Day 9

MONDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2007. (DAY 9)

Up early and tried to repack some things into a small bag!  Paid my Internet bill of Y4700, and then onto the bus awaiting my cohort group of teachers going to Ota-ku.    There are to be nineteen of us, plus a guide and an interpreter when necessary.  On to a bus we went.  As we headed to the area or ward of Tokyo called “Ota”, we had a tour of the sites along the way.   Our first stop was at the prestigious Tokyo University.  In Japanese, it is called Tokyo Daiga and shortened to To-Dai in conversation.  Here we walked through the campus and went to the Graduate Department of Education.  Here we had two presentations about the educational system which was quite eye-opening.  Each presentation lasted about an hour, and then it was time to go to lunch.  From the University, we headed to an area not well regulated on building consttuction, so there are many unusual shapes and sizes, and an area that was built on fill materials.  We stopped at a multi-level shopping center and walked to the top floor and went in to an Italian restaurant.  We had the buffet, which was a Japanese-Italian with hot and sour meats to pizzas and spaghetti with curried beef.  All we had to pay for was our drink and that was Y399 !  With the time remaining after lunch we were able to take a quick tour of the multi storied building and go into the many different kinds of shops.  One shop I found very fascinating was a Beetle Shop.  It sold giant grubs, egg sacs, inhabited wood logs, and stag hour beetles, stag beetles and the pincher beetles.  Then back on to the bus and to the Ota City Offices.  When we arrived we were taken up inside the building where we were seated at a giant wooden table.  In comes the Mayor of Ota.  He sits directly across from me and his entourage.  He wishes us well and gives us information about Ota.  Then we go to another room where more information about Ota is shared and then in comes the Superintendent of Schools.  He shares information with us.  Then we are given a tour of the building.   We saw different government areas.  Then we were taken into the Disaster (show)Room.  Amazing.  From here they can monitor the all of the ward of Tokyo with cameras and sensors.  We were allowed to operate the video watching system.   This was absolutely amazing as I was able to control the survellience cameras looking all around this Ota Ward of Tokyo.  Amazing.  I was able to look into the planes at the airport which is several miles away.  This is used primarily used to view fires or disastrous situations, like destruction from an earthquake, etc.  There were computers to send information if they are able and also computers connected to the seismograph which is located in the basement of this building.  We also were able to see the emergency announcing booth, where an official could give emergency broadcast information to the citizenary.  At the end of this part of the tour, they opened the emergency ration cans and gave each of us a special ration of  a can of tuna and specially sealed crackers.  We then headed down to the main floor and then out to the bus where we were taken up to their convention hall area where there is a temple, a 5-story pagoda and an observation tower.  When we climbed it, there was Fuji way, way, way off in the distance, towering completely above Tokyo and all of its skyscrapers!  The sun was just about gone.  It was time to enter the hall.  We were given new name tags that were coded with our host families who would also be attending this evenings special welcome to Ota reception.  The hospitality and generosity extended by literally every single person (scheduled or unscheduled) has been overwhelmingly kind and generous, and it appears that it will continue.  It was extremely hot in the hall, so some of us waited outside.  Then several officials came and got us.  We lined up in pairs and then suddenly, these giant palace-like door opened and applause took place as we were announced and entered into the hall.  The center of the hall was covered with tables lavished with all kinds of food and cakes.  We were escorted to the stage and there were several, no more than several, speeches of welcome which were all translated by our hosts who have been with us since we left the Tokyo Prince, and will be with us until we finish.  The Mayor, the superintendent, the school board, some select others all bid welcome.  The we had to introduce ourselves in Japanese.  It was quite fun and fine.  Our host families that were there, some actually waved to us on the stage. Then all the guests were introduced one-by-one.  My host family was announced, and the hostess Mrs. Emily Yamamoto and her son Who-Yea (yes, they Englished-ized their names for me) were there and waved.  Once the welcome speeches and intros were finished we were able to go and actually meet the family.  Emily’s husband and their daughter were not able to attend, but I should see them on Saturday.  (Dr Yamamoto is away, representing the University and may not be back before I leave their home on Sunday afternoon).  Who-Yea just returned from two weeks in Boston, at Harvard taking a special course of certification and he brought the official certification diploma for me to see.  I think this family is very smart and clever.  Mrs. Yamamoto is also the elementary school principal where we will be going in a couple of days.  So, she was busy continuing to make arrangements with all the dignitaries that were there.  Then, we were asked to put down our food and drink after a special toast and the doors burst open with a traditional dance ceremony and band that performed for about 15-30 minutes and then had everyone in attendance dance with them.  Quite fun and interesting.  Then we were told the bus was waiting and the welcome party was to conclude and out we went off to the Tokyu (yes, Tokyu) Inn.  We got checked in.  The rooms are smaller than the Prince, but very nice.     Whew.  This schedule is exhausting.  The amount of info I am learning is phenomenal.