Thursday, July 20, 2006

Assorted Images (See Below for Welcome!)


Welcome to my blog! Unlike teen blogs that recount things that no one really should be seeing and say things about teachers that would make student grades suffer if viewed, this site is dedicated to my recent journey to Japan as a Toyota International Teacher. To keep this site from being too overwhelming, I chose some of the highlight photos of my trip since my entire collection of shots numbers over 1,000. Just as the books in Japan open back to front, this website should be viewed bottom to top. So scroll down and enjoy!
Debra Cole

Japanese Food and Drink

Here are a few of the tastes of Japan.

Did I Mention it was HOT?

Japan is a wonderful country, but I suspect spring and fall to be the ideal times to visit. Many of us found creative ways to quell the 99 degree heat with 99% humidity that surrounded our daily experiences.

Nagasaki Peace Museum

Somber and sobering, the Nagasaki Peace Museum is a must for any traveler open to seeing issues from a global perspective. Exhibits include testimonials from survivors, artifacts that were impacted by the blast, timelines of events, clocks stopped at the moment of impact, memorials at the impact sight, and numerous, colorful paper cranes made by school children displayed throughout.

Noko Town

Our host families returned us to the group at the Noko Town marina. It was an idealic setting as boats returned with the catch of the morning and workers sorted and boxed the day's selections.

Host Family Visit

Many of us had the honor of being a guest in a host family's house for a night while in Japan. Our lovely family, a successful local fisherman, his wife, and 20 year old son, were the perfect hosts. With the language barrier that existed, the Japanese/English dictionary and sign language were our best friends.

Samurai Lord Matsua's Graveyard

Covered in moss and surrounded by stone lanterns, this Hirado highlight is truly spiritual. This peaceful samarai cemetary was the perfect entrance to our Onsen Hotel.

Hirado 5th Graders

These are just a few words to describe by time at Hirado Elementary School. I will treasure my experiences with these wonderful kids forever.

Hirado Elementary School

Treated like rock stars, the "castle group" was treated to a musical number based on a tradtitional fisherman song, origami artwork, and hundreds of excited students at Hirado Elementary School. I had the honor of being a part of a 5th grade class as they studied parrallel lines during math time.

Hirado Castle Walking Tour

Hirado Castle is built on top of a hill overlooking the bay and the city. Ideal protection for invading rival forces of it's time. Now it is a museum housing many of the area's ancient Samuri history. The grounds were imaculate and and views were spectacular.

99 Islands Cruise

After arriving at Nagasaki Airport, we headed off to Pearl Sea Yacht Harbor to begin our separate journeys around the southern area of Kyushu. My "Castle" group headed off in our boat for a tour of the 99 Islands, which are actually many more that 99, on our way to Hirado Island. The beautiful rock formations and numerous pearl farms along the way made the journey memorable.

Iori House Final Party

After a day full of artistic instruction from master in their fields, we were treated to a fantastic meal and demonstration of the arts we had just learned. Our calligraphy master entertained the group with his witty banter, stylistic brushstroke, and desire for continuous libations.

Noh Drama

Noh drama is masked theater, and the masks themselves are works of great beauty. Each character has a particular mask associated with it. Over 200 handcarved and painted masks exist. Full performances also involve costumes of elaborate brocade, and golden crowns above the masks. The stage, in contrast, is always bare. The only "set" is a painting of an aged pine tree at the back of the stage.

Tea Ceremony

According to Alex Kerr, tea ceremony is a form of "moving mediation," which aims to create, in the short time that the host serves tea to a guest, a microcosm of paradise. Host and guest inhabit a small space that is pure, quiet, harmonious, and thoughtful. The four Principles of Tea include: Wa (Harmony), Sei (Purity), Kei (Respect), and Jaku (Solitude).

Waraku Martial Arts

According to the Kyoto Iori program, "martial arts" is the standard English translation fo the art forms that grew out of ancient swordsmanship, but the word "martial" is a misnomer, because what is taught at the Iori program is about peace, not about fighting. Waraku focuses on the eight fundamental movements that the human body can make. These are a series of spirals, that cover in and out, up and down, and the four cardinal directions. The spiral is the fundamental line of the universe, the path that planets, stars, and galaxies traverse.


There is an old Chinese saying, "Calligraphy is a painting of the heart." This is because, being a form of handwriting, it expresses something of the inner spirit of the writer. Although, like many art forms, calligraphy requires a certain amount of technique, Kyoto's Iori instructor, host, and calligraphy artist Alex Kerr explains that "calligraphy is the freest of the arts. The calligrapher rises above technique and strives to draw a "portrait of the heart."

Kiyomizu-dera Waterfall

Flowing forth from deep within the mountain for thousands of years, the waterfall is counted among the ten most famous pure water sites in Japan. Drink from only 1 stream and 1 year of life is added. Drink from 2 streams and 2 years of life are added. Drink from all 3 streams and one receives as much life as needed. Of course, I drank from all 3 just to be sure.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera (Clear Water Temple on Sound-of-Feathers Mountain) was established over 1200 years ago at the end of the Nara Period, 778 a.d. It's majestic views and numerous structures call many tourists daily.

Sanjusangen-do Temple

With its 1000 standing images of Thousand-Armed Kannon and 1 Central Buddha, the National Treasure of Sanjusangen-do is a sight to behold. This was the first of many shrines and temples where many of us were interviewed by groups of junior high school students practicing their english.

Nagoya Castle by Night

With every moment counting, three of us went in search of Nagoya Castle in the evening hours after a already rigorous day of exploration. It was well worth the search. The highlight of this adventure was meeting a local man at his family shrine along the way. He was gracious enough to explain what he was doing in broken english as we tried to communicate in our broken japanese.


Our day of visiting Toyota's Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Kaikan, and Tsutsumi Plant yielded scores of information. Between futuristic people movers, hybrid cars, the Toyota Production System, and viewing the Camry and Prius assembly line, all came to a deeper respect for Toyota, its products, and its philosophies.

Shinkansen Ride

A ride to Nagoya via the sinkansen (bullet train) was fast, roomy, and delightful. The one thing riders have to be aware of is they have 1 minute to exit the train before it speeds off to the next destination. Now imagine 40 teachers exiting.......RUN!!!!!

Meiji Shrine

A visit to the Meiji Shrine showed program participants enter, purify, and pray at these majestic sites.

Soka University

As educators, we had the honor of meeting with University of Soka Humanities students for a question and answer session as well as lunch. Professor Lary MacDonald also shared his views on education reform in Japan.


Kabuki in Tokyo's famous Kabuki-Za Theater in Ginza was incredible. We stayed for two of the three shows KURAYAMI NO USHIMATSU and MIGAWARI ZAZEN both in their final nights of the run.

The PTA moms from Koganei Kita High School served tea in the school tea room as we first arrived for our visit. Our tables were decorated with beautfiul fans, rice snacks, and origami cranes.

Koganei Kit High School

Koganei Kita High School in Tokyo is an academic school that prides itself on its bright students, solid curriculum, and variety of activities. The wonderful students that we spoke to were gracious and well poised.

Baseball in Tokyo Dome

Going to a baseball game in the Tokyo Dome is amazing. Fans waive flags to get the crowds excited, eat octopus balls to nurish themselves, and twirl pastel umbrellas when a play is successful. Here, viewers can see the helpful and friendly "refreshment" girls.

Tokyo's Dog

A great spot to meet in Tokyo is at the "dog" at Shibuya Station. Hachiko, the dog who waited on his late master at Shibuya Station every day from 1923 to 1935, became a national celebrity because of his loyalty. A statue of Hachiko was built adjacent to the station, and the surrounding Hachiko Square is now the most popular meeting point in the area.

Tokyo - Ginza District by Night

The Ginza District in Tokyo was alive with bright lights, dazzling images, and scores of people. It was like being in New York City without the trash and crime!

Japan 2006: A Journey of a Lifetime

This site is to celebrate my Summer 2006 journey to Japan as a Toyota International Teacher. I was honored to be chosen as one of the 40 high school educators across the United States to explore the colorful nation of Japan. Whether in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nagasaki, or the small wonderful towns of Kyushu, it was the warmth and generosity of the people of Japan that made this adventure one that I will never forget.