It was a very relaxing day this Sunday, many out to church or exploring the last things to see on their list we ended the day off with some awesome ramen and an amazing time at a karaoke place singing our heart out. Even though the thought of leaving japan the next day still crossed our minds we tried our best to enjoy the last few hours of our time there. I just have to say japan has been such an amazing experience, to seeing the beauty of the land or communicating and spending time with the very nice people there and just eating the very delicious food of japan it is so much fun!! At first the thought of having to talk in Japanese or even using the scary transportation systems scared me and many others in the group, but we overcame it. These three weeks we all have learned many valuable lessons, met some life long friends and got to know more of ourselves then we really thought possible. I really want to thank everyone who made this possible- it was very very fun, and I will definitely come back to visit this beautiful country again.
Freedom was the definition of the day. Free to do whatever we wanted. Go to a bamboo forest? That was on the list. Want to shop all day? You can do that too. In my case I went to a place called Ginkakuji.
Ginkakkuji or the silver pavilion, is the sister site to Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion. The main shrine was supposed to be covered in silver, but was never finished. It's a small little area with an amazing garden. Everything is meticulously placed, from a stone bridge to every plant that resides there.
I'm most impressed with how the japanese strike this balance of man-made to nature in every area. For example, later in the day we found a shrine in the middle of downtown Kyoto while shopping. It gives areas that are busy in Japan a sense of peace and clarity.
After we looked at the beautiful garden of Ginkakuji, we found a person just a few moments away. This person was an artist and his business was taking english names and turning them into styilized Kanji. Every person that was in my group (Dowdle sensei, Kenna, Nicole, and kade) got something from him. The best part was how you payed him. The payment was what you thought he deserved, now you would think that you could get a quick gift out of him. The truth was he was so good that you wanted to pay him, I even felt bad about not giving him more than I did.
We then finished with the amazing artist and headed to downtown Kyoto to do some shopping. I went into a department store with a few shops. There was a record shop a music shop and a book-off. I got myself some video game music from Xenoblade chronicles and sheet music from the Legend of Zelda. Kenna probably bought the most out of all of us though. She went into the figure store and bought about 15 anime figures. She had so many of the plastic models that the bag was pretty heavy.
I ended the day by watching Princess Mononoke, one of the best amine movies ever created. It also ozzes japanese mythology with the gods of nature and how they need to be respected.
It was good to relax in Japan for a day, I hope we all remember the experiences gained by being in the land of the rising sun.
Today we started off by leaving the Tokyo house that we had been staying at for the past couple of days. The morning was pretty rough and everyone was dragging a bit, but we all stayed cheerful and ready for the adventure that awaited us. We walked to the station with all our belongings and dropped them off at the station and continued to Asakusa building view. It was cool to see Tokyo from a different angle and really grasp the hustle and bustle of this massive city.
From there we went to Sensoji temple. The entrance to this Buddhist temple was guarded by thunder and lightning kami, and a bell. This entrance is called Kaminarimon, which literally means "thunder gate". After you go through the gate there are a bunch of shops that ultimately lead to a temple that has some pretty cool paintings on the roof. On the way back we touched this giant straw flip flop for good luck. Good times.
After that fun excursion, we had an amazing lunch, which was comprised of tempura. Mmm... delicious. That story closed and it was off to the tracks again and to Meiji shrine. Basically this super famous emperor got this whole shrine dedicated to himself and his wife. It was super cool and we watched this dude taking these offerings to a small room. Outside the main shrine there was a place to write your wishes on and put them on this rack. It was cool to read all the English wishes. The common themes were to protect my family, and have good health.
Directly after Meiji shrine was the exciting Harajuku. To sum up the energy there, basically it is a stretch of shops that are constantly attempting to get you to purchase there goods seeing you are a tourist. It was a ton of fun and the people there were all super nice. There were even some shady black guys from Liberia, Ghana, and New Guinea. They were super nice and we looked at all the cool merch. Ultimately I, Kade, was the only person that feel victim to their salesmanship.
That was the last fun thing to come of the day. After that is was train this, shinkansen that. Eventually we all ended up in the Kyoto house safe and sound into the warm beds we slept just under a week ago.
Today was our free day with our host families so this part of the blog will be about my experience since everyone each had a different family. My family was the Mother, Father, a daughter named Shion (about 10 years old), a son named Tsuguharu (about 7 years old), and their grandparents. My family spoke little to no English and I speak little Japanese so communicating was harder, but we were able to use modern-day technology to figure everything out. After a breakfast consisting of gohan we jumped into the car and drove to Takayama. There, we walked down the street where the Takayama morning market is. We visited a shop that only sold miso products! It had miso chips, miso soup, and more miso products. Then we got to enjoy some Japanese pudding. Then we visited a national cultural site called Takayama Jin'ya. It was a edo period jin'ya which served as the government headquarters. The gardens were very pretty! Then we got to have a delicious lunch at a restaurant. After that we got to visit a shrine and then go shopping for ingredients for dinner. It was fun to help make the dinner which was yakisoba! After dinner we got to go to the onsen nearby which was really nice and relaxing. It was such a fun experience to get to know and stay with my host family!
Let me start off with the fact that not everyone in this group are early birds. The reason I say this is for the fact that we had a very early start to this day, aka be up and ready at about 7ish. A couple of us were already up and ready where we could just head out to the bus stop and head to the station before the others, and those people were Kieryn, Kenji, John, Kade, and le moi.
We started off to a good start where we were simply on the bus resting our eyes when we got an extremely important text from Fullmer Sensei..."Make sure you have your JR passes." Those seven words brought the world crashing within moments for one student and his name was...Kenji Wellman. His adventure started right in that moment when he texted in the group chat that he didn't have it and Dowdle Sensei told him to get off the bus and get on a taxi back to the house. The rest of us headed to the station with plenty of time to spare, so much time that we could even go to the restroom.
Finally everyone, except for Kenji, made it to the station and we headed to our platform while Fullmer sensei went to the 7 eleven kiosk to get us hungry children some breakfast. Once again we had delectable pan (bread for those who don't speak a language that has pan for the word bread) and some tuna mayonnaise onigiri for our hurried breakfast. Our group actually was standing at a part of the station a little farther back with our food when a conductor guy came over and asked where our destination is, I actually was the one who answered with Gifu and the guy told us to move further up. In all honesty, we didn't understand why and I was a little annoyed. We found out later though that the train did stretch that far back to where we were standing, so thanks conductor guy for doing your job. Oh yeah, Fullmer Sensei stayed behind to travel with Kenji.
Now, this train ride was pretty uneventful for the most part, except when Kenji and Fullmer Sensei got on the train a little bit later. It was a rough time for Kenji, but I gotta give him perks for the fact that he has had more experience with some of the public transportation compared to the rest of us. The rest of the ride was super duper bumpy especially when we got closer to Gifu, but I will say that the view was spectacular!
The country side has a beauty that makes you wonder how long this gorgeous place has been like this. It is so relaxing and was a very, very, very needed break from the city. Here is actually where part of the title makes more sense. The river we rode past was almost an emerald green and with the mountains and the white kinda rocks at some points it just reminded me of the first movie of Lord of the Rings. You know that part when Arwen saves Frodo, is being chased by the enemy, and then she summons the river gods? Yeah, that's what the view reminded me of.
After the beautiful, but SO LONG OF A RIDE (3 hours) we made it to Hida-osaka, Japan. The lady who organized the home stay for us actually picked us up at the station and took us to lunch. The place we had lunch at was this onsen and for lunch we had the traditional Japanese dish called Shabu Shabu. Placed in front of us is this plate of raw, but not wriggling (may someone understand my movie quote) pieces of pork, a fish soup to the right, a bowl of rice to the left, and the entree of vegetables in water while in a basket. A waitress came over to light up the candles underneath the stone container holding the basket and the water came to life with roaring white waves of water. Our dear guide told us the correct Shabu Shabu procedure and after patiently waiting, we finally were able to partake of our food.
The Shabu Shabu was delicious when paired with the rice and the ponzu sauce. After we finished lunch our guide pointed out a well that was right outside of the onsen and had us try it. The taste was as follows an egg that wasn't the best with a lot of pennies...best water in the world, right?! Almost everyone tried the water and after we tasted it we headed to this meeting house to meet our host families.
The moment we arrived you could see the fear in all of our American eyes and I had to use my sister's technique of telling myself, "I like to talk in front of strangers in Japan. I like speaking Japanese in Japan, etc." in order to help calm myself down. Thankfully, Fullmer sensei and Dowdle sensei were the first to talk and then the rest of us. When we finished our introductions, our host families actually introduced themselves in Japanese and English. After all of that it was time to leave with our families...never to see each other again...hahaha I'm kidding. We just didn't see each other for about one and a half days.
My host mom was super kind and actually spoke some English. She took me to her house with her daughter and we discussed what we should do tomorrow and tonight. She told me that the place that had some buildings in the movie Kimi No Na Wa (Your name is) was only 15 minutes away so we actually headed there. During all of this, the group chat was buzzing with us talking about how scared we were and all of that jazz. After visiting those places that were in Kimi No Na Wa, we had hand rolls (a type of sushi) and Chi-san's (my host mom) friend who teaches Japanese came over and that was so much fun!
Even in those few hours I actually used my Japanese more and learned more than I did within the previous two weeks. Anyhow, enjoy the pictures and I have finally finished my blog entry. :) Thanks for reading!
Hello again! Here comes another blog post by Brianna. I hope that my word painting will give you a clear image of what we experienced today.
On July 13 we all woke up before seven so we could jump on a bus to go to the Kyoto Station. From there we got to board our first Shinkansen (bullet train). You’ve likely heard about them before—super fast trains in Japan. Apparently they regularly go 200 mph, which makes them one of the second fastest trains in the world! Suitably so, they look like a bit like airplanes without wings: built for aerodynamics and speed.
Well, we weren’t on the first Shinkansen for more than ten minutes. We had to make a quick transfer at Shin-Osaka station to the main one that would take us all the way to Hiroshima. We got a little bit of free time on the way there.
When we arrived at the Hiroshima station, we walked across the street to go to lunch. There was a 6-story building and at the top floor there were a bunch of restaurants. We split into two parties, went to two different restaurants, and both ate some Okonomiyaki. It's kind of like a vegetable pancake, made of cabbage, bean sprouts, egg, bacon, yakisoba, and topped off with special Okonomiyaki sauce. They cooked it all right in front of us, too. Here’s a picture of mine:
After lunch, we had the opportunity to go and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It was a very reverent place and we got to learn a lot about what had happened there. The park was built on the area that used to be the bustling city center of Hiroshima, and was obliterated in the atomic bomb explosion. Instead of rebuilding the shops and restaurants, the city chose to make it a memorial for all those who died there, and to teach the world about their story.
You've likely heard it before. On August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 AM, the American atomic bomb "Little Boy" detonated above the heart of Hiroshima. Thousands upon thousands of lives were lost in the initial explosion, and many of the survivors perished in the aftermath of it. Even years after the bombing, radiation poisoning continued to take lives.
These were the things we learned in the museum. Out in the park, there were more memorials to go to, including the Children's Peace Monument, dedicated to a school girl who died of leukemia from the radiation. There were millions of paper cranes made by students around Japan, wishing for world peace. Several dozen school children on a school trip surrounded it, which was felt really special to me.
We also saw the A-Bomb Dome, an iconic monument there since it mostly stayed in tact, in spite of being very close to the hypo-center. Many people in the past wanted it torn down but the city ultimately decided that it should stay up, as a reminder of the devastating power of nuclear weapons and a symbol of peace.
This next photo is of a very significant fountain. The clock indicated the time 8:15 when the bomb exploded, and the clock face points up to where it would have done so in midair. The fountain is surrounded by roof tiles and other parts of buildings that were destroyed by the explosion. The water in the fountain, and the water in every fountain in the park is for the survivors who, after being burned severely, cried out for water.
The city of Hiroshima today is thriving once again, but they will never forget their horrific past. They continue to pursue world peace and advocate for the abolition of all nuclear weaponry. A common quote I heard in this park was "No more Hiroshimas", which reflected the purpose of the place. This last photo frames several of the monuments at the park. Under the curved monument, the stone reads: "please rest in peace, for the evil shall not be repeated".
,Thank you for taking the time to read that. I would encourage you to research more about Hiroshima yourself.
We took the Shinkansen back to Kyoto station, where we split up. Some of us wanted to do a bit more shopping and the others had things to do at home. That was about it for the day, and I guess that ends my last blog post! That's right, you don't have to deal with me anymore.
Thanks again for reading,
Hi everyone, Kieryn here! today was an adventerous day.
To start off the day we woke up early. This was the plan at least. To be realistic we were against the clock trying to wake up and get ourselves out of the door. Fortunately, we made it into the days events.
We went to a church building to meet with our house’s cleaner, (put name here). She offered us a chance to dress up in Yukatas which is a Japanese summer outfit. After we got dressed we walked over to shimigamo shrine. Fun fact: it’s one of the oldest shrines in Japan, even predating Kyoto. We took a ton of photos at the shrines landmarks like a big tori gate and a neat gate structure….
For lunch (person) was grasious enough to make us okonumiyaki, a dish that consists of putting cabbage in batter and frying it up. I could only down one because of how good it was.(I hate cabbage so it was surprising I finished even one)
Then it was time for the main event: Himeji castle. But to get there we had to ride an hour on a train. There were a few mishaps while getting there. We got on a train that went to Himeji, but what we didn’t know was that it was a “special” train and our tickets weren’t valid for it. Grarouisly the conductor allowed us to get off without a fine. Gaijin card saves once again.
We eventually got to Himeji and stared out over the landscape where the castle towered in the background. As we approached it got more magnificent in its appearance. Getting to the front gates we met up with our tour guides. The one that guided my group was Keiko who knew all the facts about Himeji castle. Each fact made the castle even more impressive than it was before. I’ll tell you a few that I found the most interesting.
The white walls of the castle were made of plaster on the outside(about 2 cm) and mud from the inside, protecting from fire and earthquakes. The big tower in the middle isn’t actually where the lord lived, it was instead used as a symbol of his power and made his enimies think twice about attacking. Even if they got in the whole castle is designed to stop any intruder from killing the lord or his men. Every wall, roof and pathway has a trap to prevent the progression of an army. Himeji castle was a unbreakable fortress. I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve seen on this trip so far.
After we traveled trough the White Castle, we split up and went our separate ways for dinner. I along with John, Brianna, and Kenji went to a seafood restaurant(famous for their crab soup) and it was delicious. The day was over after that unfortunately, but I was glad to see one of Japan’s defining landmarks.
Today started with a breakfast full of delcious bread, warm pancakes, and a juicy peach. All the necessities for a great start to a fantastic day. After an amazing breakfast, the day continued with some culture tips about the popular Japanese religion, Buddhism, and kanji recognition. We learned about the basic principles of Buddhism.The first is that life is full of suffering (super uplifting, it gets better). The second principle is suffering is natural(still not there). Third, there is a way out of this suffering (Ok what is this way). Lastly, 8 fold path leads you to peace (Alright sounds good).
Once we were done with Kanji, we went straight to the train station to go eat delicious tonkatsu. The tonkatsu steamed as the waiters brought to us and the amazing smell filled the room. That stuff was amazing! We continued our adventure to the bike rentals. Everyone got their bikes and was at the ready. Get set. Go! Boken Japan embarked to the yoshikien gardens. The place was awesome! It seemed like every leaf had a design and structure to it, but the humidity attracted lots of cool bugs that were for some reason seened 10x larger than bugs in America.
Once we were done with that small excursion, we continued to Nara park, or as most people know, the park with all the deer. Basically to sum up this seemingly flawless park, you can walk around and feed deer that are comfortable mingling with people, and enjoy cool torii gates in the process. We went to Todaiji (originally constructed in 752A.D.), the house of a giant Buddha, and he is ginormous. Part of the visit is trying to fit through a hole that is the size of giant Buddha's nostril. If you make it through, it is considered goodluck. Don't worry, everyone made it through.
After we were all done basking in giant Buddha, we went on over to the rental bike place and returned the bikes. There happened to be a burger joint called Mos burger and we were like "dudes we got try this". So we went and ate a delicious meal.
Since we had been fed well, we decided we could go on a nice stroll up a steep mountain. Fast forward, we are at Inari shrine, a long row of tori gates lingers over us. As the brave souls we are, Boken continued up the mountain stair after stair. As we did, red gates passed us. There seemed to be but a sliver of space between each red titan. The journey came to a close, once we realized that we still had to go down. The reason being to make it to the house at a reasonable hour, so we started our descent.
Fate treated us well, and we made it to the bottom. Once we reached the train station we all helped ourselves to some carbonated beverages. While in the process, we almost missed our train. Luckily we all made it safely onto the train that would take us safely to our (very)warm beds.
This morning, our group seemed a bit sluggish overall, but we kicked into gear anyway. First we visited the iconic Kinkakuji temple (the golden one with the phoenix on top for anyone who doesn't know). It was beautiful. We were taking pictures and admiring the grounds when a class of Japanese students approached. They wanted to talk with us! It was a little bit scary but too good an opportunity to pass up; speaking to Japanese people isn't something you get to do everyday. We ended up taking a group photo all together, Japanese and Americans.
As we continued our adventure in Kinkakuji, we ran into some buddha statues with offering bowls lining the trail. People were congregated around the sides of the path, trying to throw coins into the bowls. That looked like fun; we joined in. It turned out to be a real challenge, to my knowledge only Kenna succeeded.
The next stop on our list was Nijo-jo castle. Unfortunately, we got a bit lost and separated on our way. While we were sitting by the way and trying to figure out what to do, a man on a bicycle came up to us. He spoke quickly and to the whole group, so it was hard for anyone to answer him. To our relief, Dowdle sensei stepped up. As it turns out, he realized we were lost, and was trying to help us. He gave us a map and we got back on track.
Everything was playing out according to plan, no one was expecting anything. We went for admission, but in a bizarre twist the main building of Nijo-jo castle was closed. We explored the outside and discovered that the grounds were worth it to see. Moral of the story: you won't always get what you want, but you may get something else just as good.
Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to our Boken Japan trip blog! At this point I would hope all our circadian rhythms have fully accommodated to Japanese time. Als0, rest assured that we still are searching for evidence 0f Dowdle Sensei's "mass identification fraud" plan, though with little success. He's a crafty one.
[Today we had a very special start to the day with an ever so hearty, yet simple, meal of toast, cereal, and bread. With our bodies fueled and our legs aching to take us on an adventure we... did a lesson. Because who doesn't like a lesson early in the morning.
During our lesson we learned the essential skill of ordering at restaurants, quickly learning how to count and listen for large numbers we were ship shape and ready to go eat Mcdonalds. After our lesson we quickly prepared to go to San Jyuu San Gendo, an ancient and beautiful Buddhist temple home to 1001 Buddhist statues.
Getting to the San Jyuu San Gendou was a challenge in and of itself though. Fullmer Sensei and I were in a deep conversation about World War II before we realized we had actually missed our stop so we were forced to go to the next station and turn around. Dowdle Sensei was "detained" again so I think that counts towards evidence of him being either a Russian spy or that he may be trying to commit "mass identification fraud." Nonetheless we finally were able to get to the San Jyuu San Gendo.
Standing proud and opulent, the architectural design of the building filled with ancient Japanese treasures was nothing less than astonishing. An ancient history was enraptured in a single wooden frame, demanding respect and admiration, all surrounded by a welcoming yet proud courtyard. Even more impressive than the outside buildings was what lie within. Home to the peaceable 1001 Buddha and 33 furious spirit guardians with eyes made of crystals and expressions as strong as fire. The presence of these Buddha statues is a testament to the lifetime of skill and purpose needed to create this landmark The spirit guardian's crystalline eyes staring down upon us demanded respect for the sculptors and the Buddha. Perhaps the most astounding part of the temple is walking through the hall of the Buddhas and arriving in the center, seeing a colossal bronze Buddha in meditation accommodated by an entourage of 33 hands in various mudra or hand positions. It was godly sight to see so if you ever find yourself in Kyoto: San Jyuu San Gendo 10/10 would recommend.
We made our way through the antiquated yet new streets of Kyoto making to a hill that led to the Kiyomizu Dera. Much to the annoyance of my peers I dropped a coin every five and a half minutes on average, pro tip: don't constantly play with a dime in your hands, so of course I was absolutely required to buy myself a coin purse. I can say that the coin dropping isn't as bad a problem now. As bad.
The hill to Kiyomizu Dera was filled with shops eager to sell cheap goods to visitors and with that tourists. I recall being struck by a myriad of different languages and peoples all here to enjoy the astounding Japanese culture, and there's a good reason for them being there as well; the imperious Japanese architecture laden in a backdrop of a dense and mysterious jungle was something to behold. Each building, plank of wood, and stone on the walls told the tale of hundreds and hundreds of years of Japanese history. Stories of love and strength and war and death; a human drama for the ages that is told throughout the world but will truly be known to none, only leaving behind its magnificent legacy for its descendants and those throughout the world to enjoy.
Speaking of stories and histories, histories are stories that occurred in the past, but we were more interested in what may happen in the future. Several of us went t0 go get our fortune told, some of us got good. Nicole got bad because she may have displeased the Kami, but my favorite one was Adrianna's. Adrianna's fortune told her that she would find something dear to her and Adrianna exclaimed, "I hope its my finger!" Apparently she's missing one of her fingers for some reason so that's that but she could potentially say the Yakuza took it or something along those lines.
Our group eventually came encounter the "magic water snake," a strange, esoteric being which derived its powers from the magic water fountain. Its a worm. Anyways, the magic water was a thing. Three fonts said to contain a blessing of love, livelihood, or wealth, but a curse upon you if you are greedy and drink from more than one fountain. Personally the left most font called to me the most so whatever that means we'll find out. Although we discovered that the best way to win your crush's approval is to challenge your greatest rival to a duel and bring them your rival's head, one of our own could really use that advice.
Sight seeing the Kiyomizu done, we moved on to enjoy the book fair in the city. The walking may have been tiresome but there was a lot of laughter exchanged as we shared jokes and memes, mainly of me dropping my coins constantly but that's fine.
For dinner we ate at Mcdonalds, as foreshadowed earlier in this blog, and although I myself had sworn off Mcdonalds I just had to get the shrimp burger. To my shame I have broken my Mcdonalds fast. It was a pretty good burger and Megumi caught one of the greatest gifs of the group I have ever seen.
Dinner eaten we headed towards our final activity, the Book Off. I was under the belief that the Book Off was supposed to be some sort of bidding or reading competition but nope it was just your regular old book sale. After searching and buying what we wanted we left the book store or honya but once more we lost Brianna and Mckenna. Because of this we ended up having to wait, search, and attempt to contact them for the next 30 minutes and it didn't help at all that Kade and John were basically high at this point. There must have been something in their burgers. Nonetheless they found us and with no harm done to them or any missing body parts, though no one found Adrianna's finger.
Exhausted from a day of exploring we needed to find our way home. We boarded a bus to get there and over a long ride we got off early in the wrong area. Unfortunately I, who was barely awake at this point forgot to pay my bus fare.
In Japan most transportation facilities utilize a card based system allowing you to quickly pay for services by scanning an ICOCA card which makes a distant beeping sound. Being so tired, I was floating basically inside my own head before I suddenly woke up to the yelling of an angry bus driver and Dowdle Sensei who is furiously screaming, "KENJI BEEP OFF!" over and over. I quickly went to pay but not before having to pay with my dignity, I doubt anyone ever is going to let that down but suffice to say I did in fact, "beep off."