for my homestay, but the experience has been incredible and irreplaceable. It has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of Japanese lifestyle and customs. Though I have traveled abroad with my family many times, this is the first time I have felt truly immersed in the culture of a country. Tomorrow we are off to the Mori Digital Design teamLab Design Museum, and this weekend we all set off with our host students to explore Tokyo. I have already made such amazing memories with the students at Kichijo and Porter’s, and am looking forward to the rest of my time in Japan.


Shuji instruction

Intense concentration

Jenna and Meghan walking home from school with their host sisters

Meghan and her host sister making dumplings!

On the way to Kichijo School from Nishi-Ogikubo Station


From Cici Barton:

This is the third day I have woken up a minute before my alarm goes off at 6:45 where my host sister Maasa comes in at 6:46 and I get up to go brush my teeth at 6:47 where my brother called me to tell me about his hockey game at 6:50 which was about 5pm at home. Maasa and I leave every morning at 7:30. She has me on the most consistent time schedule ever. I don’t remember the last time I have left my house or dorm at school at one exact time for this many days consecutively.

Okay, so today in Japan, to get to the good stuff, I got to school dropped off my coat in my locker got a matcha latte with Marley from a vending machine then went to my home room (1-1) and met up with my buddies, just to come back down to our room for reflection where we eventually got to everyone with PenX. I went to PE class for the first time since 8th grade and played volleyball which I’ll admit is not my strong suit, but I managed to keep the ball up for the most part. I almost hit Meghan a few times, but other than that I’d call it a success and a solid contribution. After PE we came back to the room and learned how to write our name and numbers in calligraphy. Calligraphy was surprisingly difficult but still very relaxing. I wrote out lots of numbers on old news papers and my name on fancy paper which hopefully wasn’t wasteful. I’m proud of my effort there—I learned something new. We also folded lots of origami kimonos, cranes, flowers, and Raccoon dogs or dog raccoons, whatever that is, with more success than the calligraphy in my case. Afterwards five of us went up to the cafe with our buddies to eat lunch. I had udon noodles again which might be the best I’ve ever had. I finished the school day with music class. After school a lot of us went out to Kichijoji and got pancakes which was delicious and so fun! I think we all bonded, and I loved meeting Noknoi’s host sister and I think it allowed my host sister to make new friends in other grades which made me happy. I just finished eating dinner and I’m about to read. I ate a lot of pistachios, wasabi peas, prunes–oddly enough–and sashimi, while having interesting conversations with my host family. We discussed oat cakes, my global studies homework, and hemp batteries all conversions that are as abstract as my dinner decisions. My host mother boiled tea for me and my host father showed me songs he likes on the CD player. This trip has been wonderful so far. Like anything it has ups and downs, but I’m so happy I’m here. My host family is so sweet, and Tokyo is incredible— It just keeps getting better! Stay tuned for videos and vlogs :))))

Harajuku district

Hedgehog cafe!




Kichijo, Joshikaguin, and Sisterhood

We’ve experienced so much in four short days! From great excitement and anticipation to nervous feelings about almost everything to shared experiences with friends new and old; our days at Kichijo continue to enrich and expand us as global citizens and sisters in the neighborhood of humankind.

From Isa Ramirez:

For me, this trip has been an incredible and once-in-a-lifetime experience. From the terrifying moment when we left the train station with our host families, to every little moment we have shared with others, ordinary things such as riding the train, walking to school, going up the escalator, attending classes, having family meals, trying traditional food, and meeting new people is unique and distinct because of how different Japanese culture is from what were accustomed to. Today we had Japanese classes at Kichijo during the morning and visited Joshigakuin School in the afternoon. I was impressed by the kindness and respect everyone treats everyone else with and their eagerness to get to know us while showing us their lifestyle. I am sure all of my classmates agree that even though sometimes it is hard and strange to be far away from home living in another family’s home, this is a remarkable experience that will make us value everything we have back home and grant us a broader wold perspective.

Friends together!

Tokyo sunset

From Madyn Singh:

If I could use one word to describe my experience in Japan so far, it would be “amazing.” All the students at Kichijo and Joshigakuin are so friendly, kind, and welcoming. We’ve taken two Japanese language classes at Kichijo so far, in which we’ve learned some common Japanese phrases as well as how to introduce ourselves. One moment that I will always remember is at Joshigakuin earlier today when I introduced myself to a group of girls in Japanese. They all smiled and started clapping, making me feel very special. I’ve traveled abroad many times before with my family and on my own, but this is my first time staying with a host family and attending school in a different country. It is a unique experience unlike anything I expected it to be, but I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute of it. Since coming here, I’ve challenged myself to be fully present and to immerse myself in every aspect of Japanese culture by eating new foods, meeting locals, and learning a little bit of the language. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for every moment. My host family is the sweetest, and they’ve made me feel so at home. I like to watch movies with my amazing host sister Yui after school, as well as play with her dog. My host mom is the most incredible cook, and I’ve loved every new food that I’ve tried so far. I’m excited to take more classes and meet more students at Kichijo, to explore Tokyo, and to spend more time with my host family!

Spending time with my host sister, Yui, and her dog Kai

Enjoying free time in Nishi-Ogikubo

Sayonara, Kichijo

A beautiful image of Kichijo School just now. Students are in the final cleaning of their homeroom classes, and shortly we’ll walk through the school gates one last time to Nishi-Ogikubo Station. From there, we’re en route to Tokyo Station, Narita Airport, JFK, and Miss Porter’s School. Our adventure comes to close in Japan, but in so many ways it has just begun.

Kichiko School

We’ve had the experience of a lifetime; these words from our students:

Welcoming…memorable…SO THOUGHTFUL…bittersweet…kind…hospitable…warm…considerate…inclusive…remarkable…living…unforgettable…generous…learning experience.

Mata mite ne. 

Until we meet again.




“From a Day Gone-By”

To Our Kichijo Family: You are part of all our yesterdays!

You are forever in our spirit.

We began our Farewell Party with a well-prepared schedule of fun,  and the afternoon passed far too quickly. Porter’s students were not to be intimidated by a quiz, even at a party, and the contest went to a tie-breaker in the final round. The room turned boisterous with animated card games, hundreds of charming photo-ops, tabletops scattered with delicious snacks and treats, and many, many rounds of hugs and tears.

As we drew to the close of our lovely and memorable gathering, each school sang a song important to its community and tradition. The meeting room filled with joyous teenagers fell silent save the dulcet tones of Porter’s and Kichijo students in song. It was a special, even profound, moment in time.

Finally, we took a group photo of the host-sisters, buddies, faculty and staff of both programs:

We are surely building our tomorrows from the lasting spirit of this exceptional opportunity and adventure. Thank you to our host- families and host-sisters and buddies; thank you to everyone at Kichijo  School who worked tirelessly to make our International InterMission visit such a stunning success, and thank you to Miss Porter’s School for insisting that global citizens need to be… well, in immersion experiences around the globe. Tomorrow is our final “sayonara.” Bring tissues.

Chado: The Tea Ceremony

The Tea Ceremony, or Chado, (“Tsa-do”) is an essential part of Japanese culture and a ritual that takes years to master. The formal ceremony itself, the chaji, is a meditation on tea, the beauty and impermanence of time, and a call to a spiritual awakening of our human imperfections. Formal tea ceremonies usually last about four hours. (Ours did not!) The tea room is spare and unadorned, except for the beautiful natural elements of the tatami mats, or the presence of a singular, small display of chabana (flowers).

Some tools of the Chado ceremony: a tea container, a bamboo ladle (hishaku) for purifying one’s hands, a tea bowl for matcha, a chasen (bamboo whisk), and chashaku, the small, delicate, tea scoop above the bowl on the right.  


 Porter’s students had an introduction to the tea ceremony in a formal class taught at Kichijo, but when the Porter’s students left to meet host-sisters, the Kichijo students remained in class, taking instruction on the proper placement of utensils, appropriate presentation of the bowl, and the physical approach to the furo (heating structure), hibashi (fire chopsticks), and other tools and vessels included in this very specific ceremony. Kichijo students in this photo have been taking the tea class class for two years.

There are many Japanese images and poems surrounding the art and ritual of tea drinking. I’ll close with this from Kobayashi Issa, a late-18th/early 19th century Japanese poet from Kashiwabara in the mountains of the Shimano Province. His pen name, “Issa,” means “one cup of tea.” Enjoy!

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

What a beautiful way to welcome-in the evening!


Konnichiwa from The Yellow Group!

Porter’s students love a photo-op, and the Yellow Group (below) is hamming-it-up for the camera. This was taken moments before students ran off to 6th period English class following our afternoon reflection.

Veronica, Anya, Victoria, Sofia, and now Annika (having tossed her backpack out of the photo!) in the Kichijo Courtyard. 

After classes each day, students clean the buildings:

Keeping Kichijo clean!

Finally, a few parting reflections from members of the Yellow Team today:

From Veronica: One of the many things I’ve learned during my stay in Japan is how important it is to be flexible and open-minded while travelling. I am the type of person who finds something she likes at a restaurant and then will never order anything else on the menu… the experience of trying a traditional Japanese meal makes it worthwhile. Besides being open to trying new foods, you need to be open to a new form of communication. My host family speaks relatively good English, but sometimes they have to translate through their daughter or a translation app. The communication has gotten easier as time went by. Though it was challenging at first, I’ve built a close relationship with my host family.

From Sofia: We only have two days left in Japan, which is really sad…We’ve gotten really close with our host families. I’ve tried many kinds of food which has been a little hard for me, but I’ve been open-minded and I’ve liked a lot of them. I am really happy that our school gave us this opportunity of experiencing a new culture. It has been a great trip and I’m going to miss Japan a lot.

From Bella: The best and probably most valuable part of this experience has been staying with my homestay family. They are some incredible people and the connection we have made is very special. I invited them to New York, and because of them I think I will keep returning to Japan.

Snippets from the last few days

Good Thursday morning to you all: Ohayou Gozaimasu! We’ve got mild temps and sunny skies this morning in Tokyo. Porter’s students are in classes all day today until the tea ceremony/afternoon activities following the close of the academic day. We’ll send photos back later today; in the meantime, here are snippets from the last few days of our Kichijo adventure.

Hello from the “Blue Group” at 9:15 this morning!  Students are divided into two groups to accommodate space in the Kichijo classrooms. The Blue Group stands in the Kichijo Courtyard one hour ago. 

From Eliza N about her host family and travel so far:  Japan is amazing! I have never felt so welcomed by a group of people in my life! My host family has been so kind and are always excited to show me new things and new places! The other day we went to Mt. Fuji; it was one of my favorite experiences not he trip so far, and I’m very happy I got to experience it with them!

From Victoria L following our visit to Kobe College: The warm environment created by the faculty and and students was very much appreciated, even though the visit was short. Visiting an all women’s college founded by a Porter’s Ancient was inspiring to me and helped me see firsthand what a Porter’s education. motivation, and dedication can achieve.

Cooking Club yesterday: Students made almond cookies and looked quite satisfied  with the results:

Clare, Eliza N, Sofia, and Julie BG: Watch out Chef Eric! 

We’ll spend time with the “Yellow Group” this afternoon. Be sure to check back later this afternoon for more of “Tokyo Today!”