This morning I met Mrs. Unezaki who accompanied me to Hakushima Elementary School. I spent the day with a sixth grade class of 29 students. Our day began with a briefing from the principal and the teacher I would be with today, Ms. Kae Fukunaga, a teacher whose energy was infectious. She informed me that they had prepared a special schedule for me today and that the students were very excited to welcome their first American sensei to the school. We walked up to the classroom where a classroom full of curious smiling faces greeted me. They stood and gave a loud and boisterous “Good Morning Keser sensei!”
The day began with a morning meeting where the teacher took attendance and verbally checked on the health of every student. This is a daily routine. If a student reports any ailments, they are directed to the nurse. The schedule for the day was reviewed and then it was off to the gymnasium for P.E. There are no P.E. teachers, so Ms. Fukunaga led a class of tumbling, calisthenics, yoga and jumping rope. I later learned she is a third level master of kendo, one of the most disciplined of the Japanese martial arts.
We returned to the school classroom for their weekly English lesson. Last April, new standards were put in place for mandatory English instruction or grades 5+. The Hiroshima model focuses on conversational English and vocabulary acquisition. Today’s lesson was on number in the hundreds and the exchange of goods while shopping. I got involved with this lesson playing a shop keeper or shopper in a verbal exchange of selling and purchasing goods. The shopper greeted the shop keeper and inquired about the price of various items depicted on colored cards. The shop keeper named a price and the shopper bartered. Once a price was set, play money and cards were exchanged. To make it more of game, the shoppers were encouraged to buy as much as they could and the shop keepers to make as much money as possible.
Recess came next where I was taken outside and schooled in Japanese dodge ball. This is a very different version than we play back in the states. Let’s just say that I spent more time in the outfield due to being nailed with the ball. Not for lack of trying, I was more confused by the rules and positions of play. First off, the field is roughly drawn out in the gravel, there is an infield and outfield, so when you get out you move to the outfield behind the opposing team where you can field missed balls and attack the other team from behind. There is only one ball in play during the game so it is easy to stay focused on where the ball is headed. It was just my luck that one of the girls was a national judo champion. Built like a high school wrestler, this was the first 6th grade girl I had met whom I did not want to mess with. Every time she had the ball, the kids would scatter and warn me of how strong she was.
After recess we were off to Home Economics. I worked alongside the students to sew tissue holders out of felt fabric. This class is part of a gender quality movement in all schools. Every child had his/her own sewing kit. Art class came next. Again, each student had their own art kit of brushes and watercolor paints. They had a lesson in gradation of color. Recently they had completed painted images of Hiroshima castle, which could be seen from the windows of their 4th floor classroom.
For lunch, a few of students changed into white smocks and put on face masks, gloves and caps and headed to the kitchen to retrieve trays, bowls, plates and spoons, along with baskets of milk, bread, cheese and buckets of stew and eggs with spinach and pork. These were all taken back to the classroom where the students set up a lunch line and ate at their desks. The entire process was very orderly and efficient. After lunch clean up I observed a student council meeting where representative of grades 3-6 met in a separate classroom to discuss and vote on plans for a student led festival. I was really impressed by this group. They followed a democratic protocol of parliamentary procedure.
We ended the day with a closing meeting where I played a game with kids and they sang me a song and played their recorders as a farewell gesture. The staff and students gave me a warm send off. I really appreciated getting to spend the day here.
One of the mothers of the students from this class, Mrs. Rumi Watanabe, met me after school and together we travelled to Miyajima Island. After taking the train 25 minutes south, we boarded a passenger ferry for the 10 minutes ride across the bay. Oyster platforms floated on the water nearby.
The Itsukushima Shrine located at the base of steep forested hillsides that rise out of the water. The red entrance gate, or torii is positioned in the water a few hundred yards from the shine, looking as though it is floating on the bay. We docked at the ferry terminal and made out way past the narrow shop lined street towards the temple and shrine. Pine trees and stone pagodas decorated the path. Local deer were abundant and overly friendly with the tourist. Mostly looking for food, they would approach you, curiously sniffing the contents of your bags. No wonder, as the air was filled with the smells of local food vendors selling all sorts of local delicacies including roasted oysters, yakitori and maple cakes.
Shine at high tide
We took out time exploring the shrine and tide pools that surround it and walked through a small museum nearby to see their collection of Shogun era artifacts. On our way out of the shrine we stopped to sample several of the food offerings. It was all delicious, especially the grilled oysters washed down with a cold Asahi. They reminded me of Hood Canal oysters, big and juicy.
Shop lined streets
torii at sunset
As night was falling, it was time to return to Hiroshima where Rumi and her friend Yuko took me out to dinner. We explored the commercial district around my hotel and found the restaurant Hawaiandaininguandokafe Ohana. They ordered a HUGE spread of food and I tried all sorts of things that were firsts for me including parts of the chicken we would not normally eat back home prepared teriyaki style. Tempura sardines, pickled vegetables, a stew of pork, carrot, udon, and potato, crab cakes, sushi, spinach with bacon and sesame dressing, tempura horse mackerel as well. Every bite was amazing. We drank a cocktail made from sweet potato liquor that was slighting sweet and dry served on the rocks.
Afterwards we parted ways and I headed back to my hotel to Skype with family and then head to bed. On a sad note, I have no pictures to post for this day as I lost my camera someplace after the return trip on the Miyajima ferry. I think I left it on the ferry. Total bummer. I could care less about the camera I just want the photos! So you will have to use your imagination for images from the school and dinner. I have inserted stock photos of Miyajima of the places I visited on the island. I have my camera phone to use for the rest of the trip, so there will be images to come of the days ahead.
Tomorrow I will head back to the Children’s Peace Memorial to dedicate the 1000 paper cranes and then catch the bullet train for Osaka. Once there, I will visit the Old Japanese Farm House in the afternoon and the Umeda Sky Observatory and Dotonbori in the evening. Only two and half more days left and already I am wishing I could stay longer.