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ODAWARA CITY, JAPAN – I am finishing my third full day in Japan as I started it; sitting in my hotel room that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. If I had done nothing else today, that would have been exciting and interesting and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure all by itself.
But instead of it stopping there, I had one of the most fascinating, fun, exciting, interesting and memorable days of my life.
As I was deciding what to write about today, it was clear that there is no way to fully paint a picture of how special today has been to me. I will do my best to run you through my day as a representative of Norman Public Schools through the Hitachi Teacher Exchange Program.
I am one of three educators – along with Calypso Gilstrap, a Librarian at Norman High School, and Ellen Kraft, an English Language Teacher at Truman Primary – from our district selected to travel to Japan to grow a better cultural understanding of our friends here. Our wonderful host through Hitachi, Jeannie Green-LaCroix, is traveling with us.
One of the elements of the Japanese culture is for business professionals to exchange business cards with anyone new they meet. We prepared for this and made our own business cards while in Oklahoma to exchange while in Japan. Our first encounter with the trading of business cards was when Hitachi hosts picked us up from our hotel early in the morning. Each representative formally introduced himself and presented us with his business card, one side in English and one side in Japanese.
The custom is to use two hands to present your business card and the recipient should take time to study and learn your name. Our Japanese hosts and translator were kind and genuinely happy to meet us. They then took us from our hotel to Odawara City Hall to meet with the Mayor, Odawara Schools Superintendent, members of the Odawara Board of Education and several other school officials.
Upon arrival we exchanged business cards with many officials from the city and schools. We then were escorted to a meeting room where a short presentation was made by the Mayor and Superintendent, as well as a speech from Calypso. We were presented with beautiful Japanese lacquer boxes as gifts and even were given business cards with our names on them as a keepsake.
I felt like a dignitary Bowing is also a custom in Japan when greeting, thanking or parting from someone. We bowed and were bowed to over and over. It was a strange feeling to know that I am one of hundreds of amazing educators from the Norman Public Schools, but had the opportunity to be treated with honor in Japan. The feeling is still surreal.
Our next stop was Hitachi. We were again greeted and treated with honor. Another short presentation was made to our group giving us an overview of Hitachi. Hitachi makes many products all over the world. Besides Odawara and Norman, Hitachi has major locations in France and the Netherlands, as well as many other spots in Japan.
We were escorted to lunch at the Hi Lounge inside Hitachi’s building. We were presented with a beautiful buffet made just for us. It had fruit, egg rolls, Caesar salad, rolls, seafood spaghetti, beef stroganoff, a pork dish, Chinese fried chicken and they even served us French fries. We ate with knives and forks instead of the customary chopsticks. The meal was delicious.
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