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こんにちは (Kon’nichiwa!)

Updated: Feb 12, 2022

Hello!  The first word I learned in Japanese?  Kon’nichiwa.  Ironically it was while listening to a podcast when driving for a passport renewal in Arkansas.  I practiced saying it, couldn’t hear quite clearly if it was a “m” or an “n” in the middle, and repeated it with my daughters.  Luckily, we had plenty of opportunities to practice it during the three nights we stayed in Tokyo.  What were our top five “Aha!” moments and learning experiences in our endeavor to get the most in this quick 8-night cruise vacation that make us look forward to booking a return trip?  Below are thoughts about the three nights in Tokyo for our pre-cruise visit prior to embarking Diamond Princess for a Summer Festivals itinerary.

Public Transportation

While this sounds silly being an “Aha! moment”, when you land in a foreign airport 45 miles from the city center, clear Customs, must purchase train passes, make a transfer, then walk 15 minutes (in the rain) to the hotel you have selected…. all after 

Navigating the ticket machines after determining what fare we needed became second nature eventually (keep reading below), whether we were heading into downtown Tokyo to visit local attractions or over to Disney.  Seeing many people quickly get into local transportation options and grab a handgrip was common, especially during the commute hours.


While some kids may be enamored with the poop emoji keychains these days, one of our’s came out of the hotel bathroom loudly exclaiming “WHY IS THERE BUTT SPRAY ON THE TOILET?!?”.  After laughing, we explained “butt spray”.  A fancy hotel can have a fancy potty, right?!?  However, I do not think any of us tested out the “butt spray”, or at least none have admitted it.

We also visited several attractions around town where the girls were exposed to their first “squat toilets”.  Now, being from east Texas and having done lots of hiking and camping in my life, don’t think I haven’t taught them how to squat behind a tree.  Been there, done that!  But when walking into a restroom facility and seeing options in toilets, if there was a “squat toilet”, we each would still check the other stalls to see if we might be in luck for an American toilet.  Fortunately none of us had to engage those leg muscles and practice the squat, but it was a great reminder we weren’t in Texas any more!

Ordering a Meal

We knew our tummies were probably not going to adjust too quickly, especially after “airplane food”, so we stopped in the local McDonalds on our way out to test out ordering something we were familiar with for a breakfast.  

Our last stop prior to boarding our cruise ship was a visit to the Cup Noodle Museum.  An add-on was an opportunity to make your own noodles to transport home, just another way of interactive creativity and using our person-to-person skills in a foreign country.  This may have been our youngest daughter’s favorite souvenir.  We do have an expiration date handwritten on the packaging, but she would not let us cook it when I said we would have “noodle night”.  So…. the only package in the world of her specific noodles is still in the top of the pantry, most likely to never be touched.

Experiencing Pieces of History

It an absolute must to be exposed to history and local customs when visiting a foreign country, and we also enjoyed using our map reading skills to maximize our short few days in Tokyo.  Carrying our handy travel book, we could easily reference locations in English, but luckily most exhibits were written in both Japanese and English.  We took time out to look at swans and fish, share green tea, as well as watch an artist working on her renderings outside in the fresh air (learning can occur any time, anywhere!!).

National Garden

Recognizing it Truly is a Small World

Okay… so give us grief for taking a day out to visit Disneyland and Disney Sea… but when you have amazing elementary school aged kiddos that rocked it on a 13+ hour flight, a day off to let us ALL be a kid is in order!  To make the most out of this visit, we compared to the parks in Florida and California (how in the world does my husband remember such detail from Pirates of the Caribbean??), sampled many of the different popcorn flavors and unique local food.

But I would be remiss if I did not add a #6

and is actually the number one “Aha! moment”:


Everyone was so kind and courteous to us, helping us answer questions at the stations with public transportation, ordering at the restaurants, and more.  I must admit that I may have had a slight bit of frustration looking at the fare map for the public transportation, and while I knew the name in English it was all written in Japanese.  “Little spaceship figure next to Christmas tree” would be something I would blurt out in a semi-stressed tone when my family would ask which station we were heading to!  Luckily that first morning, a sweet Japanese man approached us after we had been staring and pointing to the map for a good ten minutes or so.  When one asks our daughters what was her favorite thing about this trip (which was combined later with an eight-night cruise), she would say “the people”.  Let that sink in for a moment.  “The people“.  Yes.  Random acts of kindness, helpfulness, thankfulness.  Just a little bit of what the world needs a whole lot more.  Things we model with our children daily, not necessarily teach.  To us, this was by far the most important part of our trip.  We look forward to saying Kon’nichiwa again in the future in Japan as we get the Most Per Mile out of this journey called life!

Possible History Curriculum Correlations in Texas:

Citizenship. The student understands characteristics of good citizenship as exemplified by historical figures and other individuals. The student is expected to:

(A) identify characteristics of good citizenship, including truthfulness, justice, equality, respect for oneself and others, responsibility in daily life, and participation in government by educating oneself about the issues, respectfully holding public officials to their word, and voting;

(B) identify historical figures such as Paul Revere, Abigail Adams, World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and Navajo Code Talkers, and Sojourner Truth who have exemplified good citizenship;

(C) identify other individuals who exemplify good citizenship; and

(D) identify ways to actively practice good citizenship, including involvement in community service.

(5) History. The student understands important issues, events, and individuals in the United States during the 20th and 21st centuries. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze various issues and events of the 20th century such as industrialization, urbanization, increased use of oil and gas, the Great Depression, the world wars, the civil rights movement, and military actions;

(4) Geography. The student understands the factors that influence the locations and characteristics of locations of various contemporary societies on maps and globes and uses latitude and longitude to determine absolute locations. The student is expected to:

(F) identify the location of major world countries such as Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Iran, India, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Japan, North and South Korea, Indonesia, and Australia.

US History c.7.A-G

(7) History. The student understands the domestic and international impact of U.S. participation in World War II. The student is expected to:

(A) identify reasons for U.S. involvement in World War II, including Italian, German, and Japanese dictatorships and their aggression, especially the attack on Pearl Harbor;

(B) evaluate the domestic and international leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman during World War II, including the U.S. relationship with its allies and domestic industry’s rapid mobilization for the war effort;

(C) analyze the function of the U.S. Office of War Information;

(D) analyze major issues of World War II, including the Holocaust; the internment of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans and Executive Order 9066; and the development of conventional and atomic weapons;

(E) analyze major military events of World War II, including the Battle of Midway, the U.S. military advancement through the Pacific Islands, the Bataan Death March, the invasion of Normandy, fighting the war on multiple fronts, and the liberation of concentration camps;

(F) evaluate the military contributions of leaders during World War II, including Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Chester A. Nimitz, George Marshall, and George Patton; and

(G) explain the home front and how American patriotism inspired exceptional actions by citizens and military personnel, including high levels of military enlistment; volunteerism; the purchase of war bonds; Victory Gardens; the bravery and contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Flying Tigers, and the Navajo Code Talkers; and opportunities and obstacles for women and ethnic minorities.

along with several TEKS in Economics relating to World War II

World History c.12.A-C

(12) History. The student understands the causes and impact of World War II. The student is expected to:

(A) describe the emergence and characteristics of totalitarianism;

(B) explain the roles of various world leaders, including Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill, prior to and during World War II; and

(C) explain the major causes and events of World War II, including the German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, Japanese imperialism, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Normandy landings, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.


(28) Science, technology, and society. The student understands how major scientific and mathematical discoveries and technological innovations have affected societies from 1750 to the present. The student is expected to:

(A) explain the role of textile manufacturing and steam technology in initiating the Industrial Revolution and the role of the factory system and transportation technology in advancing the Industrial Revolution;

(B) explain the roles of military technology, transportation technology, communication technology, and medical advancements in initiating and advancing 19th century imperialism;

(C) explain the effects of major new military technologies on World War I, World War II, and the Cold War;

(D) explain the role of telecommunication technology, computer technology, transportation technology, and medical advancements in developing the modern global economy and society;

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