Tuesday, June 7, 2016

ASIJ Reception and more

It's been several months since I've posted.  Life has happened.  Work has happened.  I thought I finished sharing with everyone about the reception and other aspects of the visit but realized that I didn't finish.  So here goes.

After the incredible day at the school we all went out and celebrated.  I can't remember the name of the area we went to but there was a cherry blossom festival, many people and good food.  The next day we each hung out in different areas of Tokyo and that evening we went to the reception.

I do have several regrets.  

My first regret from the visit, was not to have had more time with Ron Dirkse. To be sure,  he, Ron, was our biggest advocate, strongest voice, and stealth supporter.  Ron not only gave of himself to us but sacrificed greatly on our behalf.  Ron,  you are my true hero.  You have taught me how to advocate and stand up for justice. You should be the statue at ASIJ.  But we know how that has gone.... so we will just leave it as it is.  Thank you Ron for defending us, for fighting for us and for supporting us when, it felt, no others did. 

My second regret is that we didn't have an adequate avenue to thank the alumni who supported us. I can't begin to name anyone because I will forget someone and get into trouble for not mentioning names, so I want to say THANK YOU!!  You know who you are.  You know how difficult this journey has been for us and YOUR support brought us to a finally!! THANK YOU!!  I do know I can speak for everyone of the "sisters" that YOUR support brought us closure.

The reception at the Embassy was also wonderful.  Paul Wedderien and his wife were gracious hosts to board members, alumni, faculty and us.  Martha presented an Etagami to Brian and Paul and thanked them for their part in reconciliation and bringing closure to this incredibly difficult journey. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was 11:00 p.m.  I don't think any of us expected to stay for more than a couple of hours.

The next day several of us went up to the big Budda in Kamakura and then that evening some of us went to Tonki's and ate the famous Tonki's tonkastu.

Chuck and I departed that Thursday and were able to look back and say what an incredible journey we both were able to take together.  From the day we saw Lake Nojiri, to the last day in the airport, it was truly a trip of a life time.

For your involvement to make this trip happen and for the closure of this journey I can only say thank you and God speed.  Many blessings to you all.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Monday, April 4

Anticipation.  Not knowing what to expect. Child like emotions.  Fear.  Shame.  Anger. Justification.

After waking early and running the treadmill, trying to shake off any unwanted feelings, I went into a time of self.  Taking my time to get ready to go, not wanting to be rushed, we all tried to meet but my rebellion kicked in and decided to do my own thing.  Everyone else met up in the lobby and traveled together but Chuck and I took our time and traveled alone to the campus.  We met up with Martha and Yuki at Musashi-Sakae and took  a cab to the school.

When I attended ASIJ, if it was raining, we (my friends and I) always took a cab from Musashi-Sakae.  It was 230 yen in the 70's.

We arrived at the school and were met by the guard at the gate needing to see our identification and reason for visiting the school. Once we were allowed to enter, we were escorted to the third floor of the cafeteria building into a private waiting room and provided with snacks and coffee.

Board Chair Brian Johnson, Board member Paul Wedderien and ASIJ Director of Advancement Erin Nelson together prepared the way for an incredible day.  We first met with the current Head of School Ed Ladd.  Many of you who are reading this know our relationship with Ed Ladd.  It began as a contentious relationship and for some ended that way.

Of the "thirteen sisters" there were ten of us there. There was a large conference table with chairs around for all.  Although Ed and everyone else sat, not knowing what to expect, I chose to stand the entire time he was in the room.  It gave me a feeling of strength and control. He entered the room reluctantly and expressed his feelings of such.

Ed thanked us for coming, expressed that he was thankful that we were there and apologized to us. His apology and explanation were taken differently by each of the 10 sisters present.  Some questioned his sincerity, some flat out rejected it and others chose to accept it for what ever it was worth.  We each had our own reactions, rightfully so, and responded to it based upon our own receptiveness.

I don't know if Ed Ladd was sincere with his apology.  It's not my responsibility to determine his sincerity.  He did admit that he thought the first letter sent out in March of 2014 was an apology but quickly realized that it wasn't after the response to the letter.  He said that if he had it to do over, he would not have taken the advise of others.  He also stated that after later going through several seminars/conferences on the subject that he would have done things differently.  My personal response is to accept his apology and not make a judgement about his sincerity.  I am very capable of making judgments, so this is not about my righteousness, just my position.

After we met with Ed, we were led to another location to meet with the Student Council.  To our dismay, students upon students began entering into the room until it was packed.  Not only did the Student Council show up but many high school students who were interested in hearing from us and were interested in asking questions.  Many of the 10 sisters spoke, answering questions and expressing their views on sexual abuse.  Since most of the students were seniors there was a lot of discussion of college campus rape, since 30% of university students are subject to non-consenting sex. The students and the sisters were engaged in a needed discussion and we all felt it was a successful time together

We then went to the Multi-purpose room (MPR) to participate in the first Strength and Courage Award celebration.  The first annual Strength and Courage Award was presented to Sophie Kusaba, an ASIJ senior the daughter of ASIJ alumni Elaine Scolinos, class of 76.

From Japan Times:  Sofie created an outreach program called “Nagomi Art” to work with people with mental disabilities in the local area. In her work, Sofie merged her creative skills and passion for art by designing artistic activities to carry out with the participants. “I already knew of the mental health benefits of art, and how happy I feel after creating something, so I believed that art could bring happiness to them as well. My dreams were big, but I envisioned that art could rejuvenate,” Sofie wrote in her essay. Her activities proved to be so successful that Sofie expanded by recruiting additional volunteers to help her meet the demand. A year and a half later, there are now 126 members in the volunteer group. In addition to the strength and courage she demonstrated in launching an initiative outside the structure of any existing club or organization, Sofie showed tremendous compassion and commitment to helping others. Sofie plans to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) next year, where she is looking forward to developing her artistic talent even further.

It was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the first award given to an ASIJ student who showed extraordinary consideration for others. Sophie was gracious and deserving of the award.   It was a privilege to be a part of such a monumental day.

We then met with the school counselors from elementary, middle and high school.  There was a tremendous amount of discussion about abuse and we all shared our own perspectives about what to look for in a student who may be subjected to child sexual abuse.  After this session we had lunch with teachers and counselors who were interested in meeting us and talking with us individually about our stories.

After lunch we met with the Child Protection Task Force and finally culminated the day with parents of current students in the school.  Meeting with the parents was quite emotional.  Most of them were younger than us and have students in the school ranging from Kindergarten to Seniors in High School.  The day could not have been set up better.  We were given the opportunity to speak with everyone who was interested and representatives from ASIJ were so welcoming and loving that we all left with a feeling of complete restitution.  We could not have asked for more.

More to come on the next few days, particularly the reception.

Monday, April 4, 2016

I never thought this day would come.

Monday morning, April 4, 2016.  Early rise - stress relief - running on the treadmill in the workout room.

We all planned to meet at the breakfast place in the Hotel New Otani main lobby, but the breakfast buffet was about $40 a person and not everyone wanted to pay that much so we ended up being fragmented in our start of the morning.

I supposed my emotions were on high alert because while meeting up at the restaurant with the others, the host asked several of us to wait to be seated.  He then directed us to the waiting area. When we didn't stand exactly where he wanted us to wait, he then directed us again behind the line. My childhood of shame and not obeying returned making me into a weak, emotional basket case.  I guess it wasn't him or the humiliation I felt that was actually occurring but more my anticipation of what awaited this significant and monumental day.

I'll write more about it, hopefully, this afternoon.
On Saturday, we arrived back in Tokyo around 3:00 and scheduled to meet with an ASIJ alumni who lives in Fukushima.  Those of us who were available met in the Garden Tower restaurant for drinks and reunion with ASIJ friends.  It was a nice evening.  We met his sweet little 18 month old daughter, who at first was shy by then opened up a bit after her mother arrived.

Since it was the height of the cherry blossom season and the rain was scheduled to come in, we braved the cold weather and headed out via taxi to the Budokan and the park/shrine next to it. I can't remember the name of it. It was pretty cold that night but we were able to see the cherry blossoms in the lights shining on them at night.  A spectacular showing of white.

Chuck and I then walked up to the omatsuri and purchased an Okonomiyaki at a stand.  It began to rain and then pour.  Everyone made a mass exodus to the streets and hailing a cab became a lost cause.  We finally found a subway and felt so fortunate to have found a couple who were willing to navigate the trains for us.  They gave us great directions, we hoped on the subway for two stations, exited, hoped in a cab and made our way back to the Hotel New Otani, soaking wet, Okonomiyaki in toll and happy to have experienced it and happy to be back in warmth.

On Sunday morning we got up and began our trek out to ASIJ.  It started with the most delicious brunch in a community just outside Kichijogi.  We met a woman at Nojiri with her two daughters the first day we arrived in Nojiri. They were outside their cabin cleaning up the yard.  Their house was to the right of the parking sign for 49-A.  Since it had been 38 years since my visit, I thought the sign and the house were in the same place.  We met, shared experiences, cried when she found out I was one of the 13 sisters and connected immediately.

She invited us into her home, but since we had just arrived I was eager to see the house that had been rebuilt after the fire in 1997 and the side of the mountain community where we spent our summers each year.  Later Chuck sent her a picture of us and her girls and she then extended an invitation to their home for Sunday brunch, which we accepted.

I shall digress a bit.  The trains in Japan, particularly Tokyo, have completely changed.  You still have the Yamanote sen which is green and goes around and around in a circle, but now you have multitude of options as they have continued to add more and more train lines throughout the city.  I was relieved to find out that even the local Japanese people have to stop to look at a map to see which train to enter to get to a particular location.  The first day we arrived we landed in Tokyo Station.  Trying to get to an exit up to the street proved to be an almost impossible task.  We were both tired and irritated and were snapping at each other.  Chuck thought I was supposed to know what I was doing and I had to remind him several times that it had been 38 years since I was here.

The next day was just as confusing and we made several wrong turns and got on the wrong track.  By the time we got to dinner that night my friend with whom I went to ASIJ explained that the train system has even recently changed and it is very confusing for everyone to ride.  It made me feel a bit better and not an idiot not being able to recall how to ride the train.  So for those of you who plan to return to Japan and haven't been here in a while, be prepared to ask a lot of questions and ask multiple times if necessary.  An example of asking multiple times - we were getting on the Shinkansen for Nagano, I asked three different people in Japanese, "does this train go to Nagano?"  I got three, "hai!"  Little did I know that I should have asked, "does this train stop in Nagano?" Because, yes the train went to Nagano, but Nagano wasn't a stop on that train, therefore, we were fortunate when a train steward came through and looked at our pass and asked where we were going.  When I told him, "Nagano," he politely told us that this train doesn't stop in Nagano so you better change at the next station and get on the train that does.  Lessons learned, always an adventure.

Chuck finally acknowledged that, "yes, 38 years was a long time," and "maybe the trains are different than what you remember."

So, although it took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to their home, it was worth the trip.  We arrived to be greeted with smiles and welcomes and an incredible cup of coffee.  The table was set and their youngest daughter was preparing fruit crepes on each plate.  We also had an egg casserole of sorts, toast and green tea.  It was an incredibly delicious breakfast, better than any we had eaten since our arrival in Japan.  Chuck was so relieved to have "real food".  We visited with this fine couple from Australia, and the US with their three children who are global travelers.  Their friend from England who had come in for a wedding was also visiting and we engaged in lively conversation about everything from Donald Trump to cherry blossom picnics in the park. It was quit a lovely morning. Just the backdrop needed before my initial visit to ASIJ.

We departed just before noon and began our journey to Tamabochi.  The Tamabochi line is now called the Tama line.  The trains are much more modern than we rode and had four cars instead of two.  After getting on the Tama train at Musashi-Sakae we rode two stations to Tama.  We passed the golf course where many times we were mooned by the track team running long distance.  We arrived in Tamabochi and began walking around the small town attempting to locate places like the coffee shop and the small shops we had memorable meals often.  I found the koroke place but it didn't look the same to me.  I couldn't find the coffee shop or the place I used to order "yasai-itame."  The streets looked familiar and we started walking to the school.

The walk to the school wasn't nearly as long as I remember it.  Just down the street and around the corner and we came across the first wall of the school.  Chuck asked me if this was the school and I said yes hoping that I was right.  It is very different.  There is a barrier around the entire campus and security is very tight with a guard at the front, side and any entrance to the property.  Because we were a bit early, we walked down to where I remember our first home was in Mitaka.  Everything was built up and it was difficult to pin point exactly where everything was.

We walked around what I remember to be the community where Jack's house had been.  And I attempted to locate the Japan Baptist Mission homes and was in the vicinity but didn't put my eyes exactly on them.  We then walked through the park next to the golf course and back to the school, just in time to meet up with my other sisters.

The tour of the school was uneventful.  I suppose that because of the significant changes, it didn't feel like ASIJ.  It is a spectacular school.  I am proud to say that it is my alma-mater.  Since I attended 7-12 grade it wasn't necessary for me to tour the entire school.  After 30 minutes, I was happy to say goodbye and begin returning to Tokyo.  Returning to the school with an empty campus was a good thing to do.  I was able to walk around without much emotion which was a good starting point for the next day.

Chuck and I returned to Tokyo and met up with another two sisters who had just arrived and went to eat just around the corner from the Hotel.  We found a traditional Japanese restaurant, but the food was mediocre. The company was good and it satisfied a hunger and thirst even though it wasn't particularly tasty.  Disappointed in the food - hard to be disappointed in the beer.

We returned back to the hotel early so we could rest before our big day at ASIJ.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

We just finished an incredible journey down memory lane.  After leaving Nojiri and visiting with old friends, we took the Shinkansen to Atami and rented a car.  Drove to Ito and found the Ryokan, K's House, that we planned to stay for the night.  It was too early to check in so we drove on 135 down the coast to Shimoda.  It was a beautiful drive through many small coastal towns on Shizuoka. Arriving in Shimoda, the air was a bit brisk so the thought was that we would go down to the beach, take a few pictures and return to Ito.

We parked in a lot just past the beach and trucked down the beach near the rocks and the caves.  Although there were flags and rope cordoning off the section to the caves, we breached the area and went over to view the beauty of the ocean meeting the land.  Chuck convinced me to go to the edge of the rocks to get a picture.  Just after I turned and posed for the picture a wave pummeled me from behind and I got soaking wet.

Instead of returning to the car as planned, we took advantage of the sun which had decided to come out of the clouds about that time and we walked the beach down to the Toga Shrine at the other end of the beach. This allowed me to get dry and enjoy some of the beauty of Shimoda.  Great memories with friends from ASIJ and my missionary family swelled up and overwhelmed me.

I remember a trek down to Shimoda on the train when my boyfriend from 10th grade from North Carolina came to visit.  He and I rode the train to Shimoda one day, spent the day on the beach and returned to Tokyo.  I remember spending part of the day in the small alcove beach away from the crowds enjoying just being together.  Child love.

I remember coming to the beach with a group of SBMK's from Amagi Sanso.  Every year we would take a trip across the mountains to the beach.  One year while swimming I came across a can, someone had left in the surf.  It was buried in the sand and was stuck. Trying to be a conscientious person I attempted to remove the can, only to rip wide open my thumb which started bleeding causing me to have to stop swimming that day.

But probably the most fond memories of Shimoda was when I came down with friends from ASIJ (DA) and spent the day and night exploring the caves and probably smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  Shimoda has many fond memories for me.

After we spent a bit of time in Shimoda, we returned to Ito and stayed in this quaint Ryokan named K's House.  It was a traditional Ryokan with tatami mat rooms, futons and a view of the river flowing from the mountains into the ocean.  The service was exceptional, the rooms were incredibly clean and the entire stay was so peaceful.  We plan to return again soon.

That night we walked just around the corner and ate at a very small traditional restaurant and tried some of the local vodka called Shochu.  I tried the kind from Kushu that was made from the yam.  It was so strong that I had maybe two sips of it and that was it.  The food at the place wasn't exactly what I had hoped but the adventure was most certainly enjoyable.

The following day we traveled again down the coast but once we arrived in Hama, we began the climb up the mountains to the seven falls or Nanataki.  This was the most beautiful area I have seen in a long time.  The place where these falls all join into one river.  It was quite spectacular.  The road at this point was climbing straight up the mountain, but when it could not longer climb straight up because of the incline we began to ascend on a spiral bridge that had three to four circular areas until we began to ascend in a more direct way.  It was the first time to travel in such a way for me.

While we were at the Nanataki we both enjoyed the wasabi ice cream which was refreshing and very good.  Not too spicy but a kick just enough to let you know it had some spice.  From Nanataki we traveled up the valley through the mountains to Jorentaki, a place we used to frequent when I was a child.

The Japan Baptist Conference, along with the Southern Baptist Japan Mission had a place at Amagi Sanso about 1 Km below the Joren Falls.  We frequented Amagi while growing up and it has very special memories for me.  Once we because teenagers we were allowed to sleep in a huge tatami room with all our closest MK friends, that was until the teenagers from my sisters era messed it up by drinking and smoking in Takamatsu.  One year we had Mission Meeting in Takamatsu because Amagi Sanso wasn't available.  The missionaries made the mistake of putting all the high school teenagers in one inn with a young missionary couple with young children as chaperons.   Seeing that the chaperons were needing to be with their own children, the teenagers took advantage of the situation and went out on the town and proceeded to do what many teenagers do.  They would have gotten away with it but one of the MK's ratted them out and so we all had to suffer the consequences of their behavior.  Of course they disgraced the missionaries and were grounded forever. I think my oldest sister is still grounded.

I remember many nights sneaking up to the Joren Falls and climbing up higher to another fall above the Joren Falls.  We also spent time down river jumping into the freezing cold water in a beautiful pool of flowing melted snow.  Fond memories.

After we left Joren Falls, we drove back up to Atami, turned in the car and took the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.  Our next week is in Tokyo, staying at the Hotel New Otani and visiting more of Tokyo and participating in the school activities.

Today, Chuck and I decided to go to Shinjuku to see where Lost in Translation was primarily filmed in the Park Hyatt Hotel. We went up to the 52 floor to the bar where some of the scenes were filmed and then walked from Shinjuku to the Imperial Palace (4.5 miles away).  We walked around the Imperial Palace and then back to the Hotel New Otani to get some rest.

Tomorrow, we get to enjoy the morning with our new friends we met while up at Nojiri and then off to ASIJ tomorrow afternoon to get a sneak peek before the day on Monday.

Overall, it's been an incredible trip recapturing some of my childhood memories and being able to share them with my closest friend, my husband, Chuck.

Tomorrow will bring many different memories I'm sure. Will see how we hold up in all this.

This morning my devotional was very clear as to who is in charge.  I read Deuteronomy 20: 1- 4.  I'm holding on to the truth as I know it.

If you are following this blog, you can also follow Facebook with all the pictures.  If I were savvy enough I would post them with the blog, but I'm too lazy to figure out how to do that.

Stay tuned for more to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My friend, who is an attorney here in Japan, has corrected the comments I made on the previous post.  According to him, "we do actually have by law paid (14 weeks – 6 before and 8 after giving birth) and after that extended unpaid maternity leave with a guaranteed legal right to return to work (up to one year, during which time the government will pay you 50% of your pay if your employer does not).  In fact in that weird Japanese law way, you are actually required by law to take at least the 8 weeks post-partum paid leave … Most working women who become pregnant do take full advantage of these systems, and it is illegal of course to fire someone for being pregnant, so that really no longer happens for full time employees whether by direct or indirect means as the courts have been pretty harsh on violators.  In our small operation here we have had 3 lawyers and 4 staff members do this in the last 3 years and that’s pretty typical for any business; all returned to work although some of them have opted for a reduced hour schedule. HOWEVER, the real social, legal and practical problem is that it is not easy for them to return to work because the child care/day care system is so highly inadequate; also, and this is probably what Tacey and others are referring to, people who are part time or fixed short term employees, which is an increasing portion of the working population, do not generally have the maternity leave protection.  There are also serious issues surrounding opportunities for promotion and advancement for those who take leave/have children."

It's good to get the facts straight. 

The last several days have been so wonderful.  Having lost my childhood for so long, it's wonderfully emotional to reconnect to my Japanese little girl.  We rode the Shinkansen up to Nagano and rented a car and drove to Nojiri lake.  I grew up coming to Nojiri every summer.  We had a cabin on the mountain overlooking the lake.  The last cabin we owned caught on fire in 1997 and a young girl and her dog died in the fire.  It was very emotional seeing the property without our house on it.  The tragic loss of life and emotions of being here as a child were so overwhelming.  While we were looking for the house, we met a woman and her two daughters who live in Tokyo but were visiting Nojiri during Spring Break.  We found out that the two daughters attend ASIJ and I explained that we would be there on Monday with the 13 sisters.  The mother was overwhelmed and said, "something was just telling me that we should stay today and now I know why."  We shed some tears together and talked some more.  I am hopeful to be able to see them again in Tokyo. 

Yesterday we connected with our childhood friends and went to Togakushi and ate soba.  Then we drove over to Nagano to see the snow monkeys.  All of the mountains tops are covered with snow and the view is breathtaking. 

Today we head over to the Japan Sea and hopefully to some ski slopes close by.  We are bringing the kids back next year and hopefully if the conditions are right they will get to ski. 

Alright,  on our way to the west part of the island. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Day two back in Japan

Our second full day in Japan was Easter Sunday so we visited Grace Harbor Church in Yoyosu, a place I never knew of in my childhood years.  It used to be the factory area and now has turned into a beautiful area on the Tokyo Bay with shopping.  We enjoyed worshiping on Easter and taking communion.

As I watched the young toe heading American children running around in the mixed congregation of American's and Japanese my emotions overwhelmed me as I envisioned myself as a small child doing the same thing.  The people at the church were wonderful and we met one of the missionaries, Sean, who was good friends with one of our church members in Baton Rouge.

 After the Easter service, we headed to Harajuku to see all the crazy people. If you follow my FB page you can see pictures of the masses.  There were so many people there.

We met up with Gaylynn and her crew and Tacey and her adopted Japanese daughter.  Found a restaurant and sat down together.  Gaylynn and Tacey shared their visit to ASIJ previously and we discussed what the visit is going to look like and some concerns we have about how it will all shake out.  I'm not going to go into detail yet about our discussion, but leave it to say, the reason I'm up at 3:00 a.m. is not because I want to but because of anxiety dreams.  I'll share more after our visit to ASIJ next week.

Today we are heading up to Nagano-Ken to lake Nojiri-ko where we spent many summers sailing, swimming and listening to music in the boat house.  We did a lot of other things too but enough said.
I'll post more as it comes.  Have a wonderful Easter week.  He is risen!!
Wow!  It's amazing to be back in Japan after being gone for 38 years. I am finally able to embrace this land I once called home.  The language is quickly coming back even though I only spoke "kodomo no nihongo" then and still the same now.

We arrived at Narita airport at 3:15 ish on Good Friday afternoon.  It was a massive mad house with people everywhere.  Getting through customs was easy but slow.  We went to pick up the wifi and the JR Rail Pass, which took more than an hour waiting in line.  Finally found a small soup place to grab a bowl of soup and headed to the train to take the hour ride into Tokyo.

When we got to the track the word Rapid Line was in bold letters on a sign, so I took that to mean that it was the "Rapid Express".  Come to find out the Narita Express and Rapid Line are two very different beasts. The Narita Express stops only once before getting into Tokyo.  The Rapid Line, however, stops at many stations.  Fortunately, we were able to get seats and spoke to two Japanese men who were from Kawasaki and Yokohama.  They were very nice and it made the trip pass more quickly.  By the time we arrived in Grand Central Station (Tokyo Station) it was roughly 9:00 p.m.  We were more than exhausted.  Neither of us were in a good mood and easily snapped at each other while we were trying to figure out where to go.

While we were on the train speaking with the men, we arrived at the conclusion that we should hail a cab at Tokyo station and have him drive us to the Airbnb in Akihabara rather than ride the connecting train or subway with all the luggage.  Of course, I over packed and we had too many bags and that cause more frustration for both of us.

We finally got up to the street level and hailed a cab and arrived at the apartment in Akihabara.  Once we arrived we easily got into the quaint, small but more than adequate apartment.  Very pleased that we took the chance to stay in this Airbnb it became our landing ground for the next three days.

The next morning we rose early and got out on the streets around 7:00 a.m. hunting for something to eat.  We walked to Akihabara and got the lay of the land and got on the Yamanote-sen and headed to Shibuya, my old stopping grounds.  We weren't able to find the exact land where our house stood but we came close enough.  It was so nostalgic to be in a place I lived for almost five of my high school years.

We then went to the Tokyo Tower and visited the Zojoji Temple where many famous and important people from Japan are buried.  The Tokyo Tower gave us a birds eye view of the city where over 38 million people reside (Tokyo Metro).  It's phenomenal, overwhelming and unbelievably clean.

Of course, along the way we had incredible food including Ramen.  I found myself craving rice, since I haven't eaten it in about a year.  With all the walking and exercising rice has a place in my tummy while we are in Japan.

After Tokyo Tower, we were pretty much exhausted so we returned to the apartment and rested until late afternoon.  That evening, my friend from high school picked us up and we had a wonderful private Japanese meal with him and his family.

This is where some of my anxiety began as we discussed the issues surrounding our visit to Tokyo and ultimately ASIJ where my sexual abuse began.

My friend has three children who attend ASIJ.  We discussed how everything looked from their perspective during the year and a half surrounding the investigation.  What they shared was some things which concerned me.  Some of which is to be expected by people who really didn't know what they were facing.  But, one message that seemed to resonate from the conversation is that there is still a sense of secrecy among the administration.

Middle school students haven't been included in much of the conversation and were not even informed that we were visiting the school.  It wasn't until Friday, the last day of school until Spring Break that the high school students received notification that if they wanted to come and speak with the "sisters" that they would need to reply to this email because space was limited.

We requested to be able to address the student body, but were told that we would meet with the student council and a few students.

But none the less, the new board has been more than accommodating and gracious to us and we are looking for the most productive day to share our stories and hopefully help to make the school a safer place for kids.

One area that concerns me, especially after reading a CNN article on "JK" or Joshi-Kosei (school girl) is that Japan's sexual perversion culture is at an all time high.  Roppongi, which used to be an area where we hung out in high school, has become very shady and rout with this group of exploited young women dressed up in school uniforms inviting men into to their school girl cafe to socialize, have massages and drink. Read the article here:  http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/27/asia/japan-schoolgirl-cafes-jk/

The Japanese shame culture is still the same so many of these women won't ever be rescued.  My friend and sister Tacey shared that the attitude toward women is still much the same. If a woman becomes pregnant and is working, she is immediately told of her dismissal and there is no maternity leave or compensation. Therefore, being a mother and having a career is relatively unheard of.  Tacey said that many of her friends who have careers are childless.

But one thing that she said also resonated to be true.  Until the Japanese women become vocal and stand up for a change, change isn't coming. They have to want it and embrace it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Heading to Japan

Heading to Japan.  Hope to write while on the plane and then some while in Japan.  Thank you to all who support me and my sisters in this very exciting yet apprehensive time.  God speed.