Tour of Japan | Cary Academy Goes to Japan 2018 – Experiences

Nov 26 | Evan | No Comments |

This summer, Japan Photo Guide by Evan Pike was once again able to offer a spectacular trip to Japan just for Cary Academy students. Katie Taylor, 6th grade Language Arts teacher and Japan enthusiast, co-led the group with Evan. We began our trip in Tokyo, then traveled to Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Kyoto before returning home from Osaka. This post is written by Katie Taylor, a 6th grade teacher at Cary Academy and Japan enthusiast.

Read about our 2016 trip to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto or see all reports from the 2018 tour of Japan.


We call our trip for CA students “Experience Japan” for good reason: we don’t just ride a tour bus from location to location looking at things, but we include a wide variety of hands-on experiences that allow students to connect with the people and culture of Japan in authentic ways. I’ve already mentioned the cooking lesson at Yuca’s home and the origami lesson at Origami Kaikan, both of which were amazing experiences.

One of our first experiences on this year’s trip was a visit to a VR arcade in Tokyo, VR Zone Shinjuku. “Arcade” doesn’t seem like the right word since it conjures up images of American shopping malls and Pac-Man; this was more like an indoor amusement park. We played MarioKart and other games or just watched. The arcade is set up with viewing screens, so your friends can see what you’re seeing on the VR headset.

Probably the most unique experience we had was visiting a brand new avant-garde art installation in Odaiba, one of the newest areas of Tokyo. “Team Lab Borderless” is a totally unique museum experience in which the user interacts with the art. There are huge displays of moving flowers that are projected on the walls and your body. There are rooms full of inflated shapes that you can walk through. There’s a slide, things to climb, a “forest” to walk through, a room full of lights that makes it feel like you’re underwater, and even two different rooms in which you can design your own flower, fish, or animal using a coloring page and then see your design literally move across the floors and walls of the exhibit. 

While in Kyoto, we had the chance to participate in some classic Japanese experiences that everyone should do at least once. We learned traditional calligraphy from a calligraphy artist, participated in a tea ceremony, learned the basics of kendo (swordmanship), and played taiko (drums). 

 

Of course some of the most memorable experiences happen with the least planning. For example, one day in Kyoto we visited a temple and found an unexpected art show! A mother and her daughter were showcasing their designs. The mother’s art was made using dried flowers that she finds on her walks and the daughter did playful calligraphy. We were so enthralled we ended up buying a few pieces!

Any animals we saw were a big hit for our group too. We enjoyed visiting the Grand Ise Shrine, but the local cats we found afterwards were probably as memorable as our visit to the ancient pilgrimage site. We saw fish, fed deer, and even found a Shiba Inu hanging out at a restaurant waiting for his owner! I think we may have some future Shiba owners in our group.

Tour of Japan | Cary Academy Goes to Japan 2018 – Food

Oct 26 | Evan | No Comments |

This summer, Japan Photo Guide by Evan Pike was once again able to offer a spectacular trip to Japan just for Cary Academy students. Katie Taylor, 6th grade Language Arts teacher and Japan enthusiast, co-led the group with Evan. We began our trip in Tokyo, then traveled to Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Kyoto before returning home from Osaka. This post is written by Katie Taylor, a 6th grade teacher at Cary Academy and Japan enthusiast.

Read about our 2016 trip to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto or see all reports from the 2018 tour of Japan.


When I tell people about traveling to Japan, they inevitably ask about the food. Along with swords and anime, sushi is probably the most famous Japanese “stereotype” for people in the U.S. Of course, there’s so much more to Japanese food than sushi, but the sushi is pretty amazing! Our students particularly enjoyed conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Two of them had competitions as to who could leave the tallest stack of plates… and the highest bill. Evan knows a good conveyor-belt sushi place in pretty much every corner of Tokyo.

 

Ramen and udon were also favorites of our students. We learned how to make ramen at a cooking class with Yuca, an Insta-famous home chef in Tokyo. We ate at several ramen restaurants during our trip. Each student had his/her favorites, but most of us agreed that ramen and udon are better than soba.

We had a lot of fun dining at izakaya, which are like laid-back small plates restaurants. One of our favorites in Kyoto specializes in “yakitori”, grilled chicken on a stick. I think a couple of our students would’ve eaten there every day if there was one at home!

One of my favorite foods in Japan is the soft-serve ice cream. This usually surprises people, but the ice cream in Japan is amazing! You can get all the typical flavors (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry), but there are so many unique flavors too. One soft-serve spot in Hiroshima had blue “ramune” flavored soft-serve; we went there twice! My personal favorite was in Miyajima. After a long hike down Mount Misen, we enjoyed lightly coffee flavored ice cream. Delicious! I didn’t get a photo of it, but one stall in Kyoto sold cod-roe flavored soft serve. I thought it was strawberry from afar, but luckily I read the sign before anyone ordered it!

 

Here is a gallery for more of the delicious food we had in Japan!

Tour of Japan | Cary Academy Goes to Japan 2018 – Souvenirs and Shopping

Sep 26 | Evan | No Comments |

This summer, Japan Photo Guide by Evan Pike was once again able to offer a spectacular trip to Japan just for Cary Academy students. Katie Taylor, 6th grade Language Arts teacher and Japan enthusiast, co-led the group with Evan. We began our trip in Tokyo, then traveled to Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Kyoto before returning home from Osaka. This post is written by Katie Taylor, a 6th grade teacher at Cary Academy and Japan enthusiast.

Read about our 2016 trip to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto or see all reports from the 2018 tour of Japan.


Shopping could probably be considered a national pastime in Japan. Many foreign tourists visit Japan just for the shopping, and Japan is one of the world’s top markets for luxury brands. This includes high-end purses, perfumes, designer clothing, and watches! Of course, we didn’t do too much luxury shopping since we were traveling with teenagers, but we did our fair share of shopping just the same!

Shoes were an especially popular purchase on this trip. Japan is a sneakerhead’s paradise. Many styles are only available in Japan, or available there early.

Another popular souvenir for our travelers was what I like to call “backpack swag.” Pins, keychains, and stuffed animals all ended up decorating backpacks. Disney bears, Totoro-shaped giant change purses, Toyota pins, tiny golden Buddhas, you name it—we have it on a backpack or purse.

One student was excited to find a wallet that was made out of leather using no sewing or metal fixtures. It was basically an origami wallet and was handmade in a shop in Nagoya. The Osu shopping street area in Nagoya had quite a few interesting shops. “Alice on Wednesday” even had a line out front like an exclusive club!

Some of our favorite souvenirs we made ourselves! At Orgiami Kaikan, we made bookmarks and “beating” hearts, which Japanese school children use to share a secret crush! We also found lots of neat shards of pottery on the beach at Miyajima, which we plan to make into jewelry someday!

2018 Summer Tour of Japan | Portraits in Tokyo

Aug 12 | Evan | No Comments |

While most of my work in the USA is portraiture, while on the photography tours of Japan I tend to take more landscapes or wildlife photos.  At the end of my 2018 summer tour of Japan I had a some for a few portrait sessions in Tokyo.  The heat was miserable but somehow the two models I worked with kept cool!

Both were very professional and needed very little guidance from me, making my job easy!  First was some street photography portraits in Tokyo around Ometesando and then I headed over to Shibuya for more portraits in Tokyo.  Once the sunset in Tokyo, we moved into Shibuya Scramble for the rest portrait session.  

All of these portraits in Shibuya Scramble were handheld with the Olympus OMD EM1MII at 1/20th of a second or less.  Thanks to the great in body image stabilization (IBIS) of the camera and the 12-100 f4 pro lens, it was easy to capture the movement and organized chaos of the scramble that goes on every few minutes in Shibuya.  Check out the gallery below for more portraits in Tokyo or find me on instagram @japanphotoguide!

 

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