Day 3 — Busy Day, Now an Uninvited Guest

An Open Letter to Typhoon Noru:

Welcome to Saitama! Nice of you to pop in. But here’s the thing: for this trip, I’m not a fan of the pop-in, and it’s totally not cool that you’re here. Our Sister City invited us here; you didn’t even make the B-list. You’re not even one of the friends or family members that people feel obligated to invite to a function and then hope they don’t show up. Because of you, we had to postpone today’s baseball games to Friday and you’re wreaking havoc with our schedule. So, please stop dancing with our dates and go back out to sea.

Sincerely,  The Management

 And now back to your regularly scheduled blog…..

On Monday (Day 3), everyone was back together after Sunday’s day off.  We bused to the mint museum which was cool. We learned about security features on the 500 Yen coin, and saw replicas of the Olympic gold medals from the 3 Japan Olympics that were made at the mint factory. I was hoping we’d see more actual coin production, with thousands of little coins filtering out of the machines, but that was not happening today and unfortunately they were not taking requests from the audience like a karaoke bar. We saw some of the employees checking the coins — one person will check about 1,000 per day — and others doing things with coins that will become medals or “orders” like a Japanese medal of freedom. We watched through a glass window as people worked away. I’m thinking I’ll sell tickets to anyone who wants to stand outside my window at work (hey, it’s ground level!) and watch me write a brief. I’ll waive to you and smile every once in a while.

One thing I thought was interesting is that the Saitama mint makes some coins for other countries. It had never occurred to me that there are countries out there that will basically contract out their mint production. Imagine how classified that contract would have to be!

From there, we bused to the railway museum. I’m struggling with how to describe this museum because I don’t know who reads this blog. Let me try it this way: if you’re one of the organizers who put this on our schedule, thanks very much for your time and efforts to ensure we have a great trip!  And, if you’re a parent of one of the kids on this trip: the visit lasted 90 minutes and the kids ate burgers.

They had numerous train cars from old to new, along with samples of train tracks, signage, and old ticket-taker machines. The kids could sit on the old train cars and see what the seats were like. There was no formal tour; the kids hung with their chaperones and walked through the museum.

Those are trains in the background

All lined up, waiting for lunch at the railway museum

After lunch, we headed to the Mayor’s office. This was a big event, complete with speeches, press coverage, and cool swag. So big that we made the kids tuck in their shirts and leave their phones, water bottles, and hats on the bus. So big that Brian Shepard and Marty wore blazers. the event lasted about 30 minutes and the speeches were very moving about how wonderful this exchange program is. Here’s a snippet from Brian’s speech. JD said he really liked the part about how the Japanese and American kids are alike…

More pics from the Mayor’s visit:


In homage to all 11 and 12 year old kids’ inalienable right to party, we headed to the official reception! (I’ve been waiting for the right time to drop a Beastie Boys link). The food was really good and the kids had unlimited Coke (the drink, not the drug, just to clarify) so everyone was happy.

Everyone loved the drummers/dancers. Some of them looked so young, and when you focused on just one and not the group, you could see how choreographed each song is. Very impressive. Just for fun, they called up the Richmond players and let them play along to music. Here’s a quick non-scientific poll. Which group sounds better?

This ….

Or this….

No party for 11 and 12 yr old kids is complete without a magician. Enter Brian Quigley Copperfield, who has secretly been studying magic under learned magicians for either 2 years or 2 days, I can’t remember. With slight of hand and visual misdirection, Brian gave us a living room recliner seat to his magical fantasy world to witness the true art of the arts:

And finally, I need to apologize. I buried the lead. Here’s Kurt Stemhagen, with collared shirt AND it’s tucked in. Every day on this trip we learn that the impossible is indeed possible:

More pics:


Brian Greene
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