On Thursday 12/22, we traveled to Tenryu, a small mountainous town about an hour's bus ride from the Shizuoka hotel.
This was a very special school (enrollment: 120) for students Grades 1-12 with various disabilities. Some were physical, while others were mental or behavioral. Studies were in small classes or even one-on-one, and our pre-concert tour showed their facilities to have a computer lab, learning kitchen, art studio, instrumental music room, several libraries, science lab, and many more hands-on educational facilities. Traveling through the hallways, we witnessed extraordinary artwork and purposeful socialization exercises.
Most students attended for up to three months, and then returned to their home schools. Some students live on campus (all high school students did), while others came only for the day. There were also 20 or so students in an off-campus hospital, recuperating for surgeries and such.
The bus couldn't reach the school, so the teachers used their personal cars to transport our equipment from a nearby larger parking lot. It rained really hard that day, too!
The gymnasium transformed into a concert hall with a large carpet laid over the hardwood floor. In true Japanese style, we were asked to remove our "outside" shoes and use their "inside" slippers. This worked for a while, especially when traveling over rain-soaked walkways. However, American feet appear to be different sizes than Japanese feet, and most of us opted to use our stocking feet during the performance.
We were there on high school students' parent day, and so the audience included them as well. Only the high school students attended the concert. Students in the hospital watched the concert by video feed.
Afterward, all Sonos members had an hour-long Q&A session with most of the teachers, where we were able to share about our work and hear more about theirs. Both teachers and students were especially riveted by the teamwork and cooperation needed to perform music using handbells. For students with social issues, this was a perfect example for the teachers to use in future lessons.