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Fushimi Inari Taishai – The Shinto Shrine for Foxes and Business

I’m finally doing another post from the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009! This is from a Shinto shrine near Kyoto called Fushimi Inari Taisha. It’s famous for its many orange gates and is the number one shrine in Japan for the Inari “kami” (god) which rules rice, fertility, foxes, and business.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Possible business meeting in front of main gate.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Possible business meeting in front of the main gate.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - This Shinto shrine is the number one in Japan for the fox god: Inari.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - This Shinto shrine is the number one in Japan for the fox god: Inari.

We started heading up the mountain passing through many, many gates…..

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Two roads diverged.... Each gate is donated by a company to support the shrine and hopefully their own business.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Two roads diverged.... Each gate is donated by a company to support the shrine and hopefully their own business.

Tomoko explained that each gate is donated by a business or group of businesses. This is supposed to help bring their business good luck.

And each wooden gate naturally deteriorates over time so the business has to keep paying for the upkeep of their gate. If a business is unable to pay the gate breaks down and eventually just cut removed.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Rachel taking a shot of the tunnel when no one else is walking down.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Rachel taking a shot of the tunnel when no one else is walking down.

It was a surprisingly long walk up the mountain….

Fushim Inari Taisha - When we finally reached the top of the mountain where the shrine is we found a Shinto ceremony just ending.

Fushim Inari Taisha - When we finally reached the top of the mountain where the shrine is we found a Shinto ceremony just ending.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - For some reason they were cooking tangerines this strange fireplace.

For some reason they were cooking tangerines this strange fireplace.

For some reason they were cooking tangerines in this strange fireplace on the stairs. They said it was okay to take photos but would answer Tomoko when she asked why they were doing it.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Candles burning at the top of the mountain next to the ceremony (we were told it was okay to take photos)

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Candles burning at the top of the mountain next to the ceremony (we were told it was okay to take photos)

So here’s where things started getting more interesting….

We’re just starting to head downhill when we notice a sign that says “This way to the waterfall.”

We decide to take this alternate path. Some might point out it was one particular person in the group who really wanted to do this (it wasn’t me but I won’t say who). But the point is we all thought it would lead right back to the main path.

Especially when we saw what a steep and strange path it was through the forest. They couldn’t expect us to go all the way back to the main path from here.

Fushim Inari Taisha - The steep path we choose which we thought led to a waterfall.

The steep path we choose which we thought led to a waterfall.

Turns out it didn’t lead back to the main path and didn’t lead to any waterfall we could find either! At least we hoped the slow drip they had that emptied into a plastic bucket wasn’t what they were referring to when they said “waterfall”.

Anyway, after some semi helpful directions from one person we basically kept walking down hill on a paved road.

We came to a bamboo grove and there was so much bamboo and so much was cut down we realized it must be a bamboo farm.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Bamboo grove we thought might be part of a bamboo farm.

Bamboo grove we thought might be part of a bamboo farm.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - We passed by a vegetable farm on our adventure.

Fushimi Inari Taisha - We passed by a vegetable farm on our adventure.

So we finally realized we had gone down a completely different path but it looped around back to the train station we had come from.

One of those unexpected travel adventures!

Then when we got back to Kyoto we finally had sushi!

Toro - More expensive high quality fatty tuna nigiri sushi. Delicious!

Toro - More expensive high quality fatty tuna nigiri sushi. Delicious!

Yuni in front of the sushi conveyor belt.

Yuni in front of the sushi conveyor belt.

David and Conor trying sushi - even if they didn't end up really liking it.

David and Conor trying sushi - even if they didn't end up really liking it.

Now I was really happy to finally have sushi. But I was surprised how many people hadn’t had it in the US but more importantly: many of them didn’t really like it!

Becki, Conor, and David didn’t like it much. Though David had the excuse that soy sauce makes him nauseous so he couldn’t add that to his. Hannah had to admit she liked it but still didn’t like the idea of raw fish. Rachel was actually the only person who seemed to really like it.

And Sarah is fatally allergic to seafood so she couldn’t even partake. Yes, that’s right we managed to spend three weeks in Japan without Sarah accidentally eating anything with seafood. It was a challenge! But Sarah was good natured about it and people in restaurants were helpful and understanding.

Anyway, the way it works at the sushi bar is you choose a plate of whatever looks good as it comes by you. Only you have to pay attention to the color of the plate because that indicates how much the item costs.

Then at the end of the meal they count up your plates and that’s your total. Mine was about ¥2000 or 20 bucks. Not bad, considering. I could use some sushi right about now!

That’s about it from that day. Thanks for reading and I’ll try to keep posting in the coming weeks!

Short video: Cool machine makes traditional sweets in Kyoto market

While exploring Kyoto on the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009 I took this short vid: a cool machine makes traditional Japanese sweets. Then I panned out to give a view of the hallway market, or shoutengai, with locals and the homeschoolers/unschoolers from the tour!

This is actually the first video I’ve ever posted to YouTube. At first I thought it didn’t work but when I checked my account when I got home I found it had!

Now that I may or may not have gotten the hang of it, I hope to post more clips from the trip on YouTube. Maybe even start making my own vlogs on YouTube: video web logs. That could be fun.

In the meantime, I’m gathering feedback from people from the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009 and already working on more plans for the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Summer 2010!

Kyoto, Japan - Cool machine in Kyoto, Japan shoutengai market making traditional sweets.

Kyoto, Japan - Cool machine in Kyoto, Japan shoutengai market making traditional sweets.

Back Home from Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009

Hey everyone, I’m finally back home and posting again after Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009. Six unschooling/homeschool teens and young adults and I spent three weeks exploring the Land of the Rising Sun.

Here I’ll start with the last photo from the trip just after we cleared customs in LAX:

LAX - The whole group right as we got back in the U.S. This photo was taken by Becki's mom who met us right at the gate. Then they both boarded another flight for home.

LAX - The whole group right as we got back in the U.S. This photo was taken by Becki's mom who met us right at the gate. We're exhausted but most of us are still smiling!

I got about half way in my blog posts during the trip. My exhaustion grew and also some things happened that required more processing!

For one thing we visited Hiroshima on November 11th the day after Veteran’s Day in the United States.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum - Japanese school kids looking at a watch that froze at the exact time the first atomic bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945. A quote from the owner of the watch is seen in English on the left and Japanese on the right.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum - Japanese school kids look at a watch that froze at the exact moment the first atomic bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945.

Here’s the quote on the poster (in English on the left and Japanese on the right):

A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence. I stood up, took my cap in my hands, and was about to catch the dragonfly when…

We rushed off to our next destination Miyajima: a Shinto shrine on an island off of Hiroshima famous for its huge gate, sometimes on the beach sometimes in the water depending on the tide.

Hiroshima - Miyajima Tori - Miyajima Gate at high tide. (This photo was taken by Tomoko

Hiroshima - Miyajima Tori - Miyajima Gate at high tide. (This photo was taken by Tomoko.

I regret the way we did rush away from the A-Bomb museum. I’m not sure if we should have had two days for Hiroshima next time or if it was good to have something beautiful to see right afterwards.

Maybe we just needed to leave earlier: these are the type of things I’m reflecting on as I plan future trips!

Miyajima is also famous for its many adorable and hungry tame deer.

Hiroshima - Miyajima Shrine - One of the many adorable and hungry tame deer on the island.

Hiroshima - Miyajima Shrine - One of the many adorable and hungry tame deer on the island.

Hiroshima - Miyajima Shrine - My step mom Tomoko and my little sister Yuni.

Hiroshima - Miyajima Shrine - My step mom Tomoko and my little sister Yuni who were both a huge help on the trip! Really Tomoko gave us many wonderful insights into the sites we visited and Japan in general!

Hiroshima - Miyajima - Six unschoolers/homeschoolers ages 5-25 hanging out at the Miyajima Shrine on the water.

Hiroshima - Miyajima - Six homeschooler/unschooler travelers ages 6-25 hanging out at the Miyajima Shrine on the water.

We visited other shrines and temples and also a castle in the last week. Himeji-jo is the most famous castle in Japan. We saw it:

Himeji - View of Himeji Castle as the sun sets on an autumn day in November, 2009.

Himeji - View of Himeji Castle as the sun sets on an autumn day.

And we climbed it to earn an amazing view of the ancient castle grounds and the modern city:

Himeji - View from up in the Himeji Castle in mid November.

Himeji - View from up in the Himeji Castle in mid November.

Anyway, I’ll probably do posts just for Himeji, maybe a couple for Hiroshima, and of course I’ll mention the food we ate and the restaurants we went to! (I know people noticed I do that lot!)

Osaka - Shinsaibashi - All of us at a great restuarant in Shinsaibashi, Osaka.

Osaka - Shinsaibashi - All of us at an exciting restuarant in Shinsaibashi, Osaka.

There was also some fun karaoke singing and my little sister had an amazing ceremony that Japanese kids ages 3, 5, and 7 go through called Shichi-go-san.

She and Tomoko both wore beautiful kimonos for the event. But anyway I’m in a rush and gotta go now!

Shichi go san - Modern Japan - Tomoko and Yuni on the move in the Osaka subway system wearing their beautiful kimonos

Shichi go san - Modern Japan - Tomoko and Yuni on the move in the Osaka subway system wearing their beautiful kimonos.

I’m just kidding: I’m actually totally jet-lagged and will really take it easy and just reflect on the trip for awhile now.

I’ll try to make a bunch of posts in the coming weeks anyway. Questions always motivate me so feel free to contact me directly or leave comments here!

I’m glad to be home and celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow.

The universe knows I have a lot for which to be thankful! That includes a wonderful family and work that satisfies me on a deep level: writing and leading these Worldschool Travel Tours.

Thank you for being a part of that by reading this!

First Kyoto temple: Ginkakuji – “The Silver Temple”

It’s been an exciting week for us seven unschoolers/homeschoolers in Japan! We’ve been to many places but now I’ll post photos from the first temple we went to in Kyoto: Ginkakuji – “The Silver Temple“. Above the famous sand sculptures the maple leaves are just starting to turn bright red.

The colors of the leaves in our neighborhood in downtown Kyoto still hasn’t changed much. But just a little further north and closer to the mountains that surround Kyoto, at Ginkakuji some of the leaves were bright red, some orange, and some still green. That includes of course the evergreens as well.

In the gardens of Ginkakuji - The Silver Temple - View up into the colorful trees.

In the gardens of Ginkakuji - The Silver Temple - View up into the colorful trees.

We took a bus from Kyoto station that got us near the temple. But we walked through part of the Philosopher’s Path first: famous walking path around the city along a river that’s red in the fall and full of cherry blossoms in the spring.

My step-mom Tomoko Shibuya, with my little sister Yuni, came along. She helped us a lot with basic logistics and info about the history and cultural significance of certain things.

Philosopher's Path -  Walking along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto.

Philosopher's Path - Walking along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto.

Then we got to Ginkakuji: we walked through a hedged path before arriving at the entrace:

The unschooling/homeschool girls of the Worldschool Travel Tour on the hedged path into the Silver Temple. The unschoolers on the Worldschool Travel Tour on the hedged path into the temple.
Ginkakuji - One of the first sand sculptures you see on your way into the temple grounds.

Ginkakuji - One of the first sand sculptures you see on your way into the temple grounds.

Ginkakuji - View of the famous sand sculptures and the Ginkakuji Temple itself.

Ginkakuji - View of the famous sand sculptures and the Silver Temple itself.

Ginkakuji is a Buddhist temple but Tomoko pointed out this Shinto Shrine is also on the  temple grounds. She said that's something unique about Japan - native Shinto and Buddhist are often together.

Ginkakuji is a Buddhist temple but Tomoko pointed out this Shinto Shrine is also on the temple grounds. She said that's something unique about Japan - native Shinto and Buddhist are often together.

In Japan native Shinto religion and Buddhism from mainland Asia have mixed together harmoniously it seems for centuries. In fact, some Japanese were confused when they embraced Christianity but found out the European missionaries wouldn’t allow them to also continue practicing Shinto and Buddhism.

After the main temple ground area you walk past ponds and then up a short path into the mountain forest.

Ginkakuji - View of the top of the path with red leaves, orange leaves, green leaves, and evergreens.

Ginkakuji - View of the top of the path with red leaves, orange leaves, green leaves, and evergreens.

Ginkakuji - Close up of one of the ponds where people throw in coins and the trees drop leaves.

Ginkakuji - Close up of one of the ponds where people throw in coins and the trees drop leaves.

Ginkakuji - View of a moss covered tree, the red maple leaves, and the temple from the top of the path.

Ginkakuji - View of a moss covered tree, the red maple leaves, and the temple from the top of the path.

Ginkakuji - View of the temple grounds from the top of the forest path

Ginkakuji - View of the temple grounds from the top of the forest path.

Ginkakuji - The temple was actually under restoration while we were there. Still beautiful though!

Ginkakuji - The "Silver Temple" was actually under restoration while we were there. Still beautiful though!

Well, that was the first one we went to! We’ve been to a bunch more temples since: near Kyoto, near Hiroshima, and just got back from Nara today.

But I’ve been realizing it takes me too much time for me to write them and the posts just get too long if I try to include everything in my new posts!

So I’ll soon post out next day at Fushimi Inarimon: the Shinto shrine of many, many gates that support the whole business world of Japan!

My Blog was nominated for a Homeschool Blog Award!

My blog was nominated for a Homeschool Blog Award! It’s under the category: Best Current Events, Opinions, or Politics Blog. It’s great to have my unschooling blog nominated. And honestly I’ve really been wanting to merge social awareness and action with the freedom of homeschooling.

As Marianne Williamson said:

“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”

That’s always been my motivation for homeschooling. I mean I left school because I love to learn. School was getting in the way.

I was upset by the lies I was learning and the time I was wasting when I could be finding out the truth.

Now I continue to promote homeschooling, unschooling, and all freedom in education because I think it’s our best hope. I really do.

I think it is just as Marrianne Williamson says: radical. It’s going to the root: how we are raised, how we live, and how we learn or are prevented from learning. I think the freedom of unschooling and homeschooling are what enable a radically new way of doing this.

In the end unschooling is about throwing off all the rules and expectations of how children and students are supposed to live and learn.

Homeschooling is about the family and the community, rather than the government, the church, or other huge impersonal institutions, deciding how children will be raised and educated.

And I guess radical unschooling is about sticking to that throwing off of expectations and rules as the actual way people live and learn.

I think in practice all radical unschoolers have some rules and expectations. Personally I think rules and expectations can be pretty helpful! But I can understand some people just plain having a strong aversion to the very idea of them: many, most, or all of us have suffered under arbitrary and harmful rules and expectations.

In the end, for me, it’s about exploring and honestly looking at the world and ourselves. Then finding out what actually works for each person or group in each situation.

To do that we need a whole lot of freedom. And I’ve found hearing and reading other people’s journeys, opinions, and just information about the world very helpful for my own journey and understanding.

So I hope my blog with all its opinions, politics, and info about current events is helpful to other people as well!

Meanwhile, us seven unschooling/homeschooling teens and young adults are really enjoying worldschooling around Japan on Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009! Today is a rainy day so maybe we’ll take it easy or explore Kyoto more and see some shoutengai: indoor hallway markets.

Thanks for reading and thanks for voting for my blog if you feel so inclined!

Mikuni, Osaka, Kawaramachi, Kyoto, and Harajuku, Tokyo

We had a pretty busy weekend on the Worldschool Travel Tour with us seven unschooling young adults: we went to my old little neighborhood of Mikuni, Osaka and to Kawaramachi the bustling center of Kyoto on Saturday. On Sunday we went to Harajuku, Tokyo which is famous for its “cosplay”: people who show off amazing and often bizarre outfits.

My step-mom Tomoko just arrived in Osaka the night before with her daughter, my little sister, Yuni on Friday night. So we visited them Saturday morning and had some tako yaki at my favorite place in the neighborhood I used to live in: Mikuni.

Mikuni is just a few train stops from the center of Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, and it was my home for eight months in 2004. I hadn’t visited since 2006 so it was a trip.

Tako yaki, fried octopus dumplings, being made in my old neighborhood of Mikuni, Osaka, Japan. The finished one are on the right.

Tako yaki, fried octopus dumplings, being made in my old neighborhood of Mikuni, Osaka, Japan. The finished one are on the right.

Rachel showing off the delicious tako yaki covered in mayonnaise and scallions.

Rachel showing off the delicious tako yaki covered in mayonnaise and scallions.

Tako yaki - Becki, Eli, and Rachel eating fried octopus dumplings in Osaka, Kansai, Japan: the capital of tako yaki.

Tako yaki - Becki, Eli, and Rachel eating fried octopus dumplings in Osaka, Kansai, Japan: the capital of tako yaki.

Not everyone was willing to try the strange new food but I was glad many were and a couple liked it! Rachel and Becki really liked them but Hannah was surprised and disappointed she did not like it.

Then we took a walk down the old Mikuni Shoutengai: the hallway market I walked down almost every day when I lived here.

Mikuni Shoutengai front view.

Mikuni Shoutengai front view.

Mikuni Shoutengai view from the other end.

Mikuni Shoutengai view from the other end.

Then we walked from there to Shin-Osaka station and took a short, free, 15 minute Shinkansen “Bullet Train” using our Japan Rail Passes. We went to downtown Kawaramachi to get some late lunch.

Dragonfly that landed, and stayed, on Rachel's elbow in Kyoto, Japan. Tomoko told us that's cosidered good luck.

Dragonfly that landed, and stayed, on Rachel's elbow in Kyoto, Japan. Tomoko told us that's cosidered good luck.

We found this okonomiyaki place: that’s another food this Kansai is known for. “Okonomiyaki” means “fried as you like it”. It’s a pancake with cabbage where you decide what else you want to put into it or put on it: I had mine with beef, others had pork, and some have seafood or soba noodles.

Here are couple okonomiyaki photos I stole from Hannah but check out this post from Hannah’s blog for a whole bunch more from that day:

Okonomiyaki: Eli, Sarah and David had okonomiyaki, Japanese pancakes "fried as you like it" in Kyoto, Japan. David's flipping his over.

Okonomiyaki: Eli, Sarah and David had okonomiyaki, Japanese pancakes "fried as you like it" in Kyoto, Japan. David's flipping his over.

Okonomiyaki finished with Hananh's yaki soba in Kyoto, Japan.

Okonomiyaki finished with Hananh's yaki soba in Kyoto, Japan. Then we ate it all directly off of the grill.

The next day we went to Shibuya and Harajuku: two areas of Tokyo. Shibuya has the Times Square of Tokyo: huge bright intersection with lots of adds and millions of people.

Shibuya intersection - the Times Square of Tokyo, Japan - one view.

Shibuya intersection - the Times Square of Tokyo, Japan - one view.

Shibuya intersection - the Times Square of Tokyo, Japan - another view.

Shibuya intersection - the Times Square of Tokyo, Japan - another view.

Truth is I think most people were kind of disappointed. It’s really just a shopping place. If you’re not actually looking to buy anything there’s not much to do.

But we did find a really good place to eat:

Udon noodles in broth with pork on top and tempura one the side - deep fried squash, squid, lotus root, and fish cake.

Udon noodles in broth with pork on top and tempura one the side - deep fried squash, squid, lotus root, and fish cake.

Then we went to Harajuku, the area of Tokyo known for cosplay people:

Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan - this street is full of cosplay and other clothing shops.

Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan - this street is full of cosplay and other clothing shops.

Sarah in a cosplay shop in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan. She was the one who really wanted to go to one of these shops but two other people also got outfits!

Sarah in a cosplay shop in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan. She was the one who really wanted to go to one of these shops but two other people also got outfits. It was fun to look around anyway.

Meiji Jingu Shrine Gate in Harajuku. I managed to make it look like we weren't in the middle of Tokyo, Japan one of the biggest metropolises in the world!

Meiji Jingu Shrine Gate in Harajuku. I managed to make it look like we weren't in the middle of Tokyo, Japan one of the biggest metropolises in the world!

Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan 2009 - the group with Satoru and Yuni in the Harajuku Park.

Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan 2009 - the group with Satoru and Yuni in the Harajuku Park.

After chilling there for a bit we got back on the Shinkansen and went back to Kyoto.

The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Tokyo that took us back to Kyoto in 2.5 hours

The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Tokyo that took us back to Kyoto in 2.5 hours

Eating ramen near Kyoto Station after a long day in Tokyo.

Eating ramen near Kyoto Station after a long day in Tokyo.

Hannah really liking the ramen.

Hannah really liking the ramen.

Ramen with gyoza: fried Chinese style dumplings.

Ramen with gyoza: fried Chinese style dumplings.

Alright, that’s it for now. Will post soon about our adventures around Kyoto: we’re finally seeing the famous temples and gardens in Kyoto.

Thanks for visiting everyone!

Wandering around our new neighborhood in Kyoto, Japan

We arrived at our new home on the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan 2009 at Gojo Paradiso, Kyoto, Japan, on Thursday night. Then we spent the next day wandering our new neighborhood, finding cool places, and buying and eating deliscious food!

The unschooling/homeschooling teens hanging at our Gojo Paradiso house in Kyoto, Japan.

The unschooling/homeschooling teens hanging at our Gojo Paradiso house in Kyoto, Japan.

View up the Kamo River in Kyoto, Japan around the corner from our house in the Gojo neighborhood.

View up the Kamo River in Kyoto, Japan around the corner from our house in the Gojo neighborhood.

David with Conor taking a photo on the Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan.

David with Conor taking a photo on the Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan.

Then we decided to cross the river and wanted down a side street. Soon we saw a produce shop, a meat and fish shop, and then I saw one that looked different. Immediately my guess was this shop was an organic natural foods store: must have been the tannish off white color theme rather than the bleached white styrofoam theme of most shops.

I grew up with these good people and shops: I can spot them in any country!

Anyway, I was right: big time. Turns out the shop keeper, who wore a funky colorful handmade hat, sells not only natural and organic food but also macrobiotic and Ohsawa brand products.

Maybe I’ll get into macrobiotics another time but it’s basically vegan plus really good quailty, whole, organic sugar free food.

I chatted with him and his friend in a mix of Japanese and English about world travel, homeschooling, and natural foods. Turns out his whole family was very inspired by their travels to Nepal. And his mother runs an organic restuarant just two doors down from his shop.

I’d explain what we were talking about and they picked up some of the conversation anyway but I think everyone was ready to go and eat after awhile! So we went right to his mother’s restuarant.

The unschoolingers/homeschoolers/worldschoolers dining at Yaokan Restuarant between Gojo and Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

The unschoolingers/homeschoolers/worldschoolers dining at Yaokan Restuarant between Gojo and Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Vegetable curry and organic white rice at Yaokan Restuarant, Kyoto, Japan.

Vegetable curry and organic white rice at Yaokan Restuarant, Kyoto, Japan.

Beautiful atmosphere at the restuarant: here's the garden at Yaokan Restuartant in Kyoto, Japan.

Beautiful atmosphere at the restuarant: here's the garden at Yaokan Restuartant in Kyoto, Japan.

Flowers at Yaokan Restuarant in Kyoto, Japan.

Flowers at Yaokan Restuarant in Kyoto, Japan.

Desert at Yaokan, Kyoto, Japan in lovely bowls, with wooden spoons, wooden plate, and a blue cloth coaster in the shape of a shirt.

Desert at Yaokan, Kyoto, Japan in lovely bowls, with wooden spoons, wooden plate, and a blue cloth coaster in the shape of a shirt.

Dessert at Yaokan, Kyoto, Japan - adzuki bean and chestnuts in sweet soymilk.

Dessert at Yaokan, Kyoto, Japan - adzuki bean and chestnuts in sweet soymilk.

We were very impressed with how good the food was and learned the Kyoto word for “thank you”: “okini”.

On our walk back:

We saw a beautiful crane on Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan.

We saw a beautiful crane on Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan.

Crane flying over Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan: lucky show on my new camera.

Crane flying over Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan: lucky shot on my new camera.

We hung out at our house for the afternoon except a few people declared 3 or 4pm “Crunky Hour” (not as bad as it sounds) and went and celbrated by going out and buying some Crunky brand chocolate bars and then eating them back at our house.

Homemade dinner - Hannah took the reigns and was awesome enough to make spaghetti and tomato sauce with garlic bread for our dinner for all of us!

Homemade dinner - Hannah took the reigns and was awesome enough to make spaghetti and tomato sauce with garlic bread for our dinner for all of us!

Hannah the chef: "I have cooking utensils and I know how to use them!" Thanks for dinner Hannah!

Hannah the chef: "I have cooking utensils and I know how to use them!" Thanks for dinner Hannah!

Then Conor went ahead and did all the dishes which was also awesome. We’ll have to switch off every meal or do a division of labor: some people do the cooking some the cleaning. Anyway, just really happy we can make our own food as well as go out to great restuarants in Kyoto!

Then, after we were all full and satisfied, I had us all talk about how we think the trip is going so far and what we each definitely want to do before we leave.

Honestly, I’m constantly worrying about whether people are enjoying the trip and things are going well. So it was good to hear how people are generally really liking everything so far.

It was also good to hear the things people haven’t been liking, some of which I had no idea about. And it was helpful to hear what each person wanted to make sure to do: it looked like we would definitely cover all of them in the trip.

And it seemed like everyone agreed one of the best parts seems to be the wandering and just people watching. Part of what we all didn’t like about Tokyo was how much we rushed from one specific destination to another.

I think part of that is just the atmosphere of a big metropolis like Tokyo: not to mention the confusing trains and subways. I was happy they had noticed that even Japanese people got confused and made mistakes with Tokyo’s trains! I swear it’s not just me!

But really I am quite forunate to have such a fun and thoughtful group who really wants to take advantage of the whole experience. We all joke around a lot, sometimes a little roughly, but everyone is kind and open minded in the end and that’s what matters to me.

Today, Saturday, November 7th, we’re going to my old neighborhood in Osaka. We’ll see old friends and also Tomoko and Yuni: my step-mom and my little sister!

They just arrived last night from Boston and will help on the trip while they’re here for the next ten days. We’ll also go to a ceremony for my little sister and alll kids who are 7, 5, or 3 years old: “Shichi go san” on November 15th.

I hope you enjoy the pics and the stories: thanks for visitng!

Tokyo to Kyoto: First Few Days of Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan 2009

Our first three nights of the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009 took us around Tokyo to Ahkihabara Electric Town, Shinjuku,  Asakusa and Kaminarimon Gate, and now Kyoto. Seven unschooling/homeschooling world travelers with our own old Japanese style apartment in the center of the cultural center of Japan!

Now for some photos!

Most of these photos are not by me or with my camera: we’re pretty much sharing each others photos. And I finally got my own new camera up and running.

Sakura Hotel: I researched a lot for which hostel to stay in Tokyo and I have to say this place turned out to be great!

Sakura Hotel: I researched a lot for which hostel to stay in Tokyo and I have to say this place turned out to be great!

Sarah really enjoyed the funny Japanese TV and commercials while checking e-mail at the Sakura Hotel.

In Sakura Hotel: Sarah really enjoyed the funny Japanese TV shows and commercials while checking her e-mail!

The Worldschool Travel Tour group of homeschoolers/unschoolers in Ahkihabara "Electric Town" in Tokyo, Japan!
The Worldschool Travel Tour group of homeschoolers/unschoolers in Ahkihabara “Electric Town” in Tokyo, Japan!
Bustling Akihabara "Electric Town" in Tokoy, Japan.

Bustling Akihabara "Electric Town" in Tokoy, Japan. (photo by Hannah)

One of the many department stores full of electric gadgets in Akihabara, Tokyo including "digitaru kamera" (digital camera) on B1F and "noto paso con" (notebook personal computers) on 2F.

One of the many department stores full of electric gadgets in Akihabara, Tokyo including "digitaru kamera" (digital camera) on B1F and "noto paso con" (notebook personal computers) on 2F. (photo by Hannah)

Then we went back to the hostel and met my old friend Satoru who recently moved back to Japan.

We tried to go to the park around the imperial palace but for some reason it was closed. But it still looked nice walking around it.

Modern buildings and old stone walls around the Imperial Palace park: one of the many sights of contrast in Japan.

Modern buildings and old stone walls around the Imperial Palace park: one of the many sights of contrast in Japan. (photo by Becki)

Becki's photo of one of the gates (the Big Hair Gate?) at the park around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan.

One of the gates (the Big Hair Gate?) at the park around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. (photo by Becki)

Eli and Satoru the Arlingtonians, near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Eli and Satoru the Arlingtonians! Near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. I think he looks more Japanese now that he's been living here.

The Good Dude: Satoru asked a guy about the story behind this statue. Turns out someone tried to shoot at the Emperor's Palace from this direction. This made this place considered bad luck so this guy was put here to balance the bad luck. Satoru said this gets into Shinto stuff but just: "This is a good dude."

The Good Dude: Satoru asked a guy about the story behind this statue. Turns out someone tried to shoot at the Emperor's Palace from this direction. This made this place considered bad luck so this guy was put here to balance the bad luck. Satoru said this gets into Shinto stuff but just: "This is a good dude." (Photo by Becki)

Then Satoru came up with the idea of going to the Tokyo Municipal Government Building in Shinjuku. He said it’s like the view from Tokyo Tower only it’s free and you can see Tokyo Tower from it!

But jet lag started to set in and we really needed food so we went to a little noodle place.

Udon noodles at some shop in Shinjuku.

Udon noodles at some shop in Shinjuku.

David enjoying some noodles and broth at a little shop.

David enjoying some noodles and broth at a little shop.

Then we took a super fast elevator up 45 flights to the top of the Tokyo Municipal Government Building (our ears popped during the ride).

View of Tokyo metropolis from Tokyo Municipal Government Building.

View of Tokyo metropolis from Tokyo Municipal Government Building. (photo by Sarah)

View of tall buildings from Tokyo Municipal Government Building.

View of tall buildings from Tokyo Municipal Government Building. (Sarah)

Tokyo Tower! As Satoru pointed out there's one thing you can't see from Tokyo Tower: Tokyo Tower. But you can see Tokyo's most famous landmark from Tokyo Municipal Building....

Tokyo Tower! As Satoru pointed out there's one thing you can't see from Tokyo Tower: Tokyo Tower. But you can see Tokyo's most famous landmark from Tokyo Municipal Building.... (Sarah)

Alright, my intention was actually to “do nothing”, totally take it easy, on our first full day in Tokyo but instead we had this awesome busy day! So we spent the next day just hanging in and around the hostel.

Actually for breakfast we just got food from the convenience store:

Hannah and Becki bought some drinks, rice balls, and green doughnuts for breakfast from the convenience store.

Hannah and Becki bought some drinks, rice balls, and green doughnuts for breakfast from the convenience store.

I got some oden: tofu, egg, and potato in broth at 7 Eleven

I got some oden: tofu, egg, and potato in broth from 7 Eleven.

David had a warm bun with pork.

David had a warm bun with pork. (these photos from Hannah)

Then we actually had some great conversations about college, religion, and finding your way in the world.  Also a lot of joking around, looking at funny things on the net, and reviewing our photos so far.

All the unschooling/homeschooling young adults hanging at Sakura Hotel, Tokyo, Japan.

All the unschooling/homeschooling young adults hanging at Sakura Hotel, Tokyo, Japan. (These two photos I actually took!)

Conor had his head down in that other pic so here's a good shot of him!

Conor had his head down in that other pic so here's a good shot of him and Hannah!

For lunch we had some really good Japanese Chinese food: Chinese food is different in every country! Back at the hostel we ended up watching some really powerful short films: Akira Kurasawa’s Dreams. Some sad but beautiful mystical vignettes from the mind of Japan’s most famous director.

The next day we went back to Akihabara for more exploring. Then we went to Asakusa and the Kaminarimon Gate.

Back of one of the gates in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.

Back of one of the gates in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. (Sarah's photo)

Buddha statue in Kaminarimon, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.

Buddha statue in Kaminarimon, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.

Asakusa scene: shrine, stone bridge, and river with colorful koi.

Asakusa scene: shrine, stone bridge, and river with colorful koi.

Alright, then we got back to the hostel, jumped in a couple taxis, and then took the Shinkansen to Kyoto! It took 2.5 hours and then it took the next taxi drivers another hour to find our new place! No, they had trouble finding it but it turns out this is a great place!

We just explored our neighborhood some but I’ll save that for the next post!

First Morning in Tokyo on Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn

I woke up early as I have been but things are going great on Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009! The 11 hour flight was pretty exhausting but Korean Airlines fed us good food and gave us good leg room! Then we had trouble getting money from ATMs but even that seems to be cleared-up!

I honestly was starting to worry when I tried to use my third ATM and it wasn’t working! But then I tried my other ATM card and it worked fine. Half of the others could get money out but the other half couldn’t. But Hannah just got an e-mail saying the problem was they hadn’t informed her bank she was leaving the country: now it should work!

Japan is a very cash based society: they just carry around large amounts of cash and don’t have many ATMs around. People will pay for a cup of coffee with a ¥10,000 note: about the equivalent of $100 U.S. You usually couldn’t do that in the U.S. but if you did you’d apologize as you did it! Here it’s no big deal.

The group is awesome: all different homschooling/unschooling young adults from around the country all interested in different aspects of Japanese society. Half of them can read hiragana and katakana: the syllabic two of Japanese’s three alphabets.

The other Chinese based alphabet, kanji, not even Japanese people can read! No, but really there are more symbols than any Japanese normally use and unlike Chinese there are almost always more than one (and usually more than two) ways to pronounce any one symbol.

I’m somewhat ashamed and somewhat proud to say our first meal in Japan was at Yoshinoya!: a Japanese fast food chain that serves bowls of rice with beef or pork on top. It’s not exactly high quality tradional cuisine  but it’s delicious! And it’s simple, cheap, near our hostel, and familiar to me. So in our exhausted state it was perfect.

Alright, that’s it for now: will post photos and such soon.

Today is actually Culture Day (文化の日 Bunka no hi) in Japan so maybe there will be some cool stuff happening around the Imperial Palace and the park which are both right next to our Sakura Hotel.

Anyway, we won’t be venturing far: today is for taking it easy! Plenty of time for plenty of adventures the coming three weeks!

Yoshinoya donburi: rice with meat on top plus some pickled ginger, cabbage, and miso soup with free warm green tea - all for just ¥600! (about six bucks)

Yoshinoya donburi: rice with meat on top plus some pickled ginger, cabbage, and miso soup with free warm green tea - all for just ¥600! (about six bucks)

We Learn and See Reality When We’re Ready

Fro me the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009 starts tomorrow when I fly to LA! But, I wanted to finish up this Lies My Teacher Told Me thread I started on Columbus Day and talk about how we only learn certain truths and see certain aspects of reality when we’re ready.

The things I learned in Lies My Teacher Told Me, other resources, and certainly my own experience in school all inspired me to leave school and start unschooling at age 15.

I was so upset I had been lied to by school, the mass media, and also I felt by my parents and other adults. Maybe the most upsetting part for me was how some trusted adults already knew this stuff and just didn’t tell me.

I didn’t understand how there could be progress if we didn’t pass on what we have actually learned to our children. And I really do encourage parents and other adults to share their wisdom and experiences and expose kids to reality.

At the same time, I want to acknowledge some of this does involve the mystery of people just being ready for certain things at different times.

Now I don’t really feel so upset at my parents and others for not sharing the truth with me. Now I realize it is more complex.

This is not to say I don’t still encourage people to share the truth. Absolutely, yes! But certain truths are going to affect different people differently at different times.

I really tried to share the information I was learning about the world, school especially, with my fellow students. For the most part they simply weren’t as interested. Certainly they weren’t as affected as I was: they didn’t immediately decide to leave school to homeschool as I did.

Why is that? Why was it different for them?

There are so many reasons that could help explain it. I was angrier. I was more discontent.

I have always been a relentless questioner since I was a little kid. If I didn’t understand the answer I would keep on asking until I did. I wanted to understand and I wanted to know the truth.

I insisted on being engaged in something that made sense to me: something where I could see a purpose. Life was too damn exciting to do otherwise. There was too much to learn and do to waste my time on something pointless.

Still, maybe being exposed to the exact same things I was at the age of 15 might not have had the same effect on me a couple years earlier. Maybe I discovered that information when I did because I was ready for it.

And certainly even if I my parents had shared more, a lot of the information would have been shocking and angering anyway. Maybe some information should be shocking and angering on some level, no matter what.

Still you can’t force someone to care. I just think, for better or for worse, we simply can’t force others to see or learn certain things, maybe anything. They’ll “get it”, they’ll make the connections and it will have meaning to them, in their own time. And it’s quite possible we’re wrong about certain things so all the more reason not to force it on others.

What we can do is give people opportunities to learn. We can give ideas, books, situations, or experiences, if people are at all open to them. People can then make their own connections from the wide array of information coming at them. At the same time some things are very difficult to miss in certain instances.

Still some people won’t want or be ready to understand or acknowledge certain things. Then it still doesn’t help to force it.

But some things need to be looked at and need to be addressed. That’s reality. So while not everyone will be ready to take on certain issues, people need to at least know the issues that need to be taken on.

That’s what I was really upset about with my parents: I felt like progress was lost when they didn’t share certain things with me. But the truth is my parents and their generation have passed on a huge amount of progress to me and my generation.

I wish they had done more and passed on more positive things and less crap: I can’t deny that! But I also can’t deny how much gratitude they deserve for all the wonderful progress, even, or especially on the level of emotional and spiritual healing.

I want to end with a story that might wrap up all I’ve been talking about:

When I was about 11, my big brother got the album Smash by The Offspring. I heard people talk about how cool the album was so I tried listening to it myself but didn’t get what the big deal was.

I listened to is again when I was 13, just two short years later, and it became one of my favorite albums. Nearly every word, in every song had so much meaning to me.

These lines from the song, “Something to Believe In” especially:

Do you accept what you are told
Without even thinking?
Throw it all and make your own
And give me something
Something to believe in

I love it. That’s part of the wonderful spirit of young adults: anger and an uncompromising desire to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t work and find something to actually believe in.

The trick to becoming a real adult may be keeping that fiery spirit while tempering  and adding to it with real experiences of your own and others.

Then we could really build some things that actually work: build something to believe in.