Japan Travel – Rotary Group Study Exchange Goes to Japan – Article Five

The international organization known as Rotary promoters yearly travel that all people between the ages of 26 and 40, male and female, and of all backgrounds – should know about – because it is a Rotary-funded six week study aboard and anyone can apply to be a part of this significant life experience. If you are this age group – you could enjoy the kind of experience that is described in my notes in this article. To find out more about the program go to the international Rotary website and search for GSE – Group Study Exchange – and contact your local Rotary Club for more information.

Our adventures continued:

April 18th – Monday:

Like birds – we all flew today – Monica San off to Dentsu Kyusyu Inc., Antonio San to Fukuoka Air Traffic Control, Julia San to Dentsu also, and Harry San to Fukuoka Municipal Fire Authorities – and all went to Mika San's Rotary Club for lunch .

I became Japanese today: I took the train all by myself to Ogori – including a transfer in Kurume City. Back to the Tanaka's, Hiroshi, Ai and I headed for Hiroshi's Rotary Club – and guess what? – they have, yes, three women – so good. This is the Ogori Rotary Club – and the women are very glad to see me – so delightful that they bring me gifts of incense and writing papers and sweet Japanese cakes. I spoke about about thirty minutes and there were questions about how Rotary works for us in America.

Afterwards, Teiko and I got the train to go to Fukuoka to look at japanese pearls – expensive – much more than I would have thought. Aya, her daughter, joined us at the famous pearl shop and we saw many beautiful (expensive) selections – but we were just looking today. Teiko left, and Aya and I stopped at Seattle Coffee for a Cappuccino – and began a long conversation about the life of a younger woman in Japan, men here and marriage – and some challenges for the independence that she experiences as a business owner and wife here. We picked up Momo, her daughter, at the Kindergarten – the cutest bunch of kids – and stopped in an area that looked like Los Gatos (my home) for Gelato – Momo liked the Japanese mint kind. We drive through the streets of Fukuoka to Aya's house. Fukuoka is hilly – and their house sits amongstst others neatly on a hill side – and goes up like the father, son and holy ghost houses in Philadelphia. Aya owns a kitchen shop that she patterned after one in Santa Cruz, California, The Chef's Works, when she lived there with a host family for a month. Her brother and sister have lived with host families all over the world – including Australia and America – and prize these experiences. Aya has a lime green Toyota – very cute – and now we're off to my favorite spot – just leave me here in Japan – the hot springs. This one is lovely – we walk through the sliding doors, take our shoes off – and bow to be housed in the cafĂ© – for a dinner of curved chicken and rice, salad and fried shrimp – beer of course. Aya, Momo and I skipped off to the baths, women's side – and naked of course – and tried all of the pools outside starting at the bottom and climbing the steps to the higher wooden tubs and pools, filled with the hot mineral water. Along with a Japanese massage – I am a new woman.

April 19th – Tuesday:

In Japan: toilets go up and down by themselves, men dye their hair: because gray is not fashionable, and furniture (other than tables) is not well made: because sitting on the floor does not require much other than tatami mats. Back at the hairdressers in town for a quick hair wash – they put something unknown on my hair and it turned pink in places – new fashion for me I guess.

Exchange some money – and back at the Tanaka's – where Seiko and Toshio Kobaysashi picked us up -and we were going by car to visit Mr. Kobayashi's company, Fukuoka Knit Co. in Chikushino. Since I am most appreciative of world-wide yarns and how much can be done with a single thread – I was fascinated by all the beautiful pieces that they make. His company makes women's wear for top designers – and sells the fashions in the Japanese market, and in New York. They knit, crochet, design for designers, hand stitch, and assemble – with most of the manufacturing in Shanghais (where they have 500 workers). Amazing – on a Polycom phone (silicon valley product) we called up China (moshi-moshi) and spoke directly with the factory – not only did we see the people there and have a normal conversation, but the camera could focus in so well that we could see the knit in the stitch – wonderful. We joked on the phone because I can knit they offered me a job – so much to see and would love to take their invitation to visit in them in China. Toshio took many pictures, andave me three lovely shirts – I took them out of the bag to see – and Seiko insisted on refolding them for me because they have such a sense of perfection. We had Japanese tea and sweets when we arrived, and finished with cappuccino in the lobby – with all the knits and threads of different sorts and orchids that were beautiful. As Toshio showed us the office building, it was only neatly and lovely – each item folded and no mess – I surprised how they each decide to be so thoughtful – and it invited me to consider how I am touching the world around me. I surprised if I could be more gracious in my actions. No one is in a rush here – that would be impolite to rush another. Maybe it's because the toilets seats are warm here that people are calm. Antonio is most excited because this week we are going to visit the factory where they make this unusual item (the toilet) – often with remote control flush.

Kobayashi took us to a lovely lunch – served on a hot griddle, and something that looked like a hamburger with bar-b-que sauce, rice and vegetables – we are in abundance. The team has too sayings – "we make it up as we go along" – and we're so gifted that as long as there is a patch of grass, we'd just be happy to sleep in it (this helps when we ' re not sure what's next in host families). No problems – trip is in good hands. Tonight Antonio is in Chikugo, Monica is in Yanagawa (like me), Harry is in Omuta, and also Julia. I'm delighted at the Tachiabana's because we have dinner at home, and sit for a long conversation – about all the weekend events and our lives in Japan and America.

This article is a series – so read on – and many days follow in our splendid adventure!

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