Purpose of this Project

JapanArao-JapanDr. Tyson is traveling to Japan during the month of October, 2006, as a guest of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. As part of his 19 day itinerary, he will be visiting many places: Tokyo, Fukuoka, Arao, and Tamana to name a few. He will visit several schools in Arao in the Kumamoto Prefecture, learning about the culture and educational system of Japan, and sharing his travels with his 7th grade students here at Mabry (as well as students all over the world) who study this country. We look forward to exchanging information between our schools and countries.

TokyoTokyo-fukuokaDr. Tyson will begin his trip to Japan in Tokyo (October 3rd through 8th). He will then travel to Omuta, Fukuoka (October 8th - 9th). From October 9th through the 14th he will be in Arao, Kumamoto, located in the south of Japan. He will be the home guest of a Japanese family from October 15th - 16th. He will visit Tamana, Kumamoto, from October 16th - 17th and return to Tokyo on October 17th, departing for the United States on the 19th.

Fukuoka3D-TmArao-Japan-1-tm.jpgYou are encouraged to click on each of the thumbnail maps to see a larger version of the map from Google Earth. You can also download Google Earth on your computer (free of charge), enter each of these cities, and be able to zoom in and navagate around each of these locations! Enjoy a virtual trip with Dr. Tyson as he posts about his experiences in the country of Japan.

The purpose of this project is to bring the students at Mabry and the students in Japan closer together, building bridges of respect and understanding between the cultures and educational systems of our two nations so that we can all become better global citizens.

October 23, 2006

The Japan Photo Gallery

The Japan, 2006, photo albums are making their first appearance, rough though it may be. They presently lack an adequate navigation system. So, for the time being, in order to view all of them, you may need to come back to this post to get back to the link to the main index for the 29 different albums. Within the next couple of weeks the individual albums will appear in separate posts with stories about each album.

Japan Gallery
Click above to go to the Index of the 29 Japan Photo Albums.

October 18, 2006

Packed and Ready

Well, I'm packed up and ready to check out of the New Otani Hotel to head back to the USA. Incidentally, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, arrived at the hotel last night. As the nuclear arms situation with North Korea continues to become more unstable, it's definitely time to head home.

At any rate, I want to thank one of the high school teachers, Kate, who teaches Mass Communications at her high school in Virginia, for graciously sharing this video podcast with the students of Mabry. The video is a 6 minute overview of our visit in Japan. Enjoy!

October 15, 2006

Travel Day

Today I traveled back to Tokyo. I have not had internet access for the past 9 days! I spent most of this afternoon and evening catching up on work and personal emails. Now that I have internet access, I will begin posting about the last week and a half, which has been incredibly interesting and very, very busy! This process will probably take at least a week as I will be busy in meetings all day tomorrow and then will spend the next day traveling back to the United States.

I have so much to share. We visited lots of schools, met lots of teachers and students, and I spent 24 hours with a Japanese family in their home. All total I've taken over 2,500 pictures thus far!

So over the next several days posts will begin to appear. Take care to look back in time (by date) to see if posts have been added. I am dating all of the posts the day I had the experience. For example, just a few minutes ago I posted briefly about my visit to the middle school. However, that visit took place last week. So, if you don't go back and look at previous days on the blog, you will miss new posts that will be appearing over the next week. Similarly, you would miss the fact that I posted 4 pictures of Mount Fuji, most of which were shot on October 7th but were just added to that day's posts.

I wanted to post about the middle school first because most of you are just now waking up and getting ready to go to school at Mabry. (Remember I'm a day ahead of you?!) I wanted you to be able to learn a little bit about the middle school that will be participating with us in this international learning project.

Img 6415 - Version 2 1Well, as my day is ending, (You can see the picture I just took from my hotel window of the Tokyo Tower.) yours is beginning. As I always say over the morning announcements at Mabry, "Have a great day for learning!"

October 14, 2006

The Children's Festival

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Img 6072 - Version 2Img 5961 - Version 2Arao conducts a children's festival for children ages 3, 5, and 7. The celebratory festival, held at the Shinto Shrine, is a dress up affair for the children and parents and features special dances, drum ceremonies, and a parade. Booths of toys lined the sidewalks to the temple. But, by far, the most impressive aspect of the festival was the children's dress and costumes.

Img 6057 - Version 2Img 6119 - Version 2The young boy pictured in the top left was one of the drummers that marched in the parade and then played the drums during the festival. The young man atop the horse arrived amidst great fanfare: an entire group of men accompanied him and were singing and dancing as the crowds parted to welcome him to the shrine. Children dressed in uniforms were permitted to eat with him on a large blue tarp. Many of the boys and girls were wearing highly decorated kimonos, and the girls had elaborate hair styles for the occasion.

Img 6162 - Version 2Img 5988This was a large festival attended by thousands from the area. I took a large number of pictures of this interesting event and will post more detailed information and a photo album about this later.

October 12, 2006

Arao City Daisan Middle School Visit

Img 5856Img 5857We arrived at Daisan (which means 3rd) Middle School just before school started. Daisan Middle School is a small school compared to Mabry, about 250 students compared to Mabry's 850. The school consists of two 7th grade classes (which in Japan is called 1st grade of Lower Secondary), two 8th grade classes (2nd grade), and three 9th grade classes (3rd grade). All of the students in Japan from middle school (lower secondary) through high school (secondary) wear a school uniform.

Img 5768 - Version 2Img 5767 - Version 2When homeroom began, all of the students sat down and began 20 minutes of silent reading time. What was amazing about this was that no teachers were in the rooms, and no bells rang. The students just automatically paid attention to the clock and began reading as they do every day at that time. The teachers were all in their morning staff meeting. The principal later told me that he wants students to be self-directed, self-disciplined, and always time conscious.

Img 5771 - Version 2Img 5789Our visit began with a presentation of general information about their school. Each of the teachers introduced themselves in English, telling us what grade and subject they taught. We then introduced ourselves in Japanese*, and explained our roles in our respective schools around the United States. The teachers then went on to their classes, and the principal provided us with a detailed overview of Daisan Middle School.

Img 5800Img 5788 - Version 2We then walked around to each of the classes to observe. Most of the instruction was didactic, with the teacher standing in front of the class of students following along, taking notes, listening, sometimes underlining words in their textbooks, which, unlike the United States, the students all own themselves.

Img 5802Img 5796In Art class the students were painting. In chorus the students were singing. In science class the teacher brought groups of students up to see the effects of sound waves from a sounding fork when it was submerged in water--the exact same type of activity we do in our science classes at Mabry.

Img 5846Img 5817 - Version 2I spoke with Masa, one of the two 7th grade homeroom teachers about having his students participate in the 7th grade Japan blogging project with us at Mabry. Masa speaks English fluently. When I shot this picture of him, he made this crazy, "serious" pose to show his sense of humor. He teaches his 7th grade students the English language.

Img 5805 - Version 2Img 5806Probably in his early thirties, Masa participated in "Up with People" as a dancer traveling all over the world performing. He lived in Denver, Colorado, for one year, staying in about 10 different American families homes. His first career in Japan was that of an editor in Tokyo. He and his wife moved to Arao when he was assigned as a teacher at Daisan Middle School.

Img 5809Img 5810He asked if our students were really interested in learning about Japan, and I assured him that we are, as our 7th graders study Japan. He was eager for his students to participate in this learning project. At lunch time, I ate with his lunch class. All of the students in Japan eat in their homeroom classroom.

Img 5837Img 5818 - Version 2At lunch time he selected several students to introduced themselves and tell a little about themselves in English while I recorded them on the video iPod. I took a picture of each of the students who were brave enough to have their English introductions recorded and will include it as a podcast in a later post. Masa hopes that the school computers will be able to get to our blog. Japanese schools, like American schools, often restrict access to blogging sites.

Img 5827Img 5828 - Version 2That afternoon several teachers and I had the opportunity to speak with Masa about what it is like to be a teacher in Japan. We were all fascinated. The education profession in Japan is considerably different than that in the United States. But while significant differences exist, the students in Japan are very much like the students in the United States. People are pretty much the same everywhere. I'll include information about schools and other information about eduation in another post about teaching.

Img 5861 - Version 2 1Img 5858Perhaps most amazing to me was watching "cleaning time." For 30 minutes every day every single student cleans an assigned area of the school at every grade level (from first grade in elementary through the 3rd grade of secondary school [12th grade]!) And I must make sure you understand that the students take wash cloths and literally scrub every single inch of the floors and the bathrooms, fixtures and all! They weed the school grounds. They sweep. The teachers and even the principal join in daily cleaning time. Japanese schools generally do not have custodians. The Japanese are extremely conscious about cleanliness.

* "Ohayo gozaimasu. Watashiwa Georgia no, Tyson des."

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October 11, 2006

Podcast Greetings from 荒尾第三中学校, Arao City Daisan Middle School

I had the wonderful experience of visiting 荒尾第三中学校, Arao City Daisan Middle School. You can see the pictures from the Arao City Daisan Middle School photo album by clicking on the picture at the bottom of this post.

I had lunch with Masa's 7th grade homeroom class. His students will be posting to our Japan project here on the Mabry Global Learning Collaborative. After lunch we recorded this podcast greeting from Masa, who speaks fluent English.

Click the picture above to view the Arao City Daisan Middle School Photo Album

Meet Our New 7th Grade Japanese Friends from Arao

The 7th grade students at Arao City Daisan Middle School all study English with their English teacher, Masa. In this podcast, which we made right after lunch, several students were brave enough to practice their English greetings by trying them out for this podcast. They did a great job. They can certainly speak English better than we can speak Japanese!

Enjoy meeting our new 7th grade Japanese friends!

October 10, 2006

Arao City Daiichi Elementary School Visit

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Arao City Daiichi (which means First) Elementary School (grades 1 through 6 in Japan). The children were full of energy and the excitement of learning. Educators from the USA are treated like rock stars. The children ran up to us, hugging on us, wanting our autographs, posing for pictures, screaming with delight. I will post a lot more information in this post later, but below you will find a link to a photo album of about 50 pictures of the children at the school. Enjoy.

(Click to visit the photo album)

October 7, 2006

Travel Day

Today was a travel day. We left the New Otani Hotel by chartered bus at 11:30AM and arrived at the Haneda Airport about an hour later. We flew south from Tokyo to Kumamoto in a huge Boeing 777. I mention the plane because it had something I had never seen before: a live feed from two cameras. One camera was under the plane and the other was a view from the cockpit. So when we taxied out, took off, approached the next airport, and landed, we could see on the flat panel displays all around the plane exactly what was in front of us and below us. Landing looked like we were playing a video game as we approached the runway.

The terrain as we approached Kumamoto by air was astounding. I didn't have my camera or I would certainly have shot pictures of it. The jagged, plantless mountainous areas on my left side really looked like the product of volcanic activity. Their eroded starkness made them very dramatic and beautiful.

Once we landed, we took another chartered bus to the hotel in Fukuoko. We passed by the rice fields. I will upload some pictures later. A small red machine was driving through one area harvesting the rice. As I had only seen pictures of rice fields (and those were mostly Vietnamese), they did not look as I imagined them. They are only flooded during the Spring. So these fields were very dry with a thick fabric of rice plants about knee high.

My room in Fukuoko is considerably smaller than what we enjoyed in Tokyo, just a bit larger than enough space for the standard bed and desk area with a very small TV. The floor in the bathroom area is almost a foot higher than the main room--quite the step up. And my room is near a busy train track. Periodically I faintly hear the slight click-i-dy clack of a passing train. To be as close as I am, I surprised it makes so little sound. No train horns thank goodness.

And now the fun begins: dinner on our own deep inside an infinitely smaller (than Tokyo) Japanese town. We were the only non-Japanese in town, and trust me, we stood out like a sore thumb!

We were given a map of the area immediately around the hotel. There were several types of restaurants from which to pick: an Izakaya (like a bar that serves some food), Rahman (that served noodle dishes), western (that didn't sound too good), and sushi (which could vary wildly in price). The people in my little group (9 of us) chose Rahman.

We walked a few blocks, not much more than a half mile I would guess, before finding the restaurant. Were it not for the map, I would have never known this was a restaurant. Inside was an amazing, deeply pervasive, acidic smell. Immediately, several people left the tiny restaurant saying that they couldn't eat in a place that had such a strong smell. However, a few moments later they had gathered their courage and returned.

We took up 2 tables, which, not considering a bar that wrapped around a large center pole with seats around it, accounted for about half of the restaurant. As is typical in Japan, the space was very small.

A young family was seated across from us. They seemed to enjoy posing for pictures by members of our group. Everyone in the restaurant was amused by us I'm sure. Including an older gentleman seated around the pole. He gently rocked back and forth with a big smile. It was obvious that he was trying to watch us in total amusement without appearing to be rude. He was indeed enjoying the "ordering spectacle."

Our group had two black ladies. The Japanese are not a multiethnic society. So, as I said earlier, we stood out. Everywhere we walked, people looked us over! In fact we were cautioned to always have our passports and JFMF identification tags with us in case we were stopped by the police.

Fortunately, one of the ladies at my table knows a little bit of Japanese. Since they had no picture menus, actually no menus at all, ordering would have been dreadfully challenging. Once I knew the egg was cooked, I ordered Rahman with a boiled egg. Our table also ordered something else, that was really very tasty, but I don't know what it was or how it was cooked.

My bowl of Rahmen arrive with a typical Japanese spoon in it. How ever was I to eat the noodles with this spoon? Not to worry, the table had a container of chopsticks--but noodles in soup are wet and slippery. I somehow managed to manipulate the chopsticks to eat the noodles and the whole boiled egg without creating an international incident.

Oh, one other important point: no napkins. Imagine trying to slurp in these long wet noodles. (Yes, it is customary and considered polite to slurp when eating in Japan, and I now know why! Doing otherwise is impossible!) Napkin required! One particularly difficult and long noodle did some amazing and bizarre squiggle dance thing before going into my mouth and splattered a drop of soup on my glasses. Thank goodness it was small!

After dinner, being the chocolate addict that I am, and having been in severe chocolate withdrawal now all this time, we walked across the street to a large shopping area that included a big store called You Me Store. Yes, the name was in English. It looked like a typical American store. At the entrance was a Starbucks, a donut shop named Mr. Donut, and a McDonalds, among other less known eateries.

We (3 of us at this point) split up. I also had a Diet Coke craving. They are impossible to find in Japan as the Japanese are so thin and prefer the regular Coke and Pepsi products which can be found everywhere. I went to the McDonalds.

As the young girl at the register saw me approaching, a look of horror came across her face until she located the giant picture menu which she plopped down in front of me with a big smile as she said something gesturing to the menu. I said "Diet Coke" and pointed to a picture of the Diet Coke logo on the sheet. She smiled and said in English, "Size?" I said, "Large." and the look of horror reappeared in her eyes. So I then gestured big,larger, and then montrous and said "Huge." She laughed and handed me what in the US would be a medium. The medium is large in Japan. The Japanese medium is the US small. The Japanese small is a tiny little cup we do not have in the US.

I was then off to the donut shop, where we were all meeting after the others got their Starbucks fix. Customers go down a line with a tray and pair of tongs and put the donuts they want on the tray. When I arrived at the cashier (there were 2 side by side) the young man said something in Japanese. I replied that I did not understand him. The young lady standing next to him ringing up another customer and he, without a word, just instantly switched positions as if someone had pressed a button.

Said said, "Eat in or out?" I told her I would be eating in, so she placed my donuts on a plate. She seemed pleasantly surprised that I understood their currency and paid with the correct amount. In fact, she had the look of an elementary school teacher who is very happy when her young student unexpectedly gets the right answer.

Words can not adequately express how good that chocolate donut (OK, OK, I confess to eating 2.) and "large" Diet Coke were!

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October 6, 2006


Today was our free day to explore. I decided to take the Ginza Line (subway) from the hotel to Shibuya, one of the world's busiest business districts. Tokyo's subway system is the most elaborate of any I've seen anywhere in the world, consisting of 15 lines, not including private railways.

My hotel is very close to the G05 (Akasaka-mitsuke) station at exit D, and Shibuya is "at the end of the line" at G01. The subway was clean, the passages wide. I'm sure my experience would have been considerably different had this been a weekday, but the space was not overly crowded at all on this holiday Saturday, well, not until I got to Shibuya.

The Shibuya station itself was very large, several stories above ground and below. People were teeming about going in every direction. Fortunately, upon arrival, I was able to make sense out of the exit signs to find my way to the street. Outside of the subway station was a sea of people. This area is indeed New York City's Times Square on steroids.

The streets of Tokyo, under the best of circumstances, are, like most of the major cities of the world, tremendously confusing. They frequently "V" off into multiple directions which then "V" off into other directions. One can easily lose your place. However, in this area, all streets seemed to come to one central area: the place where the subway station was. The station was like the center of the bicycle wheel.

Since I didn't have a street map (and doubt it would have done any good to have had one as everything is in Japanese) I had a systematic strategy: never veer to the right when the street splits, always stay to the left; go down each street as far as I wanted and then work my way back. As I headed back to the subway station I would explore each of the "V" splits, going off to the right this time.

My strategy was successful as I never got lost, and I think I explored just about every single block of this enormously compacted area for about a 2 mile radius from the center subway station. Here are some observations:

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Mount Fuji

Throughout my visit, I've been snapping a few pictures of Mount Fuji, which has virtually become the graphic symbol of Japan. Because of the typhoon when I first arrived, the mountain has been obscured, but in the last day or two I've caught these glimpses.

Although the mountain has no snow on it at this time of year, it still is amazing. (Some of the pictures in this post look like Mount Fuji is snow-topped; however, the white in those pictures is really cloud cover.)

Three of the pictures were taken with a 200mm zoom lens from the 40th floor restaurant at the New Otani Hotel. Regrettably, you can see a bit of glare from the light reflecting off of the window.

The bottom right picture was shot from the airplane on the return flight to Tokyo from Kumamoto on October 17th. Unfortunately it was shot with a wide angle lens and then was significantly cropped to bring the mountain closer, reducing the visual clarity of the picture.

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October 5, 2006

Japanese Government

Img 4234Hiroya Ichikawa, Professor of Economics at Sophia University, Appointed by Secretary General Koffe Anan to UN Committee for Policy Development is the moderator for tonight's discussion. Having just returned to Japan from France, he began the night by allowing each representative to speak briefly about any matter(s) they wished. He said he was using their talk to "catch up" on what's been happening in his absence.

Img 4235 - Version 2Img 4237Representative Kuniko Inoguchi, Gender Equity and Social Reform, Former Fulbrighter, graduate of Yale and then Harvard

Representative Kuniko Inoguchi was delightful, speaking frankly about matters about which she feels passionately. A few of her points are listed below, but one must hear her speak. Listen to this podcast of her discussion and her frank and open response to our questions.

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  • Prioritized revitalization of education and social reform
  • Surplus must be given to social development
  • Resource poor country needed to direct resources to growth...now with our economic growth we will fund social issues
  • Gender equality is area in which we are behind so now it is an emphasis
  • Today largest number of female parliamentarians have been elected in constitutional history of Japan because of outgoing prime minister's leadership emphasis
  • Decline in birth rate problem is of great concern
  • Last year total population of Japan declined for the first time
  • If this trend continues we can not sustain social security
  • Work and life balance will be impacted
  • Free birth, family stipends, near free child care, as of next April infant stipends, increase number of child care centers, shorter working hours to increase time for family to enjoy children,
  • 70% of women resign work to keep first child. We want a better work and life balance so they can continue to work
  • Have to campaign to change the mindset of the country that it is OK to ask for childcare leave
  • Rate of marriage has been increasing for the last 6 months. Number had been declining for the last 20 years.
  • But we have a long way to go in gender equality: only 10% of women in higher education as professors
  • New government is also prioritizing these areas with enormous emphasis on education as performance is declining in mathematics and reading
  • Next year most universities will have childcare facilities
  • I campaigned for this agenda by going to the governors of each prefecture; appeared many times on TV

Img 4245Img 4250A very wise and seasoned representative, Representative Yuji Tsushima, Diet Member, House of Representatives, spoke with thought and the confidence born of 30 years in elected office. He seemed well versed in complex issues and was willing to state them as complex without simple solutions. He stated that the agenda to be tackled by the Prime Minister needed to be:

  • From our recent economic successes we are having new issues and new problems
  • There are always those who are not favored by the economic growth and the question of fairness and access is an issue
  • This will be tackled. We started talking about this issue this week.
  • Inequity between regions. Some areas simply can not feel the economic growth
  • We have 47 governors in Japan and 40 are complaining about the present state of economic affairs: unemployment is an issue
  • The relationship with the Asian countries: China and Korea, and is rather complicated
  • Former prime minister acted based on his beliefs from the War. But we now much normalize relationships between China and Japan
  • China is becoming the greatest consumer of resources
  • Russia is becoming the largest supplier of energy
  • Economic paradigm is about to change throughout the world and this is very important for China, Russia, Japan, and Korea
  • We must have good friendly relationship with China
  • China and India's relationship is also very important

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Japan's Economy

Img 4256Img 4259Dr. Takahiro Miyao, Professor: International University of Japan. He is the head of the GLOCOM Platform (www.glocom.org) and was very gracious and friendly. He sat next to me in the earlier presentation and before it began we chatted very casually. His discussion of all things economics was informative and far from dull or boring! He began rather humorously by telling us how to pronounce his name: like the sound of the cat, "Meow."

  • Japan is gradually growing again. Growth is essential because of huge budget deficit, social security burden, low birthrate and shrinking population, and the tax hikes to come.
  • Prime Minister Abe (pronounced Ah bay) is emphasizing supply side growth through innovation, but the question is how.
  • Japan's rate of new business creation is less than one third that of the USA.
  • While this is true, many new USA businesses fail, not so in Japan
  • Widening gap between rich and poor in Japan is a growing concern
  • Many young people are losing hope for having a better life and are giving up in despair, making this a serious issue
  • Income redistribution is not a popular answer to this problem in Japan
  • Lack of challenge spirit may be a focus so as not to create demand by economic redistribution
  • Not in Education/Employment/Training (NEET) coined in Europe--young people who do nothing
  • They are not in ed, employment, training and this is very visible in Europe. In Japan they stay with parents and do not show up on the street as street people. (This seems to be what we call boomerangers in the USA.)
  • Freeters: Living on Short-Term, Temporary Jobs...transient workers: working as cashier for a couple weeks at the 7/11 then quit for a while, spend their money and look for another job
  • More than 3,000,000 young people in Japan are Freeters and Neets committing more crimes and becoming an economic burden
  • This is becoming a problem because these people resist reform efforts until this issue is addressed
  • Gradually creates an obsticle to growth as the Neets and Freeters lack skills
  • They are already a burden to the government, especially as they get older
  • This is why Prime Minister Abe's emphasis is on this issue
  • National savings rate for businesses in Japan is 25% of income. In the USA it's 15% but the household savings is negative. In Japan the household savings rate is 15%.
  • The wealthy Japanese do not use their equity, they live in small houses. The Japanese reach the peak of their savings when they die. This is the topic of conferences and one of the 7 wonders of the economics world. They use their money to keep their children interested in taking care of the needs in their last years.
  • So Japan needs to teach responsible risk taking behavior in the challenge spirit.

He gave us his blog and email address.

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October 4, 2006

Kyogen Presentation

Kyogen is a 600 year old Japanese art form that takes the form of a highly stylized comedic stage performance of typical everyday life experiences. Don Kenny, a respected artist in Japan, performed a Kyogen in English, which is presented here as a podcast. He then spoke of the history and development of this ancient art form. For pictures of his stage presentation and discussion, click on the picture at the bottom of this post. To listen to his Kyogen performance, recorded live, play the podcast below.

Click the picture above to view the Kyogen Picture Album

Early Morning Fish Market Run

This morning I got up at 4:00AM to meet up with 4 other educators to catch a taxi to the Tsukiji Fish Market. I lived on the Gulf Coast as a child but never have seen such a thing. It was time!

Img 4077 - Version 2Img 4075The taxi dropped us off several blocks from the market, and in Tokyo, which is densely packed, that means you will never find it without asking people where it is. The people in this area must be accustomed to english speakers asking for directions to the market as they all smiled graciously and pointed us in the direction to walk.

Img 4081Img 4115It was still dark, and I have never seen so many people working so hard. The entire market area is enormous: blocks and blocks of wall to wall shops all jammed in together. Small, odd shaped little gas-powered carts (pictured) speeding about everywhere. I was a bit worried we would be run over. The area is extremely congested.

Img 4083Img 4092As we got closer and closer to the market, we saw metal trays and styrofoam containers stacked to the ceilings, all full of seafood. Many times open containers of ice had exotic fish packed in them for display to sell. The smell of seafood was mixed with the dense smell of the little odd-shaped gas powered vehicles: much the same smell of the oily exhaust from a lawnmower. The activity seemed like chaos to my untrained eye, but I am certain that everything was highly choreographed and organized.

Img 4086Img 4089Finally we arrived at a door the said both in Japanese and English: "Visitor Passage Entrance." When we walked in I saw hundreds of enormous frozen tuna, which had been weighed when they were brought into the warehouse off of the boats, being lined up on the wet floor. The fish handlers seemed to line then up by size and weight. Each fish had a sticker attached to it indicating how much it weighed.

Img 4090Img 4103The large tuna had all been de-gilled, de-tailed, gutted, and frozen on the ship when caught. When the frozen fish were first brought in, the floor in this large warehouse had "smoke" like that from dry ice hovering over it. The room was cold from the frozen fish. Inspectors went about determining the quality of the fish meat by cutting around the tail.

Img 4106Img 4111The auction began at 5:30AM with auctioneers sort of singing and dancing up and down to get the highest price for their fish while their customers quietly raised their thumbs to purchase. The auctioneers are the men facing the people who were bidding on the fish. The auctioneer in the center of the picture got into it the most. The whole selling process went very fast, less than five minutes.

Img 4096 - Version 2 1Img 4095We also walked down several blocks further to see the live fish section. Amazing! Live, squiggling eels were scooped up in large nets and placed on a huge wooden trough. The fish monger then grabbed them and threw them into large vats to sort them by size. The eels were not happy!

Img 4099Img 4101I've never really seen anything quit like this before. One of the guys from our group had arrived at 3:30AM. He told us that one of the fish monger driving one of the strange little buggies showed him how to drive the bizarre contraption and let him drive a tuna from the boat to the warehouse! Amazingly, we were later told than Japan eats more seafood than any other nation in the world. All of the fish we had seen today would be eaten today in the Japanese restaurants!

Moral of the story, "If you are a fish, stay away from the waters near Japan!"

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Japan Reception

Img 4073 - Version 2Img 4072 - Version 2 (1)Kyoko Jones coordinates the Fulbright Memorial Fund Program in Japan. Perhaps because once again the United States is gripped with fear and embroiled in another war, I found Kyoko Jones' remarks tonight at the Welcome Reception in Tokyo deeply moving. I asked her if she would share them with me in print so I could share them with you. She graciously agreed, and I post them here in their entirety.

Some things that we take for granted initially come as surprises. Americans are decent people. The Japanese are decent people. Sixty years ago we were shocked to discover this about each other. American children had learned that “Japs” were underhanded, back stabbing sneaks who started the war. Japanese children learned that American marines were monsters willing to kill their own grandmothers. While these images were exaggerations, the hatreds and fears underlying them were real.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the death march at Bataan and the relentless kamikaze attacks revulsed Americans with their brutality. American efforts to starve Japan into submission, the nightly fire bombings of cities and the terrible carnage of the atomic bombs horrified the Japanese. People on each side were convinced that the others were monsters bent on destroying them. So when the people of Tokyo looked out over the piles of bodies and charred ruins that filled this city, they had little reason to welcome the American conquerors. When the Americans landed to find prison camps filled with emaciated and starving POW’s, they had little reason to feel sympathy for Japan.

There was all the potential for a protracted, bitter guerrilla war. The people of Japan were prepared for this, they had stored arms and had drilled everyone, even young children, in how to kill the enemy. The Americans expected fanatical resistance. Yet instead there was an uneasy peace in which both sides eyed each other warily.

Then gradually something amazing began to happen. It was a quiet thing, a beginning of understanding that the other was not alien, that the other was
indeed human. It had many roots. One of the most important ones sprang from a tiny seed that was planted almost unnoticed in U.S. legislation regarding the disposal of surplus war goods and resources left overseas.

It was a bill written by a young senator from what was then considered a backward rural state. He had realized that the disposal of war properties
could generate the funds needed to achieve one of his dreams. That senator, William Fulbright, had figured out how to turn the weapons of war into the
tools for building peace. He knew that shared educational experiences could bring people together and lead them to recognize and value each other’s common humanity and each other’s unique cultural identities and that that would become the basis for a lasting peace.

Japanese beneficiaries of this vision have gone on to become leaders in business, government, medicine and education. They have guided many of the initiatives that have brought Japan from the edge of starvation, misery and defeat to a position of prosperity and world leadership. So we, Japanese, feel a sense of on, indebtedness or obligation, to the Fulbright program and to the American people.

It still serves as shining examples of how education and international relations can fuse together to build a meaningful peace. It also provided Japan with the inspiration to do something to discharge this debt of honor - so you are here tonight as part of this process. We want you to be aware of this, so that you will recognize the debt that you and we owe to visionaries such as Senator Fulbright.

We feel we can never really repay this debt, which we actually owe to him, and to your parents or grandparents. Many past FMFers say they feel the same way about repaying Japan for this opportunity. But we don’t expect you to repay us, just as Senator Fulbright didn’t expect other countries to repay the U.S. Instead we expect you to feel the obligation to take the things you learn from this program back to your communities to enrich the lives of your students and others in the same way Fulbright scholars have enriched our lives in Japan.

Yet at the same time, we should acknowledge that you are adding to our sense of indebtedness. As you visit schools, towns and homes, you will touch the lives of the people you meet, you will expose them to a vibrant cross-section of America and you will inspire others to undertake their own
voyages of discovery. So in the end, we may be more indebted to America than before, but this sort of debt enhances life by making us more intensely aware of our mutual dependence, more aware of the fact we are true friends, who have freely undertaken obligations to each other, who can see how this has transformed us from being fierce unthinking enemies into people mutually committed to enhancing peace and the quality of life everywhere.
This is what we hope you will take home with you as a lasting treasure, a gift from our nations to each other.

Kyoko Jones 10/04/06

October 3, 2006

Japan's Assessment of Japanese Education

Img 3913 - Version 2Dr. Tsutomu Kimura, Former President of Tokyo Institute of Technology and currently the President of the National Institution for Academic Degrees: responsible for the national accreditation of teachers and policy-making in education

Presented below are some points of interest from Dr. Kirmura's presentation slides. This information was, by and large, not in his actual presentation, which provided a fascinating overview of education in Japan, often running contrary to our perceptions of Japan's schools. The presentation slides themselves will be uploaded when I return to the USA and can scan them.

Education Reform in Japan
• Going on at all levels
• Kindergarten (4 day nursing school) participation is at about 90% for day care
• System in place for about 60 years
• Elementary school at age 6 through age 12
• Lower secondary schools 12 - 15
• Upper secondary schools 15 - 18 (more than 98% go to secondary schools)
• University (including 2 year junior colleges: more than 50% of Japanese youth participate)

The "massification" of higher education is an effort to increase participation in higher education and is going on all over the world.

Img 3916 - Version 2Japan has a highly centralized educational administration, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and technology (MEXT). MEXT is designed to maintain efficiency and high standards. Government support of teacher salaries has been reduced last year from 50% to 33% to give more control to local authority. Present teacher certification is for life but is about to change to a 10 year renewable process. Japan has 750 universities, 89 of which are state universities under the authority of MEXT.

Illiteracy is considered a disgrace and 100% of Japanese are literate.

However, Japanese children have "serious problems:" excessive competition for university entrance examinations, the existence of "crammies," and deterioration of academic performance. Japanese children have large amounts of knowledge but lack ability to learn and think by themselves and apply their knowledge. They are too focused on the group and lack individual motivation.

Additionally, Japanese children are experiencing a rise in school violence and bullying which is markedly higher in their lower secondary schools (grades 7, 8 , and 9). They demonstrate an insufficient level o kindness to others, respect for life and human rights. The children are excessively competitive on exams, have an underdeveloped moral sense, and a delayed development of independence. The Central Council for Education was re-instated in 1995 to begin to deal with these issues.

"While Japanese have large amounts of knowledge, our students lack ability to learn and think by themselves. Kindness to others, respect for life and human rights are not sufficiently fostered."

Our sense of community before the war was high, but the Japanese are losing their sense of community, especially in the large cities.

"Room to grow" and "zest for living" have both become important key words for educational reform in Japan.

The survey for Social Ethics of High School Students was a survey for students in Japan, the USA, and China, asking if they thought the listed activity was bad. The results are not what Americans would probably think. I will post the results after Mabry students have had an opportunity to take the survey.

The Disciplining by Parents survey (of students from Japan, Korea, USA, UK and Germany) was "Are you told by your parents..."

I will post the results after Mabry students have had an opportunity to take the survey.

"I strongly believe that the lack of discipline from parents at home is the cause of our children's issues, not the performance of our teachers."

The PISA test is of interest indicating that from 1995 to 1999 the following changes took place: the percentage of 8th grade Japanese students who said mathematics was their favorite subject dropped from 53% to 48% while internationally it rose from 68% to 72%. The number of Japanese students who said they enjoyed studying math dropped from 46% to 38%. Those who said they wished to engage in an occupation using math dropped from 24% to 18%. And those who said math was important for daily life dropped from 71% to 62%.

The science statistics in this same survey dropped for Japanese students only 1 to 3%. However in the last indicator, the importance of science for daily life, Japanese students dropped from 48% to 39%.

Teachers were told in 2000 by the Minister of Education that the teaching manual [the Japanese equivalent to our curriculum standards] is only the minimum. The minister said teachers can teach more and should pay attention to individual student interests. They were also told to increase the amount of homework given to students. This statement caused significant increase in student performance.

As part of our Japanese history people would solve geometry problems and hang them in the shrines as a matter of great pride.

Toyota does not use any temp staff but tries to use fulltime employees, unlike other Japanese companies. Temp labor is creating serious problems with "zest for living."

In 2000 Japan reduced the school number of days spent at school from 6 days per week to 5 days per week to foster greater "zest for living."

Japan is making a huge transition from group to individual emphasis in an effort to foster greater "zest for living."

Basically, our perception that students in Japan are doing exceedingly well is not the perception the Japanese have for their educational progress. Therefore reform efforts are underway.

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Flight to Tokyo

Our flight boarded on time but then was delayed because of a concern about a backup hydraulic pump--not exactly what one wants to hear before flying over the Pacific Ocean for 10 hours. However, the flight proved to be rather uneventful but very tiring. I do not enjoy being seated for long periods of time, let alone being seated in the middle seat of five in rather cramped surroundings.

When we arrived at Narita International Airport, we went through immigration, picked up our luggage, and then went through customs. The gentleman assisting the line at immigration saw my name tag and said, "Tyson!" while smiling and making boxing gestures.

We were greeted by a steady stream of people directing us to the shuttle buses. The luggage carriers are free at the Narita airport, unlike Hartfield/Jackson in Atlanta. They are rather large. We were encouraged to use them as we had to carry our luggage some distance to the bus. Interestingly, these large metal carriers ride up and down the escalators in the airport. I had to do both. Had it come rolling back down the escalator, it would have killed us all, but the contraption works well actually.

The airport is an hour's drive from town. In route we were given yen for our meals during our stay. A typical informal meal should cost about 2,000 yen.

Img 3906 - Version 2Img 3947 - Version 2The Hotel, The New Otani, is very, very, very large (comprised of three enormous buildings and the connecting "malls" between them) and very nice, filled with shops, restaurants, and meeting areas. I'm staying on the 35th floor which has an expansive view of the city. I shot the picture on the left when I arrived. The picture on the right was taken of the exact same location in early morning. As one can easily see, the city is densely populated. (I don't know if the clouds are the product of the typhoon brewing in the Pacific or not.)

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October 2, 2006

Day One: In San Francisco

The day began early, 4:30AM, as I headed to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport for my 7:00AM flight to San Francisco. I arrived in San Francisco just after 9:00AM. Was the flight really only 2 hours long?

Img 3879 - Version 2Img 3880 - Version 2After checking in to the Sheraton near the airport, I took a walk around the hotel and snapped the pictures you see in this post: 2 pictures of the hotel and grounds, and a picture of the bay and San Francisco. San Francisco is not very close to the airport. In the distance, to the right, you can barely see the Golden Gate Bridge. From lunch until orientation time I had the opportunity to meet many people from all 50 states.

Img 3904 - Version 2Img 3902 - Version 2Our orientation program began at 2:15 with a welcome from Chris Powers, the Deputy Director of the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Washington, DC, followed by opening remarks from Deputy Consul General from the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, Kazuyoshi Yamaguchi. He was very warm, friendly and humorous.

David Satterwhite, the Executive Director of the Japan-United States Educational Commission (JUSEC) then gave a 29 point overview of the program. After a few other brief meetings, we met together in our city group.

After a few days in Tokyo, I am going to Arao in the Kumamoto prefecture. Our Arao group consists of 20 educators from around the country: a superintendent, a couple of principals, and a number of teachers, including a couple of teachers that work in digital media arts and journalism. The group seems vivacious and very creative.

We had the opportunity to have three former JFMFer participants present to us about their trips. Their presentations were informative and very interesting. I'm excited to have this opportunity and can't wait to land in Japan.

The time change proved a bit difficult as dinner ended around midnight Atlanta time. Tomorrow I board the second flight out to Japan, at about 1:45PM. Flying over I will lose a day and experience a huge time difference!

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September 30, 2006

The Project Begins

Well, I'm almost all packed and ready to fly to San Francisco tomorrow. From San Francisco I'll head off to Tokyo on October 2nd. In the mean time, I'm publishing this podcast that introduces this collaborative project, explaining what it's purpose is, and welcoming other to participate.

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Since this project began, 20 posts and 15 comments have been published in the categories listed below.

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