After meeting our host families at the welcoming ceremony, we all took off to our various destinations. Daniel, Kaitlen and I were all heading to Wakayama so we travelled together by train after first enjoying a traditional Japanese lunch of Takoyaki, which are dumplings with an octopus filling. The trip lasted for about 1.5 hours. The Dads were there to meet us at the station and take us home. My host mother is an English teacher so I had the pleasure of teaching 15, 6 -9 year olds. Once they got over their shyness they were very enthusiastic. They loved `Simon Says` and Bingo. Ritsue had to work at an English Cram school that evening so I went to a sushi train with the rest of the family for dinner. Next morning (Sunday) Ritsue took me to visit Wakayama Castle. It is an amazing place wiwth extraordinary stone and woodwork. The main building is crammed with ancient armour and weaponry as well as other incredible artefacts. No photos allowed, alas. Next we visited a shrine where we only saw a handful of other people. That is not the case on New year`s Eve though. Ritsue said that everybody visits the shrine then. After returning home for a delicious lunch of Udon noodles cooked with beef, Ritsue took me to meet her mother. Kaoru teaches Ikebana (Japanese traditional Flower Arranging) and also instructs on Tea Ceremony. She is going to give me a class next week. What a privilege. On the way home we did a quick recce of the shops to sniff out souvenirs. Late in the afternoon Ritsue`s brother and 2 small children came to visit and they were very interested in Tasmania, enjoying the photos I showed them. Ritsue arranged with Daniel`s family to go together to the Wakayama Summer Fireworks Festival. I loved walking along seeing so many men as well as women in traditional dress. It was a real carnival atmosphere with lots of colourful stalls lining the road into the event. So many delicious dishes on offer made it hard to choose what to eat! Ritsue managed to get us seating in the VIP section, so we had a wonderful view of the spectacular fireworks. Unbelievable that they went for an hour and a quarter. They were so loud that I could feel the vibrations in my chest. Today is the first day of summer holidays for the kids. Not so for teachers. I went to her son, Shoma`s school tfor a parent /teacher interview with Ritsue. I had a look around and can report that shools are much the same in terms of layout. This elementary school had an impressive facade and also a swimming pool, but the classrooms still had chalkboards and oldfashioned desks. We spend the rest of the day roaming around huge department stores, where the air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat. Anohter group of children camer in the afternoon, so I repeated the lesson i had on the first day. I have photos but can`t upload them at present. hopefully I will be able to before the end of the trip. Dinner time – must log off. Off to camp 5 am tomorrow.