This is Article Ten in a Series: Japan Travel - Rotary Group Study Exchange Goes to Japan.
The international organization known as Rotary promotes 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 Rotary.org and search for GSE - Group Study Exchange - and contact your local Rotary Club for more information and their website.
Our adventures continued:
April 28th - Thursday:
The Geisha houses in Japan are going out of business, Mika says - because corporations can no longer write off the expense in Japan for tax purposes. The North Koreans own 90% of the PACHINKO parlors in Japan - very political, which is why there are no other forms of gambling here.
Ahh. . . on the bullet train to Fukuoka - luggage at the train station - bye, bye to our host families here in Kita-Kyushu City - only 20 minutes on this fast train and we're in Fukuoka. We'll be here now for the rest of the GSE team trip. Mika San scurried the team off to the Mayor's office to meet the Deputy City Mayor for Fukuoka. We were graciously introduced - and given some presents. Then we went to the Fukuoka Higashi Rotary Club for lunch - and it was a fun Club. There are six women in the club - might account for some of the fun. They gave us red rose badges so we stood out as important guests - and we're collecting all the Japanese momento Rotary pins. The meetings here start with a club member directing the song “Oh Rotary" with a baton. Hisa, Izumi and Mika are all proud of the American GSE team and the good speeches that we give - they have given us a lot of their personal time and made sure that all goes well. It's a scramble in the hotel lobby as each of us pairs up with new host families - and a new adventure of acquaintance begins. I meet Rie Futata, and her daughter Aoi - and we leave by cab for their house. Fukuoka is a bigger city, with a good subway - that Aoi and I later ride to go have our nails done - a girl thing.
April 29th - Friday:
We met to go shhhooopping - in the lobby of the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel today - each arriving from our host families. Shopping - or rather looking - my mother would be surprised by this - because, all the shopping in Japan is at least a third more than the prices in America. At first I thought it was just the specialty items - i. e. Louis Vuitton, so many of which are imported - but as we traveled through the big department stores we all had the same impression - no shopping here, just looking - because it's expensive. It was fun though to see the crowded department stores - it's Green Day here, a national holiday and no school - so the major shopping area with three big department stores was full. As a team, we roamed to see where our hotel was in relation to the shopping (very close), the river and what was around. The river is picturesque with big flying balloons secured to both shores - they are “happy balloons" - designed to make citizens happy again after the earthquake that was here a couple of months ago. We walked over the bridge on the river and then back - looking for a spot for lunch - and oh, there it was - yes! - An American hamburger place. We've only had Japanese food up to this point - and someone commented that an American hamburger sounded so much better than fried whale - and Harry treated. We walked, just enjoying the bustle of the city and the faces going by. We met our hosts in the hotel lobby at 6PM for an informal dinner - very Japanese local spot called Vosue in Dainmjo - on a side street near the hotel. It was colorful with fish selections displayed, and conk shells and vegetables - and the group got routier than usual as we've become good friends and warmed to each other. Hisa, Mika, Izumi, Dr. Funakoshi and Tomoi Kondou were all there - seated at the picnic style table with good spirits and toasts of sake and beer. Many foods came that I didn't recognize - were passed around the table. Someone told bad jokes - everyone felt happy. We all went to a small bar, and enjoyed James Brown on video - and Monica and Antonio showed us that they could dance - salsa style - fun to watch them. Host families were waiting as the night went on - but Harry, Monica, Tomi, Dr. Funakoshi, Mika and I were left and we jumped in taxis and went off to a small bar to sing karaoke - that Dr. Funakoshi liked - and were home late. You get an appreciation for how difficult it is to sing a song - as the professionals do - when it's your turn at the microphone.
April 30th - Saturday:
I like the subway - it's a quick hop from the Futata's house with Aoi - around the corner and down into the station. Three stops later from the Nishijin station we are in town on Tenjin Street - and three blocks to the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel. Today several members of the Japanese incoming GSE team join us - and we're going to see a professional soccer game. First we stop at McDonalds (pronounced some funny way here in Japan so that you'd never know that it's the same thing - they change the syllable pronunciation so that the beat of the words is different). With lunch - we catch the subway - and find ourselves near the airport - and finally at the Hakata No Mori Stadium - big stadium, full of people. Antonio loves soccer - and we're here to see Avispa (in navy) play the Purple Sanga (in white). Fun - soccer is fast - the crowd loves it - and after a hard fought game, there is no score (0 to 0). Our Japanese friends have translation calculators - to figure out how you say “dandelion" or such in English. It's an overcast day - much like one in San Francisco.
When we got here - our hosts gave us each an envelope - with $100 and a $50 subway card in it. I understand that each Rotarian in the District contributes $15 to the GSE program - and they have covered everything on this trip.
In the taxi ride back - Izumi and I have an interesting conversation - as he explains to me the Japanese way. Never a straight answer he says - because maybe this or maybe that - and from ancient teachings (Taoism) it is recognized that there is a dark and a light - a good and a bad - maybe one day someone is good, and one day bad - but never all good or all bad - and therefore a Japanese can never say for certain. Not yes - and not no - and sometimes when yes - it means no - and sometimes the other. But they can interpret each other - but that makes it hard for westerners to know. This makes the Japanese flexible, sophisticated - not aggressive or direct. They sure have been good to us. The Japanese show themselves in their actions - they show respect when they greet you, hand you a business card, offer many thanks, see that you are well served - and when you leave, wait until you are out of sight. Sometimes it is good to experience not understanding the language - you see what people do, instead of hearing what they hope for you - it's awakened my “seeing" ability.
Antonio and I went with Rie, Aoi and Moe (Rie's second daughter) to dinner - to an Italian restaurant - and I asked what kind of cheese was on the spaghetti - “natural cheese" they said - we laughed (what is natural cheese?) - but when he brought the bag out, it said “natural cheese" on it - maybe mozzarella, but not parmesan, as you would expect on spaghetti - we laughed.
This article is a series - so read on - and many days follow in our splendid adventure!
President/CEO of Take Charge Financial! - Joan's Blog and http://www.takechargefinancial.com
Joan Perry has developed her expertise over twenty-five years, beginning as an Investment Banker working on Wall Street and continuing as a Money Manager and Owner of a Securities Brokerage Firm. As President of Take Charge Financial!™, Joan initially founded one of the first female-owned Municipal Investment Banking firms in the United States known as Perry Investments Inc.in 1985, which then began retail and brokerage services to individuals in the mid-90s. She has in-depth trading and market experience from managing institutional and retail investment dollars in the securities markets, and throughout her career has managed billions of dollars in the bond, stock and options markets. Joan combined her personal and professional background in her book A GIRL NEEDS CASH© published by Random House in 2000 - a story of money in women's lives and the transition to taking charge of it. She received her MBA from Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management and undergraduate degree from Denison University. She was the founding President of the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club and currently the Co-Chair of the Los Gatos, CA ‘Jazz on the Plazz’ Summer Concert Series.
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