by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Ohdono Elementary School
October 18, 2002

One of 3rd-grade Classes

Since my first visit in November 2001 to Ohdono Elementary School in Yamaguchi City, I exchanged many e-mails and letters with the children in the 4th-grade class of Mrs. Ishima. For many students it was the first time to send and receive an e-mail note or an overseas letter. These children are now 5th graders, and Mrs. Ishima now is a 3rd-grade teacher. During 2002 I have continued to exchange regular e-mails with one of her former students, Miki Fujiyama, and have kept in touch with Mrs. Ishima. I looked forward very much to seeing again the principal Mr. Tanaka, Mrs. Ishima, Miki, and the other teachers and students at Ohdono Elementary.

Talking with 4th-grade Students
The main reason for this second visit to Ohdono Elementary School was to present a new Friendship Doll named Tina to the students. After the morning presentation ceremony attended by all of the school's 600 students, I gave separate talks to the 3rd-grade students and 4th-grade students. Both groups of students sang a traditional song during our time together. The 4th graders had prepared a game for me where I had to guess the names of various items of Japanese culture. They started with an easy one (a "furoshiki," which is a dyed cloth traditionally used to wrap and carry items), but my mind went completely blank. I could describe how it is used, but I was not able to remember the word furoshiki, even though I learned the word long ago and even have received a furoshiki as a present a couple of times. After the poor start in the game, I surprised myself that I remembered the Japanese words for each of the next seven items, such as an umbrella (kasa), fan (sensu), and wooden clogs (geta).
Competing with Chopsticks
After lunch with one of the 4th-grade classes, I played various games with the children. Several of the boys showed me their skill in making tops spin. The Japanese-style top is released with an attached string by snapping the wrist in a certain way, but I gave up after three complete failures. The children were surprised how easily I could juggle three brightly covered bean bags, but they laughed a lot when I tried blindfolded to put the eyes, nose, and mouth on a blank face laid out in front of me on the floor. Several children enjoyed playing a game where the object is to use chopsticks to pick up within one minute as many small beans as possible in one bowl and put them one at a time into another bowl. Even though I usually use chopsticks to eat at home, I thought the children would easily beat me at this game. However, the game seemed surprisingly easy, and I ended up moving two or three times more beans in a minute than the children I played against.
Putting Firefly Larvae into River
The big event for the 3rd and 4th graders in the afternoon was a short walk to the nearby Ichinosaka River (more like a stream) to release firefly larvae. When I first heard of this event, I had a hard time understanding its purpose, but the school's web site has much information about the Genji fireflies and the activities of the students to preserve them. We first stopped by a nature center to hear several speakers discuss the Genji fireflies and the efforts to preserve them. The principal explained to me the differences between the male and female fireflies, which I had never considered before when as a boy in Missouri I tried to catch fireflies and put them in containers. Next we went to the river and divided up into groups of four. Each group received a small glass aquarium from the nature center workers, and we then released the firefly larvae at various places in the stream.
Outside Entrance to
Akiyoshi Cave
On Saturday I went with Mrs. Ishima, Miki Fujiyama, and two friends in her 5th-grade class to Akiyoshi Cave, the largest cave in Japan. The cave extends for about a mile, and it has many beautiful and unusual rock formations. We climbed up the slippery rocks near the entrance to reach the cave's ceiling more than 50 feet above the cave's floor. Although the day was rainy, we all had a fun time walking through the cave, looking in the souvenir shops on the road to the cave, and trying to keep warm and dry.

My three-day visit to Yamaguchi City included many memorable and enjoyable experiences, including meeting the woman who in 1927 was Yamaguchi Prefecture's representative to receive 200 Friendship Dolls from America. Besides my visit to Ohdono Elementary School, I also had the opportunity to visit Oouchi Elementary School in Yamaguchi City. I look forward very much to continuing to exchange e-mails and letters with Miki Fujiyama and other students, and I hope someday that I will have the opportunity to return again to visit the friendly teachers and students at Ohdono Elementary School.

One of 3rd-grade Classes

Another 3rd-grade Class

Friendship Visits - October 2002

Page on Ohdono Elementary School's Blue-eyed Doll Rosemary
Page on Ohdono Elementary School's New Blue-eyed Doll Tina

November 2001 Friendship Visit to Ohdono Elementary School

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