Sorry for not posting for a while, but we’ve had a very eventful week. So this post is going to be a short summary of our journey in Japan thus far.
After being here for a little more than a week it’s been a fun, but busy schedule. We have visited several rural communities in Japan including Kayagasawa, Arawa, Tenjing, and Akata. So far we’re spent most of our time in Akata and have really gotten to know the community well.
In all the villages we have heard from several community leaders and local citizens, and have had a number of exciting adventures.
Our first day out, we went to Mt. Takao and did observations similar to the ones we did on Fitton Green. The view was fantastic and we walked up to the Torii gate, but only went part of the way. During that outing we had lunch a farmers restaurant. I think we all ended up having the special soba noodles. We also had a chance to talk with the owner of the restaurant and hear about how she started the place. We were served tea and watermelon at her house, and that was the most juiciest, sweetest, and delicious watermelon that I’ve ever had!
July 6 and 7, we spent that time in Tenjing. When we arrived we met the community leaders and then went up to a waterfall at Mt. Chokai. We couldn’t go all the way to the top of the falls, but we stopped at a lookout point and the view was great!
That night we had a dinner party the first night and there was so much wonderful handmade food that the local women made. It was definitely a feast! We gave a short introduction presentation on who each of the students were and then we had the chance to mingle with the community members.
We stayed the night at the Chokai-sou hotel where we relaxed in the onsen, hot springs. In the morning we woke up a gorgeous view of Mt. Chokai, and had a nice breakfast. Then we met the owner of a small beef industry and interviewed him about his business.
The rest of the time we have spent in Akata, which is near Yurihonjo City. We visited several temples and shrines in the area. The best was probably seeing the Akata daibutsu (Giant Buddha), which is one of the three Hase 11-faced Buddhas. The others are located in Nara and Kamakura, and those will be the places I will visit the next time I’m in Japan.
On another day we visited the Akata waterfall and some students explored a little bit of the abandoned mine that was on the hillside. We then harvested sansei, which is one of many edible wild plants. After lunch we even got to see the new food processing facility and saw how the sansei was packaged. It wasn’t the plant that we picked that day, but another woman’s harvest.
The following day each group was separated. I was part of the forest group, and we went up into the mountain to a logging site that Kato Timber Company was working at. They demonstrated how they fell trees and it was so cool to see the process in action. We also ended up hiking to the top of the mountain and saw the amazing view!
In the final days of our time in Akata, we had a fully packed schedule. On Saturday morning, we helped pull weeds out in the agriculture corporation’s asparagus field. It felt really rewarding helping out in the community, even though it was only a small task. Then in the afternoon we made pizza in the pizza oven next to the community center. We were taught how to make the dough, roll it, and then create our own pizzas. They were so good, and I wish I could have had more but we needed to save our appetites for the dinners we would be having later that night.
For the later part of the evening and night, all the students were split up in pairs and were spent with our host families. I was paired up with Kasumi, and we spent our time with the Taguchi family. They were so gracious and welcoming. That night we had a great big dinner with sushi, boiled pork, mountain vegetables, and an array of other dishes. In the morning we had another delicious meal and then we went out for a bit, and then picked some blueberries on their farm. It was so nice getting the chance to have the homestay that I didn’t want to leave, but alas, they drove us back to the community center where we met up with the rest of the students. It has definitely been a memorable experience and I can truly saw that this has been a wonderful experience for all the students!!
Yesterday we also went to the AIU Summer Festival and some of us participated in the games like the watermelon smash, and water ballon fight. There were also student performances all through the night. But the best thing was seeing the Kanto festival in the evening. All the performers were so skilled and it was just a neat experience.