One more e-mail...
Well, first let me tell you that you are in for the experience of your life! This trip is so well organized and they treat you royallythroughout the whole experience. It is awesome.
Here are some random thoughts about the experience that I would share with future travelers:
1. I wouldn't bother with the business cards they tell you to get. I found very little use for them and it would not have been a problem at all if I didn't have them.
2. I wish I had packed something a little bit dressier for the banquet/receptions that we have. I took some nice jumper/blouse combos and some skirts and blouses. I threw in a pair of dockers at the las tminute and I traveled in a pair of jeans on the flight. It was very, very hot when I was there so I was going through laundry like crazy but aside from that, I really could have used a little more casual clothes and definitely take a couple of pants outfits. The day we visited the elementary school we were specifically told to wear pants. Also our sightseeing day they recommended pants and walking shoes. That was specific to our area (I went to Nikko which is awesome!) but I didn't feel like I had packed too well.
3. They only let you take one suitcase over but bring two home. I packed a suitcase inside a suitcase to go over and it worked out great. Gave mel ots of room for souvenirs coming home (I have 6 kids so there were lotsof gifts to buy.). Don't lock any of your luggage. Airport issues.
4. Take plenty of film/memory cards. I am not known for taking tons of pictures when I travel but vowed to do so on this trip. I took well over650 pictures and could have easily doubled that.
5. They set up a listserve ahead of time that I guess is good. For some reason I never got the announcement about it so missed some stuff. If it gets close to travel time and you haven't heard about the listserve - call someone and ask.
6. The exchange rate in Tokyo was better for travelers checks than for cash. I never saw that before but it is true.
7. Use your free weekend to see and do as much as you can. On Saturday I took a day trip to Kyoto with some new teacher friends and had a ball. The bullet train is expensive but Kyoto was so worth it. We were going strong all day and barely scratched the surface. They have Japan Travel set up a table in the hotel lobby to help with any travel - in or out ofTokyo - and it is really helpful.
8. Go to a baseball game if you can. They are so much fun.
9. Learn to ride the subway. It really isn't hard and it the most economical way to get around town.
10. Oriental Bazaar is a great place for nice Japanese gifts. Also the area around the shrine or temple in Asakusa is a great souvenier shopping place too.
11. If you send emails home in the hotel business center or anywhere, tryto get an English keyboard, as opposed to a Japanese one. Even though theJ apanese one can do English, it is different and I had lots of problems with it.
13. The schools visits are awesome. Each day we thought it couldn't possibly get better, but it did. Homestay weekend is good too. You have a welcome reception in your host city the first night and the host families are invited to that so you get to meet them ahead of time. Helps break the ice a bit.
14. Rest up - it is exhausting - especially the first couple days when you are so tired from traveling.
15. Follow the JFMF rules. Trust me. It just works better that way. They really have thought of everything. I am a very organized person andI was stunned at how I could just follow like a sheep. It is amazing.
I'm sure there is more but that is what comes to mind right now. This is an incredible trip. No matter how many times you hear that, you have to experience it to fully appreciate it. I have traveled a fair amount and lived overseas as an exchange student in high school and I loved every minute of this experience. I hope I can go back someday.
Please feel free to ask any specific questions you think of. I am glad to talk about it with a willing listener!