Even though the RIKEN aspect of Exeter’s RIKEN program only exists during the week, our first (and only) weekend of the program was far from boring. Saturday morning started out with a Harkness demonstration at Gakugeidai High School, which my host sister happens to attend. Since she was going to participate in the Harkness class as well, we took the bus to school together. During the Harkness demonstration, which Mr. Blackwell led, we figured out together as a class what exactly defined an astronomical day. I later found out that Jeffrey and Issay (a classmate of ours who is in Japan for the summer) had talked about the exact same thing during the first Harkness demonstration, which I had missed out on because I was busy seeing Kamakura with my host family – oops. I can’t help feeling like I lucked out about that, although in their defense they must now be really sure of what a day is. The Harkness demonstration itself was about as long as a normal class, but it was followed by lots of questions by both the students – most of whom spoke fluent English (and had come to school during their summer vacation!) – and the teachers. On the upside, this means that there is a lot of interest about the Harkness Method here in Japan; on the downside, it took wayy more time than I was expecting. The school seemed very thankful we could come, though, and I hope they will start to consider the Harkness Method as a viable way of teaching.
Our next activity, apart from getting our luggage from our host families to the hotel, was to attend an Exeter event at the Tokyo American Club. Although the majority of the people there were affiliated with Exeter one way or another, from alums to parents of Exonians to current students, Dr. Kishida was there, as well as principals and teachers from Japanese schools as well as my entire host family and Jeffrey’s host mother – in other words, the party was a physical representation of Exeter’s growing influence in Tokyo and in Japan as a whole. The get-together also made me realize that I and Jeffrey (and our teachers) are truly in good hands here in Tokyo: Mr. Yang and Mr. Kuwana are not only wonderful at organizing things behind the scenes, but they are incredibly gracious hosts. They have done so much for us already, but they make it seem like it’s nothing.
As yet another example of his generosity, Mr. Yang took all of us (Mr. Blackwell, Mr. Saltman, Mrs. Saltman, Jeffrey, and me) out to brunch Sunday morning at a restaurant located on the 51st floor of the Roppongi Hills Tower. Looking over all of Tokyo, we ate some really delicious food (3 entire courses of delicious food, actually) and got a chance to talk with Mr. Yang. Afterwards, he gave us tickets that let us experience some of Roppongi Hills’ many attractions. First was Tokyo City View, an observatory with a 360º view of Tokyo (pictures below!). Next was one of the highlights of my time in Tokyo so far, the Mori Art Museum. Its featured exhibit showcased the work of Dinh Q. Lê, a Vietnamese artist who deals with all things relating to Vietnamese culture, with a strong focus on the Vietnam War. Using all sorts of media, from photographs to video to large models, he explored the war from a highly personal, Vietnamese perspective. Interestingly, he also looked at its intersection with World War II, and the parallels and differences between Japan and Vietnam during their respective conflicts with the US. While the exhibition only stands until October 12th, I could not recommend it more highly if you get an opportunity to go. Our last stop in Roppongi Hills Tower was the roof, which offered a spectacular view of the city without any glass getting in the way. Needless to say, I took lots of pictures.