18 Jan 2008
I almost missed a highlight of the trip. I was at the right place at the right time and got invited to join a couple other teachers who had been invited to go out with two of the parents we met at the parent group. I jumped at the opportunity, but as the day wears on, one gets pretty tired. I was going to back out but when I talked to the contact member of our group she told me that several had already bailed. I did not want to make a bad impression on our hosts and I figured where there were fewer people, I would have more of an opportunity to get to talk on a personal level with some Japanese parents. Was that a good decision!
The parents picked us up from school in a mini van. There were two parents and four female teachers. Our first stop was a surprise as they offered to take us to a cemetery where one of the parents relatives was recently buried. The cemeteries are small in physical space and the graves very close together. Of course, most of those buried are Buddhist so the stones and memorials are a little different. Here are the pictures.
Our next stop was a surprise also. We went to one of the parents home and she offered to show us the family shrine that had been passed down to her. We learned about what was in the shrine, what the scrolls outside of the shrine meant and how it was used. Based on the prices of very small shrines in shops, this one had to be worth tens of thousands of dollars. It was beautiful and amazing.
In her home, I saw and learned first hand about some of the things my students and I had read aboutlike the table that has the foot warmer under it and is covered by what we think of as a blanket. The daughter had taken exams that day and was suffering from a headache and was too sick to join us following the stress of the exam. A favorite snack was natofermented soybeans. Families are small with one child, but community members seem close and friendly.
We made a quick stop for shopping then went to one of the parents relatives sushi restaurants for dinner. The restaurant was very nice and traditional in its style. We sat on the floor around a low table. Of course, no shoes were worn in. The food was incredibly beautiful in presentation and very tasteful. Once again, as was so often the case, we were treated likely royalty. The food and beverage just kept coming. Who would have ever thought that ordering a beer would be served in something about the size of large quart bottle. Other patrons in the small restaurant were interested in what was going on at our table (one must remember that we do not look like any of the Japanese so we stand out where ever we go J As we were advised early on in the trip, You are easily identifiable.) The men were the first to come over to introduce themselves to us but they could speak very little English, and they had probably been drinking those large bottles of beer. They returned back to their table after much laughter and hand shaking with the women at the table shaking their heads and laughing at them. I have no idea what was being said to them in Japanese but it kept everyone in stitches, and as laughter is so contagious, everyone was having fun.
As I said, the food and beverage kept coming but in Japan, driving after drinking is a very serious offense so our driver had green tea. We had beer and sake and finished up our meal of soup, sushi, tempura, and other unidentified appetizers and servings with hot green tea, served in the large, traditional tea cups. This green tea is a thick powder and it quite a bit stouter but than what we have here. It is also the color of grassvery different from what we serve.
We had a wonderful time and learned so much about Japanese families from our parent hosts despite our language barrier. It was truly a high light of the trip and I am so thankful that I didnt cancel myself out. Many thanks to Barbara Moore from Colorado for having made this opportunity possible through her warmth in meeting the parents.
posted Friday January 2008