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Page history last edited by Emily Romm 8 years, 9 months ago


Emily Romm's Trip to Japan 2012



                                               Afterwards,  and thank you!


    Only three weeks after return, and my trip to Japan is becoming a memory!

Yet Japan became part of my reality - my former students that I was able to reconnect with, families who helped during my stay, schools that I visited - all of it makes it so much more than just a tourist destination!

Yes, Japan is a beautiful country, and at some point of my life I will spend more time there enjoying its beauty. The glimpse of Japan that I was able to see is its incredible warmth and hospitality, gratitude and elegance - I don't think I have ever had such gratifying experience in human interaction anywhere else.

 I would like to thank SET-J members at Lawrence and in Japan, as well as the Japanese community at Lawrence School for selecting me, and arranging everything to the tiniest details, foreseeing any possible difficulties I might encounter, so my trip would be flawless (and it was!). The high level of cooperation of people who took part in organizing this trip to me reflects the functionality of the country. 

Visiting schools gave me much better understanding of assumptions and expectations of our Japanese students and their parents; it exposed me to different concepts of teaching and communication within a school.

I was excited to see our former students excelling in their schools in Japan, and keeping their Lawrence School friendships and their English language alive.

    All the time in Japan I felt I was surrounded by friends, and I hope this feeling stays with me for a long time.




  Very truly yours,

   Emily Romm 






I will be leaving for Japan in 9 days!

Things are busy at Lawrence, Halloween is next Wednesday.

There is Halloween costume swap in front of school.



The weather is really gorgeous this fall - I wonder, how will it be in Japan?


October 28, 2012

Make the way for ducklings!

These ducks knew where to cross the road. I saw them near Isabelle Gardner Museum.



On Monday, October 29th, and on Tuesday, October 30th, schools were closed because of hurricane Sandy.


School reopened just in time for Halloween parade!

Everybody had a great time!




Today we had Japanese Food Fair. It was a smashing success!

Here are some picks from the big gym.              

I am in Tokyo! After a long, long trip ( about 23 hours of traveling ), I finally arrived to my destination.

At the hotel I was met by Marina and her mom..

We had a lovely dinner. Tomorrow I will be visiting Marina' s school, and later will be meeting with Lawrence School alumni in Tokyo.


November 5, 2012, visit to Kunitachi Elementary School


Kunitachi Elementary School is a private school, Kg -6 grade.

The school is located in a nice campus, and you have to pass through security gate to get in.Parents have to wear special badges while on campus.

In the lobby we had to change our shoes to slippers, and then Mrs. Suzuki and I were brought to a meeting room. We were offered tea, and then Mr.Yokazawa, the principal of the school for almost 30 years, told us about the school.

I was given a chance to see some classes for different grade levels.A homeroom teacher of a third grade, Ms. Takakewa, showed us around the school.


Every class has a homeroom teacher, but different subjects are taught by specialists.

We attended many classes: Marina's English class, art class, eurhythmics - music and movement class,


music class, instrumental ensemble, and another English class. This school is affiliated with Kunitachi Music University, and the students are given opportunities to study music, as well as other subjects. The top floor of the school has 11 classrooms for private music lessons and small ensembles. Students play piano, violin, flute, and clarinet, but in instrumental music class that we saw, they were playing accordions, marimbas, pianicas, and flutes.


It seems that teachers built very integrated curriculum; in music class they were learning a song about Mount Fuji, because students recently went on a hiking trip there. That same teacher in music class asked the students to analyze similes and metaphors in the text of the song. In the art class the teacher used a technique that would help help develop fine motor skills, and would be good for musicians.


Surprisingly many teachers were males. At recess some teachers played badminton and other games with students.The school has one large playground and a patio between buildings.


Many things reminded me of Lawrence. Here is Kunitachi Elementary School library.


I was very impressed with school interior. Here how the girls bathroom looks like.


 The nurse's office in the school also looks different: 


The school is not big, about 60 students in every grade, and the oldest students are 6th graders. By the end of my visit I felt pretty much part of the school, so many faces looked familiar. At the end of our visit the principal showed us a monument near the school entrance. This monument symbolizes how teachers, parents, and all educators work together helping students to develop.



After leaving the school campus Mrs. Suzuki showed me area of Kunitachi Station, and we also visited campus of Hitotsubashi University. It looks like nicest university town, and the campus reminds Princeton campus.


After gourmet lunch in a stylish French restaurant, it was time to say good-bye and move to Tokyo.

I got out at Tokyo Station, and navigated my way through crowds of people to the hotel.

Soon it was time to attend Lawrence School alumni reunion. Shunta's family came to the hotel to bring me to the reunion place.



I was very tired when I got there, after all I only arrived in Japan yesterday. But then I saw students and their parents, and it made every minute of my flight so worth it!

Everyone looked terrific!



And the young siblings ( some of them born in Boston ) looked incredibly cute!

Here are some pics from the reunion. It was very dark in the room, but you can still recognize people.

Ayano and Hitomi

Mai and Yui

Kota and his mom

Shuta, Shunta, Yu, Goma, and Shunsuke

Manami's family and Yu

Rin's family

Riko and Rise


Hitomi and Miyuki

We had a wonderful time, and it was hard to part, but it was a weekday ( Monday), and children had to go to school next morning.

Afterwords I walked a little around night Tokyo, and went to the hotel, because next morning I had to make my way to Haneda Airport, and fly to Fukuoka.


November 6, 2012


It was raining in Tokyo when I left, and the weather was bright and sunny in Fukuoka.

Mrs. Naito met me at the airport and brought me to hotel. I walked a little around Fukuoka, and in the evening I was invited to a restaurant to try one of many meals that originated in Fukuoka.  Fukuoka is a birthplace of many Japanese cuisines, ramen is one of them. We went to a Japanese restaurant to eat mizutaki. Mizutaki is a meal based on chicken broth. Vegetables are added to chicken stock, and It is slowly cooked in a stove in the middle of the table. 

Fuki and Masaatsu 

and their parents

We had a wonderful evening. This restaurant is famous, and the notes on the wall are written by famous people who ate there.


November 7, 2012

Today I will visit Fukuoka Futaba Elementary School, a private catholic school for girls. Fuki Naito is a student in this school, and Mrs. Naito attended this school as a girl.

The school is beautifully located on top of the hill.

You can see the city from the school window.


We were met by the principal and the vice-principal of the school, and also by two English teachers, who were my guides during the day.



I was explained that the philosophy of teaching in the school is focused on four points: mind, aspire, communication, and curriculum.

The students are taught in a program similar to "Understanding disabilities" in Brookline, older students are given the opportunity to develop their understanding further, helping in nursing homes and community centers.

The school is hosting  international students. Global Citizen is a program to help children learn and communicate with students from other countries.



The photographs of exchange students are in the front lobby. 

There is a lot of continuity in the school among teachers and among students.Mrs. Naito;s third grade teacher is a vice-principal of the.school, and the English teacher is also a graduate of this school, as well her her mother. 

English is one of the strong sides of the curriculum. There are two levels of English: mainstream and intensive. The school is starting content instruction in English for more advanced students. They start with math in second grade, and next year they will add science in third grade. This program makes Futaba very different from public schools, where foreign language starts only in grade 5.

Here are some of the 1st grade students' English projects:


This project is another example of cooperative teaching: the students had visited post office with their homeroom teachers, and then in art class they drew a car that delivers mail. Finally, they used this picture to illustrate their English writing.

Older students use language lab at least once a week.


The technology allows teacher to listen to any student or pair of students as he assigns them a dialogue.

Classes at Futaba Elementary include from 30 to 36 students.

The school has junior high and high school located in the same campus in neighboring buildings.

Current building of elementary school will undergo reconstruction in the next two years, and students will be using different facilities, like Lawrence school in 2002 - 2004. 

The girls wear uniforms, like in many schools in Japan.

In art class they learned about light, 

and in music class they were using pianicas:

Classes are neatly arranged, displaying many students' projects. Lunchboxes and water bottles have special place:



At the end we had an opportunity to talk to two other teachers of Japanese language and music.

They showed me textbooks, talked about their students, and asked a lot of questions about schools in Brookline.


After school visit I had some free time, and upon recommendations of Mrs. Naito, I went to Dazaifu, city of ancient culture, and a popular tourist destination.

Here are some pics from my trip.








There is Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu


Outside                                                                                                                                     Inside museum








The museum specializes in Asian cultures, but the current exhibits were Japanese masterpieces from Boston MFA, and Berlin Art Museum collection of European

painting (which included Vermeer painting among other masterpieces)




This is a walkway from the museum to the shrine.


Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is in the memory of Michizane Suwagara, known as the god of learning. Students come here before exams hoping that it will bring them good luck.


In the evening, after a delicious dinner,  it was time to say good-bye.                                               


November 8, 2012


In the morning Mrs. Naito came to hotel and brought me to the train station. I was going to Hiroshima, where I would have to dedicate cranes sent from Lawrence School and visit Peace Memorial.

I was to take bullet train to go there.

On the train station there is an indication of car numbers, helping passengers to find their place and wait in line.


I arrived in Hiroshima early, and the visit to the museum was scheduled for next day. In the hotel I was given detailed directions how to get to Miyajima Island, a place of natural beauty that also hosts many shrines and temples. I was unaware that it also hosts many deer. Deer is a sacred animal in Japan, and the population of deer on the island is quite large.

Here are some views of the island:
















I went back to Hiroshima, and stopped at oysters' place. Hiroshima is famous for its seafood.




  November 9, 2012


In the morning Mrs. Unezaki, the interpreter, came to the hotel. We went to see the epicenter of the atomic bomb before visiting the museum. 


We proceeded to the A-bomb dome, the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall,  preserved by the Japanese government as a reminder of the tragedy.



Next Mrs. Unezaki brought me to Aioi bridge,  which was the target of the bomb.


We proceeded to Peace Memorial Park, where the museum was located. I visited museum on my own, and Mrs. Unezaki met me in the lobby. She had a bouquet of flowers from the Lawrence community, and I brought it to the Peace Memorial.



I also dedicated paper cranes made by the Lawrence School students.


Mrs. Unezaki interpreted during the meeting with A-bomb survivor.       

It was very emotional meeting.

Outside many school children were singing songs of peace in the park. 

I had to leave Hiroshima, and make my way to Nara, where I was staying with the family of my former student Honoka.

It's been 6 years since Honoka left Lawrence, and it was hard to believe how grown she became.

And her little sister, who was a toddler in Brookline, now is a second grade student.



We ate a delicious meal called sukiyaki, prepared with Kobe beef. 

This beef had a pedigree 





It was quite late, and it was time to sleep.  


First time in my life I slept in tatami room,    and I have never slept that well in many years.




November 10, 2012

It was Saturday, a perfect day for sightseeing. The destination was Nara Park, and Todai-Ji Temple, that houses the largest Buddha in the world. It is a World Heritage site.

Nara Park is also filled with deer, and you can feed them with special deer cookies.


Before going to the temple, I was introduced to another culinary experience, yuba, and the entire tofu-based dinner.              


   Yubu is a skin of soy milk that appears while the milk is slowly heated. The whole dinner, even desert, was made of tofu - based dishes, and it was delicious!!! 

Todai-Ji Temple had many visitors. It is very large, and it is situated on expansive grounds. 











This is a life -size replica of a lotus petal at Buddha feet.                                                                                                                                                    


After that we walked to a shrine, where some girls were having coming of age ceremony






On the way back to the car we ate zenzai - a sweet red bean soup with rice cakes   


I felt very fortunate to experience exceptional Japanese hospitality, and it was time to move to my last destination - Kyoto.

I arrived in Kyoto toward evening, and prepared for tomorrow sightseeing. I was on my own (or so I thought) for a day, and I had very detailed instructions from the Lawrence family what to see in Kyoto.


  November 11, 2012


I knew it was going to be rainy day, and it really was very, very rainy. 

It didn't stop tourists, they just got their umbrellas out. The views are from Kyomizu Dera, big temple built on stilts.

The scenery was beautiful, even in the rain.











  I also went to another famous place, Heian Shrine. It has beautiful gardens and a pond.




Kyoto narrow streets in the rain looked fantastic!          




Tomorrow is my last day in Kyoto, and also the last school visit.


     November 12, 2012


 In the morning Mrs. Nakamura came to the hotel, and we took a subway to Takakura Elementary School. 

We got there before school started, and saw some students practicing for relay style race. Then the fifth grade students lined up at the door, and greeted everybody coming into school.   The announcements were done by students through loudspeakers, and the children entered school. Soon they were out, because before before school they can play outside for about 25 min. Students in this school do not wear uniforms, but they have caps with school name and information.This school is in the center of Kyoto, which is a prominent cultural and historic center. Birth place of ikebana is located not far from school. The students are exposed to cultural heritage every day. The school is decorated with cultural objects that belong to a museum.      






                                                                                                                             This is an old rice sorting machine.


            Some traditional decorations, like these ikebanas,  are done by students                                    


and some, like this tatami mat,  are done by local artisans for students. 


  The students' artwork and projects brighten hallways.



 Takakura Elementary School has excellent facilities:

         gym                                                                                                                                                 swimming pool                   


  The indoor swimming pool becomes outdoor swimming pool, when the roof is lifted during hot summer days.



  The school has open classrooms, two classes share one space.The classrooms are large, and they place large number of students -up to 40. 

There are several spaces in school intended for quiet reading.

Students are encouraged to read at all times.They have something like DEAR time for the whole school. In the library we met parents who were preparing to read to students during recess. They rehearsed a folk tale in kamishibai style. At recess the students can choose to go outside or come to the library and listen to a story.

I also had a chance to read to them - in English. I read Eric Carle's books (with Mrs. Nakamura help) to three first grade classes.      

We visited many classes. In each class, and for each subject, including music,  the students had  textbooks. They were timed for their assignments, the timer was set on a large white board.   


The assignments seemed to be creative; in one class (I think it was social studies class) they were asked to design a car of the future. 

  Sometimes they switched setting to work with one or more partners.




 Very often the students were put in charge of certain procedure in class: making announcements, monitoring order. 

They were bringing lunch to classrooms:, or serving lunch




 Usually students eat in their classrooms, but once in a while they eat Japanese lunch with some teachers in tatami room. I got a chance to eat with 1 graders.           


The students finish their meals, and the teachers encourage them to do it. They also take recycling very seriously, neatly folding milk cartons and packing them in crate. 

After lunch we went back to the principal's office (she was with Mrs. Nakamura and me the whole time) to take pictures.The bright green slippers are inside shoes that everyone has to change into. Before entering a bathroom you have to change these slippers to special bathroom slippers.


It was a wonderful school, and,  thank you to Mrs. Nakamura, I was able to see it, understand what was happening, and converse with the principal, who had many questions about our school.

After thanking the principal and the vice- principal many times, we left school.

Mrs. Nakamura helped me to buy souvenirs, and even some artwork in a printing shop.

I was very grateful for everything.

We parted, but in the evening we met again, this time with the whole family.

After eating sushi mostly in Coolidge Corner, I had a chance to try Japanese sushi, and it was delicious!


My trip was coming to an end. 

Tomorrow I will be flying back to Boston.

I was looking forward to spend long hours in the airplane,  and to process all incredible things that I experienced in Japan, and to think about many wonderful people who I met. 

I will miss them, but I hope that we will meet again, this time maybe in Brookline.






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