Although I was initially surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed that my study abroad program was actually in Chiba despite being called “IES Tokyo” I absolutely adore my program and the university I am at. In addition, the field trips and opportunities I have had through this program are incredible.
This past week we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) out to Ishikawa Prefecture to Kanazawa. I would say the majority of the Japanese people I told didn’t know where this was exactly, but it is on the west coast of Japan and is a very old/traditional area with amazing scenery. I was in the Kanazawa area for 4 days, so to avoid this post getting unbearably long, I am going to give a general overview here before creating separate posts for a few of the highlights of the trip. So please click on the links and read about everything in more detail!
Even after arriving in Kanazawa on Tuesday, we didn’t have any time to rest or unpack—we headed straight for a Noh Museum, which highlighted the props and design of Noh, a traditional Japanese performance.
After that we toured around the area and visited old shops and tea houses, and of course made a stop for some Matcha Soft Serve! Kanazawa is known for gold, so many of the omiyage (souvenirs) and foods were made of or topped with gold.
After we finally arrived at the Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) we were exhausted but too excited to actually rest. We were divided up into shared rooms that were small and consisted of tatami mat floors, a small tea table and futon. The Ryokan also had communal dining rooms and public baths or onsen.
At first I was freaked out by the onsen—I mean come on, who is comfortable being naked in a bath tub with 6 people they just met? But it was actually totally relaxing, and going from the warm bath to lounging about our rooms talking until all hours of the night in the yukata (traditional robe) they provided, it was the ultimate slumber party.
We got going bright and early the next morning and set off for a Gold Leaf Studio where we were all taught how to make designs out of gold leaf on chopsticks.
After our crafting excursion we went to Myoryu-ji or the “Ninja Temple” for a tour. It was surprisingly unique from the multitude of temples I have seen in Japan so far, and was built to prevent enemies from entering while allowing important people to exit to safety. The building had 4 floors but 7 levels, and more staircases than I have ever seen in my life leading to rooms I wouldn’t have imagined could be connected. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the temple…and there were no ninjas to be found!
Our day was far from over, despite the fact that we had all had way too much fun the night before and everyone was running on little to no sleep. We went to Kenroku-en, the Six Attributes Garden, which is famous for being one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.
The garden was massive and my friends and I had a lot of fun wandering about and taking pictures of each other as well as the scenery. We were also lucky enough to experience a traditional tea ceremony complete with Matcha and wagashi.
On Thursday we left the ryokan we had been staying at and traveled about an hour by bus to Shirakawa Go Village. Wow. Seriously, there are no words to describe this place. It is stunningly beautiful and I could have stayed the entire week in that village alone—most of us in the program left saying we wished we could live there.
We went to one of the old houses and made Mochi, and were able to eat it seconds after it was prepared. I love any kind of mochi, but let me tell you, this tops them all.
We were then given several hours of freedom, and despite the rain we all set off and enjoyed ourselves completely.
We spent Thursday night at a different ryokan, which was also really wonderful. This place gave us the most food I have ever seen present in one meal…and we all did a pretty good job consuming it! Seriously, it was like the Japanese version of Thanksgiving; there was sukiyaki, salmon, tempura, rice, tofu, vegetables, sashimi, shrimp….just thinking about it makes me hungry!
At this point in the trip we had all settled into a wonderful routine: explore during the day, eat dinner, take a bath, and pile into someone’s room for gossip, makeovers, and fun.
On the last day of the trip we started off the morning with some Zen meditation. Surprisingly we all sat still and quiet for 20 minutes, though my legs definitely fell asleep while trying to sit “correctly” and instead of thinking about nothing as I was told I did some hard core soul searching about my future… >.< But all in all it was a wonderful experience.
We then boarded the train and headed to Nagoya, in order to stop at Nagoya Castle before catching the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. I had actually been here the last time I was in Japan, but it was fun to see it again with my friends.
When we arrived back in Tokyo Friday night, we were all wet from the typhoon, exhausted from the travel and lack of sleep, weighed down by all the omiyage we brought back, and not at all ready to go back to school and real life. That said, it was an incredible experience and although it is corny I will treasure all the memories from that trip forever.
In case you missed the links while you were reading: (I have not created these posts yet, my apologies! Please check back tomorrow!)
Here is the link for Kenroku-en (Six Attributes Garden)
Here is the link for Shirakawa Go Village
Thanks as always for reading my blog and my apologies for waiting so long to post since the last blog! :O