November 25, 2019

Capstone Class of 2020: Final Day and Capstone Ending

We finally embarked on the closing day of the 2019-2020 Japanese Track Capstone. This was the final countdown of capstone and the last push to explore Taka-Sensei’s agenda: Tokyo Tower, Asasuka Sensoji, a ferry boat ride on the Sumida River, to end up at the Toyota’s Mega Web museum and finally the “End of Celebration” of the capstone. The day was going to be intense with lots of walking to be had. All-in-all, it was going to be an event-filled day.

The day started in the hotel lobby with the group meeting at 9:00 am. We made our way to the Shinagawa station which took us only a couple of stops to get to Tokyo Tower.

Upon arrival and admission into the tower, we ran across something interesting that we had heard nothing about until we explored the facility. Have you ever heard of “The Mystery Ball”? The plaque for the display read as:

“In August 2012, the large-scale construction work replacing the antenna post on the top of Tokyo Tower was carried out for the first time since construction in 1958. This rubber baseball was then found from the inside of the antenna post. Why this ball has got into such a place? We asked for the public opinion: “The ball hit by a baseball boy had slipped into construction yard”
“It was intentionally put in by a construction worker as a memento”
“It was actually used in the construction work as some tool” and so on…
However, this “WHY” has never been answered and this ball is now called a “Mystery Ball”.

We all made our way to the sky deck to take in the surrounding view. Fortunately, we arrived early enough to be ahead of the crowds and was able to take in the Tokyo cityscape without any impeding views.

Shortly after our visit to Tokyo Tower, we made our way toward the Asasuka Sensoji Temple. However, on the way, we took in some other sites. Here is a picture of a children’s temple that helps take care of the children who have passed away and for children who were stillborn or miscarried.

We continued our march toward the Asakusa Sensoji Temple and had to stop to take in this fun picture of the group with the Tokyo Tower and Temple in the background.

At the main entrance to the temple, we also ran into this US and Japanese history, with President Grant planting this tree in 1879!

Along the way, we ran into some unique cars that are not seen in The States. Here is a Daihatsu that the kids were drawn to and intrigued by its cuteness.

I was more drawn to the beautiful symphony of the Ferrari’s engine.

Eventually, we made it to Asasuka Sensoji Temple for a brief getaway with our respective families to get some lunch and see some of the many vendors that were there for gifts.

A little fun fact: Although it is thought that the temple is the considered the oldest temple in Tokyo, 645AD; it has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. The latest version of the temple was rebuilt in 1958.

At the entrance to Asasuka Sensoji the fifth-graders took in the cleansing process.

The kids even washed their hands and learned to spit properly. I think the group enjoyed doing that a little more than expected. No pictures were allowed in the temple but there is where we all made our contributions and checked our fortunes. There were some smiles, Taka-Sensei was very happy, and there were some tears. The ones with tears tied those fortunes on the temple racks to be left behind.

We left the temple to go to our ferry ride of the Sumida River, along the way we got a beautiful view of the Tokyo Sky Tree. It was impressive, even for Godzilla! I mean, Ryan Dyson, our resident capstone parent Godzilla.

Out of all of the events of the capstone, this was by far the most relaxing and somewhat awestruck of experiences. The smoothness of the ferry ride and the droning of the engines made it very relaxing. However, when you get to the top viewing deck, you get a unique perspective of the cityscape as you are at sea level looking directly up at it. It was beautiful.

Here is a little fun fact about the Sumida River: The river was not always known as the Sumida River. It was originally part of the Area River. At the end of the Meiji period, the river was redirected to flow, what is now known as the Sumida River, to help prevent flooding.

After we arrived at the dock and disembarked from the ferry we made our way to get some lunch. Once we started our walk, we were easily distracted by the escalator at Fuji Television building. So we made a short excursion for the kids to make the unique escalator ride. Unfortunately, we found out later that this would eat into our lunchtime (see the pun I did there Ryan? I can be funny!). We then got distracted by the gigantic Gundam Mech statue before lunch.

After the short distraction, we only had thirty-minutes to grab lunch from the food court before heading out to Toyota’s Mega Web museum. Vivi made use of her lunchtime to grab this cotton-candy-ice-cream treat.

Our last event was to visit Toyota’s Mega Web. This was a display of Toyota’s future and the Gazoo Racing Team development. From here we spent around forty-five minutes to explore this section of the massive hall. While in this section we could see displays of the future development of Toyota with electric cars, efficient one-person vehicles, and two two-wheeled Segway-style scooters. We also got to try out some driving and racing simulators to experience how driving cars in the future might be like. I could have spent all day at this facility if given the chance.

With daylight now gone, we had to make our way back to the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. A couple of short train rides later and we were back. Once outside the hotel entrance, we knew it was time to get together for one last photo, as the 2019/2020 Japanese 5th Grade Capstone officially came to an end. The looks on everyone’s face was that of relief but there was something else that was not said or recognized amongst each other but only obvious in the final closing picture. When the kids first arrived, they were scared, shy and timid and fearful of the unknown. This last picture though, you can see and feel the confidence, the pride and the fearlessness of an unknown future. As their year comes to a close, they will remember their experiences here in Japan for the rest of their lives. We can only hope that they continue to feed off of their experiences to help them discover the coming chapters in their lives.