Monday, April 30, 2012

Flat Stanley in Tokyo: Trains and Baseball

Now we are in Tokyo. Tokyo is the capital of Japan just like Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States.

More than 36 million people live in Tokyo. Do you know how many people live in Washington, D.C.? The answer is 4 million.

To see the difference, let's pretend one of you is all the people who live in Washington, D.C. Now let's pretend that nine of you are all the people who live in Tokyo. That's a big difference!

Riding a train to Tokyo was easy and fun. Trains are a good way to get around in Japan. Grownups ride trains to go to work and children of all ages go to school by train. One man I saw on the train was going fishing.

Most of the train stations in and around Tokyo have signs in English. When the signs are not in English, friendly Japanese people usually offer to help you get to where you want to go. Most Japanese students study English in junior high school and many of them like to practice speaking English with American and British visitors.

Friendly Japanese people on train platform

If no one is around to help us, we just hop on a train and go where it takes us. Japan is such a safe country that we never worry about getting lost. It is fun to go exploring in a safe country like Japan!

No one talks on their cell phone while riding a train in Japan. Manners are always important but especially so in countries like Japan and cities like Tokyo where millions of people must share such a small amount of space.

I saw lots of people taking naps on the train. Other people were reading books or knitting or playing silent electronic games or texting on their cell phones. I had a book to read (Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club) but decided to look out the window instead. We arrived in Tokyo just thirty minutes after we left Yokohama.

Ryan's friends took me to an afternoon baseball game. The Yomiuri Giants were playing the Hanshin Tigers at the Tokyo Dome.  I saw a ferris wheel and a roller coaster next to the Tokyo Dome but I didn't get a chance to ride them. 

“Besuboru” (BEH-SU-BOH-RU) is very popular in Japan, where it has been played for more than one hundred years.  The real Japanese name is yakyu (YAH-KEE-YOU), which combines the Japanese letters for “fielding” and “ball.” The first professional baseball team was formed by a man named Hiroshi Hiraoka when he returned to Japan after studying in the United States.  Hiraoka and his co-workers founded the Shimbashi Athletic Club in Tokyo in 1878. The first high school baseball team, Ichiko, started playing in 1886.

Little League baseball
Just like in the United States, people of all ages play baseball in Japan, from little league to the major league Nippon Professional Baseball or NPB.

Many Japanese major leaguers have played for U.S. baseball teams. The most famous are Hideo Nomo (Dodgers), Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners), and Hideki Matsui (Yankees). There are 12 major league teams in Japan, divided into two leagues – Central and Pacific – and they play a “Japan Series” just like the U.S. “World Series” to crown a champion each year.

The most famous team in Japan is the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. They are like the New York Yankees in American baseball.  Their main rival is the Osaka Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers are like the Boston Red Sox in our country.  Whenever the Giants play the Tigers in Japan, it is like the Yankees against the Red Sox in the U.S. Each team has very devoted fans.

Tigers' cheering section at Tokyo Dome

Baseball fans in Japan really get into the game. Their cheering sections take up the whole bleacher sections.  They are led by a cheer conductor who wears white gloves and stands in the middle of the section next to their band.  They all stand and sing or chant the entire time their team is up to bat.  Then they sit quietly while the other team’s batters are up.

The fans especially like to dress up in outfits like the uniforms that their favorite team wears.

Hello Kitty souvenirs
The Tokyo Dome is a great place to watch a baseball game. The fans are fun. The souvenirs are really cool. And the food is yummy!

What fun things will we do tomorrow?  I can hardly wait to find out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Flat Stanley in Japan

Hello from Japan! Did you know that Japanese people call their country Nihon (NEE-HOHN)?

Japan is almost halfway around the world from the United States.  When you are getting ready for school at seven o'clock in the morning, it is already nine o'clock at night in Japan and the second graders here are all sound asleep in their beds.

Japan is a country of islands.  The whole country is just a little bit smaller than the State of California.

Most of the people live on the four biggest islands:  Hokkaido (HOH-KAH-EE-DOH), Honshu (HOHN-SHOE), Shikoku (SHEE-KOH-KOO), and Kyushu (KEE-YOO-SHOE).  Ryan's friends live near Yokohama.  Can you find Yokohama on the map?

In Japan the school year begins in April. There is a six week long break in summer and shorter breaks in winter and spring. I picked a good time to visit Japan because the spring break, called Golden Week, began today. Golden Week begins on April 29 when the Japanese people celebrate Showa Day, the birthday of Emperor Showa who ruled Japan for more than fifty years until he died in 1989. His son is now the Emperor of Japan.

Takano Fruit Parlor is a fun place to celebrate birthdays in Japan.  Let's go there to celebrate Showa Day!  The special fruit for April is mango.  Mary ordered the biggest mango dessert on the menu!

Amy had a biwa (BEE-WAH) parfait. Biwa looks and tastes like a peach.

I liked the chocolate parfait, too. Chocolate is less sweet in Japan than it is in the United States but it still tastes good.

We are going to celebrate the rest of Golden Week in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. I am so excited!


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