KEEP, Last Night at Kofu, Travel to Korea

Our last full day in Japan was one I had looked forward to since our arrival. Okumura-sensei and Ono-san drove us from Kofu up the Hokuto City area for the day. Joanne and I wanted Beth and Rhonda to see the beautiful Yatsugatake area which Madison County is so fortunate to claim as a sister region. We also hoped they would meet some of our good friends there and see with us, for the first time, the new lodge at Seisen-ryo. We were not disappointed.

We were greeted at the lodge by Shirakura-shichou, mayor of Hokuto City, a person we have come to know, like, and respect over the past five or so years. He is a forward looking leader who secured for his city one of two major Japanese research centers for solar energy. I asked him how the project was progressing and he quickly snatched me away for a drive to see it, while Rhonda, Beth, and Joanne remained behind to shop and eat KEEP’s famous soft ice cream. I would get mine later. Below is a photograph of the solar energy site. The other photo is, from left, me trying to say something in Japanese; Masaki-san; a retired KEEP executive who asks me about Helen and Hanly Funderburk every time we come here; Mayor Shirakura; and Okumura-sensei.

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On the way back to KEEP, we stopped at the Kitazawa glass museum (see last fall’s blog) and one of our most long-time friends, Koshimizu-san, stopped by to see us. He is a gregarious, fun-loving marathon runner, and gave me a T-shirt from this year’s Tokyo Marathon.

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Back at KEEP, we got to see the new facility at last. Here are Hiro Yoshida-san and Joanne standing in front of the new building. The interior shots include one of Joanne with our friend Takeo Okemoto-san, a view of the coffee nook off the lobby, and the new onsen (hot spring bath). The photographs do not do the new place justice.

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Back in Kofu that evening, we were hosted for dinner by the Kobayashi-santachi (The Kobayashi family). Joanne and I first met the father, Akira Kobayashi-san, about five years ago when he was the deputy mayor of Oizumi Village and a member of the Yatsugatake delegation to Kentucky. Later, the oldest daughter, Akimi, was an EELI and then EKU student for a year. Mrs. Kobayashi prepared a Japanese meal for us one evening at the home of Sharon Bailey, then a member of the EKU English faculty with whom Akimi roomed while at EKU. That evening, we also met Akimi’s sister, Sayaka, and brother, Kei. Below are Sayaka (left) and Akimi, and the whole dinner party. The only person missing was Kei, who is attending school in Tokyo.

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Sunday morning we were away from the hotel at 6:30 to catch the bus to Narita. There to see us off were Kiyomi and Noriko Ueya-sensei, Keiku Okumura-sensei, Michiko Ono-san, and Hiro Morioka-san, a former EELI student. A four-hour ride put us at Tokyo’s Narita Airport. Two flights and 10 hours later we touched down in Daegu, South Korea, home of Daegu Haany University. A delegation led by Dean Park and Ms. Kim quickly, efficiently and extremely politely saw us to our hotel. Tomorrow and Tuesday are very tightly scheduled days that promise to be interesting and productive. We have not seen South Korea by daylight yet. So, we are excited about tomorrow.

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A Day With the Ueyas

What a pleasure today was. In my blog last fall, I reflected on the many good friends Joanne and I have made in Japan. Today was spent with two of the very best – Kiyomi and Noriko Ueya, whom we have known since he spent a year teaching at EKU in 1994-95. Ironically, we have come to know them better in our visits to Yamanashi Prefecture than we did when they were in Richmond.

Kiyomi greatly enjoyed his time at EKU and, quite frankly, I think he would like to return for another year after he retires from the University of Yamanashi later this year. It would be a wonderful benefit to our students and faculty for this distinguished scholar to return to our campus. If he has a serious interest, I would encourage his potential colleagues at EKU to consider him.

His students love him and he takes great pride in their accomplishments. That showed today in the wonderful relationship we saw displayed between him and one of his students, Taro, who accompanied us. Taro has been at EKU in the EELI program and if he gets his TOEFL score up a little, he would truly like to be an EKU student.

The Ueyas took their EKU visitors on a tour of some attractions around Mount Fuji. The glorious lady herself was hidden in the clouds, but that did not dampen our spirits or enjoyment. We first went to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. Kubota-san was a creator of beautiful tie-dyed kimonos done in the tsujigahana method, a 16th century technique he “rediscovered.” We could not take pictures of his remarkable work, but you might get a peek at www.itchiku-tsujigahana.co.jp. You would have to see it to believe it.  His art has been the subject of several traveling shows in America, including at the Smithsonian.

We were able to get this shot of our traveling party after enjoying tea at the museum.

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Our next stop was at the Iyashi no sato Nenba, a recreation of a Japanese thatched roof village near lake Saiko, one of five beautiful lakes that surround the base of Mt. Fuji. Joanne and I had been there before, but enjoyed this visit just as much as the first. Nariko Ueya was our gracious guide.

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But the highlight of the day was a visit to the Ueyas’ mountain cabin near Lake Saito. There, on this drizzly afternoon, we enjoyed the company of one another and ate until we could eat no more of the wonderful tempura prepared by Noriko-san.

Here Beth, Joanne and Noriko enjoy a light moment at the Ueyas’ mountain hideaway.

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Student and teacher – Taro and Ueya-sensei – displayed a relationship I have seen between students and faculty at EKU during my entire experience there. Note Kiyomi’s EKU jacket, a proud possession since 1994-95.

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Tomorrow, we head to Hokuto City and KEEP (the Kiyosata Educational Experiment Project). There we will have a chance to visit with other good friends, notably Masashi Shirakura-shichou, Mayor of the City, Hiro Yoshida-san one of the senior staff at KEEP and the liaison between Hokuto City and Madison County for our sister region arrangement, and Laura Fragoso, a former Brian Kane Fellow at KEEP from California, of whom Joanne and I have become quite fond.

Day after tomorrow, we head to Daegu, South Korea, through Seoul, to visit with our partners at Daegu Haany University. There, I will have an opportunity to make my presentation on “Globalization and Stewardship of Place” to a group of DHU students. Joanne and I are very much looking forward to our first trip to Korea, despite the tensions in that part of the world. Dr. Dan Robinette, a retired EKU dean, who is teaching at DHU, will meet us at the airport Sunday. He tells us our Korean hosts are looking forward to the visit as much as we are. We cannot wait to see them.

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More on the University of Yamanashi Visit

Our second day at the University of Yamanashi started with a visit to the office of the university’s new president, Dr. Shuichiro Maeda, who has been in office one month. Joining our discussion was his vice president, Dr. Takaaki Kawamura. The opportunity to meet my counterpart at this important partner institution was among the reasons we decided to come to Japan again when the China trip was cancelled. We discussed our mutual desire to strengthen our more than 20-year-old relationship between our institutions.

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Here we have, from left, Beth Blanchard, Rhonda Whittemore, President Maeda, Joanne, the blogger, and VP Kawamura.

Before heading for a delightful traditional Japanese lunch at a local hotel, we spent some more time with Keiko Okumura-sensei and Michiko Ono-san in the offices of the University of Yamanashi’s equivalent of EELI. Here are the two ladies who have been indispensable during our visit to Kofu. Okumura-sensei is on the right.

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Following lunch, Ueya-sensei took us on a campus tour that included a visit to the school for children with special needs at the University of Yamanashi. The school serves as a learning laboratory for University of Yamanashi students preparing to teach at schools serving students with special needs. Here students and teachers join in a traditional Japanese dance learned on a recent field trip.

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Thursday ended like Wednesday, with Rhonda Whittemore teaching an English class, in the fashion provided by EELI, to some University of Yamanashi students, while UY faculty observed. One of the students wore a protective mask, a very common sight in Japan, especially now. The percentage of persons wearing the mask in Kofu, however, is much lower than was the case in Tokyo.  The purpose for the masks is often to prevent spreading your own germs as much as being protective.

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First Day at University of Yamanashi

We had a long, but good, day on the campus of the University of Yamanashi Wednesday.   Our very capable “handlers’ were Keiko Okumura and Michiko Ono, who work in UY’s equivalents of our EELI and International Education offices, respectively.

We had substantive discussions on how to improve the exchange of students, met with five of the 11 Yamanashi students who will be coming to the EELI program in August, visited with EKU student Patrick Shoemake who is studying here, attended a reception with many past EKU and EELI students, and had a delightful dinner at a “family style” restaurant with Yamanashi faculty and students.

The only downside was that I left my camera at the hotel.  Rhonda Whittemore, who taught an English class and will do one again today (Thursday), had her camera, but my laptop will not handle her camera’s memory stick.   I will do better today.

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Over to Kofu

I probably won’t be posting any photographs from Kofu.  Our hotel is nice enough, but it is lacking internet service, except for a shared PC in the lobby.   It has no slot for my camera’s SD card, so I am at a loss in terms of uploading any photos.

Our day began today with Joanne getting her hair done at the beauty shop in our Tokyo Hotel.  This was her second such experience and I believe she has taken to the combination massage, shampoo, and styling that Japanese beauticians provide.

Then it was off to Kofu by the Kaiji Limited Express train for Shinjuku Station.  I made the arrangements for the tickets myself, found the correct track platform, and we arrived here safely.  My Japan travel skills must be OK.   We were welcomed by Professor Kiyomi Ueya and his lovely wife Noriko, who were so gracious to us last October.  They were again today.    He taught at EKU in 1994-95 as part of our long standing exchange with the University of Yamanashi.

We just greeted Rhonda Whittemore, EELI director, and Beth Blanchard of our international office here in the hotel lobby.  They are fresh off a 13.5-hour plane ride and a three-hour bus trip from Narita.  They will feel better when we see them tomorrow.   We have two days of visits to the University of Yamanashi in store and I am looking forward to meeting my new counterpart there, as President Nukui has retired and a new person was installed last month.

If Rhonda or Beth have a USB thumb drive I can borrow, I might be able to do photos.  This computer has a USB port.

Edit:  (Wednesday morning) I discovered this morning that there is a wifi hotspot of which I was unaware.   So, if I carry my laptop to the lobby, I can manage this blog to include photos.   The other nice thing, is that I can use a standard keyboard instead of the Japanese keyboard on the lobby computer AND all the web and Explorer prompts are in English.   Anyway, here’s a photo from a mountainside fruit park to which the Ueyas took us yesterday afternoon.  It overlooks the valley in which, from left to right, Enzan, Yamanashi City, and Kofu are located.  There was some haze, so you might need to use your imagination.   We head to the campus in about an hour.

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