Family Visits

It was a hectic first weekend in Tokyo with Saturday school as well as some family visits that Miyamoto sensei helped setup with some of his current and former students.

Saturday night->Sunday morning I was in central Tokyo with a wonderful family with two boys. I had lunch Sunday in Yokohama with a mother and one of her two daughters (the other is at camp with friends in Michigan!), and dinner with another family back in Tokyo who have older kids.

At the beginning of the 5th grade session in on Saturday afternoon, I took my chair in the back, and I was delivered a hand-written note by one of the boys in class…

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[name removed to protect privacy]

When class was over 4 hours later (again, no sign of exhaustion from any student), the student and I braved the 95 degree humidity, found his dad, and we drove back to their neighborhood. My new friend insisted on wheeling my suitcase for me, and I wasn’t going to stop him. We made a quick pitstop at a summer dance festival, where there were a ton of kids watching the live dancing and singing. There was also the usual cotton candy and popcorn as well as the more unusual noodles, goldfish catching, and cork-shooting to win prizes. Wish I had grabbed a picture of that, but I guess you can’t capture everything.

When we got to their apartment, I was prepared an amazing traditional Japanese dinner which was highlighted by ginger pork, sashimi, and miso soup, not to mention the very enjoyable conversation about Miyamoto sensei’s class, his teaching methods, Japanese public schools vs. juku, amongst other things. Their son was clearly very into Miyamoto sensei’s class and has completed many of his puzzle books. Little did I know, Miyamoto sensei has a ton of puzzle books with many different types of puzzles – not just KenKen. He really is a puzzle master. Little does he know, his student is actually a little aspiring puzzle-master. He created one puzzle for me that I challenge anyone to solve. I still have yet to solve the pattern. Someone help me out? (Just for clarification, find x in the pattern: [4, 10, 21, 37, x, 97]

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When I asked him what the biggest lesson he learned from Miyamoto sensei was, without hesitation he said to never give up and struggling or concentrating for a long time on a problem is what helps make you strong.  I asked him if Miyamoto sensei ever said this explicitly to him, and he said he didn’t. It was implied. This theme would run through each of the three students I met with, and none of them have ever really spoken with their teacher.

Sunday morning I was prepared a delicious American-style breakfast, chatted some more with the parents, and they sweetly drove me to the local JR stop train so I could head to Yokohama.

I was shocked how easy it was to get to Yokohama. It’s about 30 miles from Tokyo yet trains leave every few minutes from a bunch of stations. I doubt anyone would have to even check a commuter line schedule or anything like that. Plus Google maps lays out everything perfectly for you on the Tokyo subways. Amazing. I arrived at Ishikawacho station and was met at the south gate by Hiromi and Manami Kaneko. They took me back to their apartment building where, on the first floor, they showed me their confection shop that had been in their family for four generations!

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Three generations of Kanekos at their confection shop

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Tons of great sweets, almost all hand-made on the premises. Hiromi went to school for two years to study the art of confectionary. Of course I tried to buy a bunch of stuff, and she didn’t let me pay. She took me upstairs to the third floor and prepared me a delicious lunch of noodles, egg, ham, and some vegetables. We all spoke about lots of stuff, but when it came to Miyamoto, Manami said the same thing: his lesson was to never give up and that sometimes you have to struggle with hard problems. This is what makes you strong. Does he ever say that? No. It’s just the ethos of the class.

I capped off my marathon day of travel (and eating) with dinner near Togoshiginza station back in Tokyo. Apparently the longest shopping street in Japan is here, but it was just too hot and I was too tired from running around to explore it. I was met at the train station by Misa Ro, one of Miyamoto’s former students who now goes to a very prestigious high school, and one of her friends. Her friend couldn’t stop making fun of her for not doing her homework. Misa didn’t deny it. She says she just doesn’t like or do homework. All of her teachers know it, and her mom was clearly not happy when the subject came up. It was a bit of a departure in attitude from the other students, but it seemed to work for her. I’m sure Miyamoto sensei knows this, and I kind of appreciate him not setting me up with only ambitious, overly-studious, students.

We at delicious Korean BBQ on their roof and enjoyed some casual conversation.

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view from the roof with Togoshiginza station below and a bit of Mt. Fuji in the distance

When Miyamoto sensei came up in conversation, it was the same theme: never give up, struggle, concentrate. This makes you strong. It got more powerful every time I heard it. I gave both of the students a view gifts from Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store, and I went on my way. It was a long day but one full of great sights and insights.

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One comment

  1. Aaron,

    I am inspired by your experience and love hearing about your conversations and classroom experiences. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip. The message about productive struggle, perseverance, and hard work really resonates. Enjoy the rest of your trip and take plenty I pictures.

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