Japan – April 2000

Alex’s Essay on Japan

Japan has been probably my most favorite country.

First we arrived in Narita Airport. The first fascinating thing I saw in the bathroom in the airport was they give you foamy soap that dries quicker. Then we went thru customs and immigration and went to the bus station to take a bus into Tokyo. And then we got hungry so we went up to the food court in the airport. I ate egg sushi and then McDonalds. I had not had fast food in 4 months so I was pretty excited. I got a hamburger and fries. I went to a toy store after that and saw the “first” Pokemon pack of cards.

The first stop in Tokyo was the big Pokemon store. We went to a Temple where there was a park with ponds and huge carp. We visited a SONY showroom where they had a computer using a digital camera that took your picture, downloaded it on the computer and than you can distort your face by making your nose grow or your ears pointed. They did this to me and my sister and we looked pretty weird. I imagine this is how they created all the creatures in Star Wars. The sidewalks in Tokyo are very wide because there are so many people who cross a street at once. The parking lots have mechanical double-decker spaces.

Then we went to Hakone Yumoto. We stayed in ryokan, which is a Japanese traditional inn where you cannot wear any shoes in the building. The beds are futon mattresses on the floor which are made of straw mats. The walls are made of rice paper. I took a bath in scalding hot water which came from hot springs. The next morning we took a cable car and saw Mt. Fuji. It was amazing because it was a lot bigger than the other mountains and had a lot of snow at the top.

We took the Bullet train to Kyoto. It is said to be one of the fastest trains in the world. We went to a really big castle called Nijo Castle which had ‘Nightingale Floors’. They are called that because whenever anyone steps on them they were built to creak so no intruders could sneak in and hurt the Shogun (which is the king). I saw a Geisha which is a lady dressed in a kimono which is a fancy dress and has white make-up all over her face. I also went to the Toyota factory where they have computers where you can design your own car. The factory was really cool. They used robots to do most of the jobs but people do the checking. They gave us a little toy car that you put together and it would shoot off and it was made our of recycled bumpers.

The next day we went to Hiroshima. Hiroshima was the first city that the US destroyed with an atom bomb. It killed 200,000 people. The reason they chose Hiroshima was because a military base was located thereĀ· it was not guarded heavily and Hiroshima had not been destroyed much by air raids and they wanted to test the full power of the bomb. They dropped it because they wanted to end World War II quickly and they were losing many soldiers. Three days later, the US dropped another bomb on Nagasaki because the Japanese did not surrender. I also saw the memorial to Sadako who had leukemia from the atom bomb radiation. She thought if she tried to fold 1000 paper origami cranes (which stood for longevity and happiness) that she would recover. She died after she folded 644. Children all over Japan continue to fold millions of paper crane and leave them at her memorial. My mom and sister and I each folded one and left them at the memorial. I am not sure they should have dropped the bomb but I am also not sure that if Japan had had the knowledge of the atomic bomb that Japan would have dropped one on us.

The next day we went to an island called Miyajima. We were going to stay here for 3 days but are going to stay a week. When you get off the ferry, you see a lot of deer that are used to people and they sniff in your bags for food. There are suppose to be monkeys here but we have not hiked to the top yet to see them. Last night, I found a lot of starfish that were almost dead because the tide was going out so I tried to throw them back in. I also saw a slug that was green and had horns. This morning I went to the aquarium and saw puffer fish, electric eels, beluga whales, moray eels, eagle rays, and sharks. I also saw shark eggs hanging where you could see the embryos forming. There were also otters and one of them had one of his ears almost ripped off. They would do flips in the water. They let the penguins out to walk around with the people in the building.

I have had a great time in Japan.

Katie’s Essay on Japan

I went to the Pokemon store in Tokyo – the first thing in Japan. I got four packs of cards.

Then we went to a department store. My mom and dad went to the food section and I went with my brothers to the toy section. Then I went to the food section. They gave you samples of everything. They have fake plastic food to show you what you can buy. One of the foods was called ‘sushi’. It is raw fish wrapped in rice and dried seaweed. I liked tuna, crab and cucumbers. That night I had to take my malaria medicine. I cut the pill into 3 pieces and than I put it on a Pocky Stix which is a pretzel with no salt wrapped in chocolate. I would dip it in peanut butter and stick the pill in it and eat it.

The next day we went to a place called Akihabara. It is a place where they sell a lot of high tech things like watches, small computers, cameras, cell phones, and stuff like that. Ben, Dad and Alex liked it.

Then we went to Akusaka which is a more traditional part of Tokyo. There is a temple there. The first thing we did was see people feeding pigeons so we bought a bag of birdseed and I got to feed them. One went on my head and some went on my shoulders. They were everywhere. Then we walked to a place where they sold food. Ben got something kind of like a lollipop where they put a piece of real fruit like a strawberry inside and wrapped it in clear sugary taffy and put it on a big ice cube to harden. I got a corn on the cob with salt on it. Alex and my Dad got noodles and my Mom got a salady kind of thing. It had a lot of shredded cabbage and an egg on top and a piece of ham on top of the egg and they cooked it. Then we went to a Japanese garden. There was a pond in it and there were lots of carp inside and a turtle. Carp are like big goldfish that can be black, white, gold, silver, yellow and orange. Then we went and got fortunes. You shake a can and get a stick with a Japanese number on it. You find the drawer and there is a fortune inside. Mine was ‘small fortune’ and it said that I got altitude sicknessĀ· which I already know. Ben got the best fortune. Alex got a ‘regular’ fortune and my Mom and Dad both got ‘bad’ fortunes. My Mom’s said she should not travel!

Then we went to Hakone where Mt. Fuji is. We got to stay in a ryokan which is a traditional Japanese house. We took a steam bath which was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The walls were made with rice paper in between the rooms. The floors are tatami mats which are straw which is very smooth and bordered in fabric. The beds are futons on the floor. They are really comfortable. We ate mostly sushi for dinner. My brother cooked his raw tuna and raw shrimp but I ate the raw tuna and gave the shrimp to my Dad. The next day we went on a cable car and we saw Mr. Fuji. We also saw where the hot springs for our bath came from. On the side of the hill there was steam shooting out of the ground. Mr. Fuji was mainly under clouds but we got to see most of it. I liked the cable car. It was higher than the tall pine trees. My dad was scared.

When we were changing from the cable car to the train, we found a wonderful museum. It was outside and my favorite thing was the inside children’s playground. It had a woven hanging net that had tunnels up to the top that you can climb in. Sometimes there are traps. Our whole family got up there and I got some really good pictures.

Then we went to Kyoto on the Bullet Train. We went to a place called Nijo Castle. The floors were built to squeak when you walk on them so attackers couldn’t walk in without being heard. There were carp in the moat and at night birds would catch them and eat them. We saw some half-eaten dead fish on the sidewalks. There were lots of flowers and cherry-blossoms. The next day, my Mom and me went to a temple and took a walk. We saw shrines and scooped out stones where water flowed into that people would pour out in big spoons on trees.

We went to Hiroshima and I saw a statue of Sadako who was a little girl who made 644 paper origami cranes. She wanted to make a thousand but she died before she could finish them. Today there are millions of paper cranes around the statue. Alex, me and my mom all made one and added them to the others. I learned that she died of leukemia because a big bomb was dropped on the city and many people were killed and died from the radiation that came out of the bomb.

Then we went to Miyajima Island. There are lots of deer on this island. There is also a gate called the Otori Gate which is halfway under water at high tide and at low tide, we can walk out to it and look for shells. I went to an aquarium today. At the aquarium I saw fish that looked like a rock. I also saw electric eels, puffer fish, Siamese fighting fish, beluga whales, penguins, starfish, octopus, seahorses, sharks, otters, stingrays, huge crabs, Archerfish, piranhas and guinea pigs living with turtles. My mom and me were looking at a one-ton seal when it opened its mouth and than sneezed and threw his snot all over us. I like to eat oysters here.

My favorite part of Japan was Myajima Island because it has a lot of nature.

Bye from Katie Simon

Ben’s Essay on Japan

I am in Japan and I am on another island which is off of Japan. It is called Miyajima Island. I got here from a boat. I saw a beach. It has a lot of shells. I like to pick up big oyster shells. There is a gate that I think cars could go through but they don’t. My dad says Japan is really expensive. My ice cream costs 250 yen which is $2.50. I like to eat noodles, oysters and that sushi thing called Nori (it is the paper green seaweed that you wrap around rice and raw fish. I love it by itself and eat it for breakfast.) I bought a remote control plastic dog and it really barks, and moves its feet and kicks a soccer ball.

I looked out the window from our hotel in Tokyo and saw a big boat. Every night it would put blue and white boxes on and off the boat with big cranes. I saw a Ferris wheel. At night it would turn different colors.

I and my brother really drive my Dad crazy buying Pokemon packs of cards. I made a deal with him that every time I go back into Tokyo I get to buy one pack and the last visit I get to buy two.

The bullet train is one of the fastest in the world. It looks like a bullet and it goes as fast as a bullet would go.

I went to the Aki Habra which is a really high-tech place. It has a lot of stores that sells high tech things. My favorite thing was the remote control dog I bought.

My favorite thing in SONY when we took a tour was when you get your picture taken and it goes into a computer where you can push a button and make your nose grow or your ears or your hair. When you get your picture taken, instead of saying “Cheese!”, you say “SONY!”. Also, in the lobby there is a pretend aquarium that even has little bubbles in water but behind it there was only a TV screen of a picture of an aquarium. You can also take a picture of yourself that looks like you are sitting by a bear but it really isn’t there. It was just in a computer.

One day, I got to go to the Toyota factory and watch how they make cars with robots.

The aquarium here on the island had belugas, stingrays, sharks, starfish, otters, seahorses, different kinds of jellyfish, penguins, seals, octopus and eels. There was a white and black fish called a Commerson dolphin. The lobsters here did not have any claws but were much fatter than in Boston. That is all I remember.

We are staying in places that have paper walls, you sleep on the floor. There was a hot spring bath and you go in it. You have to wear slippers into the bathroom. You cannot wear your shoes in the room. The toilet seat is heated.

At Hiroshima, they dropped an ‘atoms’ bomb which blows up and melts your skin. It is a bad idea to drop atom bombs but now a lot of countries have them. They folded a lot of origami paper cranes because a little girl got really sick from the atom bomb and she thought if she folded the paper, she would get well. She died.

My favorite thing about Japan was SONY.