Tokyo 2.0 東京 Feb 8 -Feb 9

Wednesday 08 February – Thursday 09 February

We left Sapporo early morning and spent the rest of the day traveling by train back to Tokyo for our last stay in Japan, It was all coming to an end so fast and I couldn’t believe we would be flying home to Australia soon. Once we arrived back at the Ours Inn Hankyu were we had free time to go out on the city to get dinner. I left we the guys to get ramen then Karaoke, we sang songs for 2 hours before leaving for the hotel for more party room chills, shower, and bed.

The final day had come but not without a spooky incident that morning. Last night I went to sleep I kicked my slippers off beside the bed, but that morning I awoke to find my slippers back where they usually are when you enter the room next to Tim’s slippers both on their side with the soles pressed together. I was alone in that room overnight, as Tim was in Osaka visiting a friend, I cannot think of any reason how they got that way but it really rattled me. Anyway, After my final onsen bath we checked out of the hotel we had free time for fun in the city. I decided to go to Akihabara with the others because I had to buy a few things for my friend back in Australia.

I always found it cool and interesting how passionate Allison and the other are with anime and Pop Culture. The time in Akihabara quickly came to an end as it was time to leave for the airport, It really dawned on me at that point that we were actually leaving. I was filled with sadness and relief at the same time, I was going to miss Japan and being with everyone I met on this trip but I also missed being alone at home. After receiving our plane tickets, we had time to relax in the departure lounge before our flight back to Australia. The flight was absolutely awful, I didn’t manage any sleep and I was glad when it was finally over. Stepping off the plane in Australia was rough as I was not prepared for the heat. We passed through customs and said goodbye to each other, my sister arrived shortly after to pick me up and go home.

Looking back on the trip I was incredibly content with my experience, I went through a range of emotions, I met and bonded with so many lovely people, I tried an array of amazing Japanese cuisine and learned so much about Japan and myself. I am so grateful for having the chance to participate on the Japan Study Tour, I will carry the memories I forged in Japan for the rest of my life.

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Sapporo 札幌 Feb 6 – Feb 8

Monday 06 February – Wednesday 08 February

With Zao onsen in the rear vision mirror we made our way to Sapporo via train. The trip took most of the day but we kept ourselves interested with Uno and food, the scenery outside was pretty with mountains and small towns covered in snow. That night we arrived in Sapporo, checked into the Hotel Sapporo Met’s where we would be staying for the duration of our stay then made our way downtown to find a nice ramen dinner and see the Sapporo Snow Festival 「札幌雪まつり」(Sapporo yuki matsuri).

(http://www.snowfes.com/english/)

We were lucky to find a ramen shop in the crowded streets, however, the Ramen cook at the shop certainly was a character and wasn’t too pleased with her shop being full of Australian foreigners… despite her harsh nature the ramen was great. img_0171We then wandered around and saw the really cool ice sculptures in the streets before returning to the lobby beers and chills.

The next day Jason and I planned to travel to Yoichi 「余市」 to visit the famous Nikka Whiskey Distillery  「余市蒸溜所」(Yoichi jōryū-sho).

The whiskey there is considered so good it has received various awards in 2015 and most recently the World Whiskey Award in 2016. The hour and a half train ride there was fun with the beautiful scenery outside, we even met some Australians.

Once at Yoichi we attempted to navigate to the Distillery but ended up a little lost so we decided to follow the mass of foreigners and luckily lead us to there. Inside the Distillery was not what I expected it look more like a small closed off village than a factory. We made our way to quickly to taste testing where we tried Apple Wine, Takesura and Super rare old.

However, the real stuff we found later on after leaving the shop. There was the aged single caste whiskey that we tasted. It was amazing and a shame we were out of time and had to leave.

Once we regrouped with the rest of the guys, we went to visit the Sapporo Beer Museum were we learnt about the history and how to pour the perfect Sapporo Beer.

(http://www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi/)

After the Museum, we went next door to a restaurant where we drank and ate seafood, a few speeches were spoken and lots of love was shared. Our last night in Tokyo was tomorrow.

 

 

Zao Onsen 蔵王温泉 Feb 4 – Feb 6

Saturday 04 February – Monday 06 February

Gone were the bright lights of Tokyo, we had finally reached our destination Zaō onsen「蔵王温泉」in Yamagata prefecture 「山形県」 . We had returned to the familiar sight of knee deep while being introduced to the unwelcome stink of sulphur.

We stayed at a nice little place called the Yoshidaya Ryokan 「吉田屋旅館」 , after checking in we had some free time to roam around the town with everyone and eat a conbini lunch. I found the scenery around the township to be wonderful how the snow blanketed the trees and melted around the warm water streams billowing misty sulphuric vapor.

After a delicious dinner, we made our way to the cable car lift to see the famous snow monsters atop the mountain summit. The trip was quiet and cold as we were carried up the mountain, we couldn’t see outside the windows because of the ice, fog and darkness clouding the windows. Once, reaching the summit the temperature dropped dramatically… I swear I almost lost my hand to frostbite taking photos.

We drank hot chocolate in a shop atop the mountain before we made our way back down the mountain to the ryokan were we had the usually party room antics followed by sleep.

The second day we had free time to do what we please. After breakfast most people went up to the mountain to go skiing of snowboarding, however, I spent the day sleeping until eventually going out for ramen with Tim and Danica.

The free day was much appreciated as I needed the sleep and relaxation after the rush of Tokyo. Next stop tomorrow was Sapporo!

Tokyo/Hiroshima 東京/広島 Feb 1 – Feb 4

Wednesday 01 February – Saturday 04 February

We left Hikimi by bus that morning in good spirits, our first stop on our journey to Tokyo was Hiroshima. The drive there was like all the others, white and surrounded by beautiful Japanese mountains. We arrived in Hiroshima at about lunch time were we then made our way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 「広島平和記念資料館」(Hiroshimaheiwakinenshiryōkan).

Modern day Hiroshima is a bustling city it is quite hard to imagine that the city was once nothing but rubble 72 years ago. Walking through the museum and learning about what happened all those years ago left most of us in gloomy state of mind as we left to walk through the peace park.

We visited the memorial where the names of the victims are held then saw a statue where cranes are sent every year in hopes for peace and an end to Nuclear Deterrence.

(http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/shimin/heiwa/crane.html)

Next we saw the Atomic Bomb Dome, a building still standing after detonation and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996. Before the war, the building served as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. From where we stood you could see where the bomb detonated 160 meters to the southeast of the Dome.

(http://visithiroshima.net/world_heritage/20th/a_bomb_dome/)

Once we had done our sightseeing we were free to get some lunch and do some shopping before we left for Tokyo. img_0031Visiting Hiroshima reminded me of the horrendous capabilities of humans and the extent we will go to to kill each other. However, Hiroshima also told a story of how from the ashes of destruction and loss of life something beautiful can be created.

It took a while but we finally made it to the capital of Japan, TOKYO!! It was dark by the time we arrived. After a quick hustle through the train stations we made it to the Hotel the Ours Inn Hankyu 「アワーズイン阪急」 , the hotel was really nice and even had a flash onsen inside that I’ll be definitely trying later. We decided as a group to go out and visit Shibuya, we split into groups some decided on karaoke, while we and others decided on food. Myself and a few other left for ramen, we found a nice ramen restaurant nearby.

After dinner we were quite tired so we decided to head back to the hotel to sleep.

One of the things I wanted to observe in Japan was the cost of living, so after some digging around on the internet and noticing local job advertisement on the street I discovered that the average wage of most low-end jobs in Japan sit around 800yen/hr. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/minimum-wages) So a typical 8 hours of work adds up to about 6400yen, 32000yen for a 5-day week (though Japanese people generally work longer hours, so the weekly pay could be much higher). So, with the average monthly income coming up to about 142000yen – 160000yen (http://www.worldsalaries.org/japan.shtml), if you were to deduct monthly living cost

  • Rent 50000yen (16.7225sq meters)
  • Utility fees 10000yen
  • Food 35000yen
  • Phone/Internet 8000yen
  • Travel 2000yen
  • Average total = 105000-110000yen

You’d be left with about 50000yen for a yearly saving of at least 600000yen. However, that was in regards to minimum wage.

(https://www.realestate.co.jp/en/rent)

The next day we visited Tokyo Disneyland. I don’t much have to say as it wasn’t really my cup of tea, although I enjoyed being with everyone.

After we made it back to the hotel, a few of us went to dinner at the pizza restaurant downstairs. The pizza was a nice change from the usual Japanese dishes we had been eating. The rest of the night included onsen and party room antics.

Day 3 we decided to do some sightseeing with the group. First stop we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, and enjoyed the view from up high.

Next we split up in Ginza for lunch, I went with the Danica and the boys to get Mexican food which was value for money. After we met up, we left for Asakusa 「浅草」to visit a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century called Sensōji 「浅草寺」.

(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3004.html#/sensoji)

Next stop we visited probably the most anticipated place for the group which was Akihabara, I bought a figurine before making my way back to the Hotel.

The next day we leave for the snow in  Zao Onsen.

 

 

Hikimi 匹見 Jan 31 – Feb 1

Tuesday 31 January – Wednesday 01 February

My time with the Kuya family had come to an end, after saying our goodbyes we all left by bus to Hikimi. The ride there was fun, with the usual banter. Once there, we visited a Japanese elementary school where we met young kids, played games and ate together. In the classroom I played board games with Kodai and Yuki followed by a quite yummy lunch with the kids. What really interested me was the independence and freedom the children were given in class, they were a lot of fun. Before we left we played more games with the entire group, I had a ball battling out to full bodied Jyan Ken Pon 「じゃん拳ぽん」 with the kids. Next we visited the local middle school where the students there had prepared a show for us.

First up was the Koto 「琴」 a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, the girls played two wonderful pieces for us. I really enjoyed watching the harmony between the melodies being played, the girls showed great skill. The next show was Wadaiko 「和太鼓」 an ensemble of drums. This drum show was amazing, I really enjoyed watching the rhythm and synchronization between all the drumers. The final show was  Kagura 「神楽」 a traditional Japanese dance. This show blew me away, the costumes and coordination of everyone on stage was incredible. The amount of practice that went into preparing this event was evident, those kids were extremely talented and I felt blessed that they did all that for us. After the show we were allowed to try on the costumes and have a shot at the drum and koto. I picked up the Koto easily due to my guitar experience however I am definitely not a drummer. Before we left we had a closing  ceremony and were presented a medallion from each student that had a Japanese kanji painted on.

My received miyabi 「雅」from Saki Yamamoto「山本咲」 meaning elegance, after a group photo we left for our onsen hotel the Hikimi-kyo Onsen Yasuragi no yu 「匹見峡温泉やすらぎの湯」 .

The place was really nice,  we had chills outside the room around the table before a lovely dinner.

After dinner we decided on bathing in the onsen before more chills around the table. Tomorrow would be a brief visit to Hiroshima before finally making it to Tokyo.

Oda 大田 Jan 28 – Jan 31

Saturday 28 January – Tuesday 31 January

The train ride from Kyoto was long, tiring and the cabin was really stuffy. I was relieved to eventually disembark in Oda, meeting the my Host family Isao and Miyuki Kuya was lovely we introduced ourselves at the train station then we were off to their home. Their house was lovely, half traditional and modern. Miyuki showed me around the house and made me feel completely at home until she left me to cook dinner, while Miyuki cooked dinner Isao and I sat down at the table to have a drink and a chat before it was time to eat a delicious home cooked meal.

I had an early night as we had planned a big day tomorrow at Matsue「松江」.  I had a lovely sleep on the futon that night, breakfast was equally as delicious. After breakfast we left by car to Matsue, we filled the ride with friendly chatter until arriving in front of Matsue castle「松江城」(Matsuejō).

Matsue castle was built in 1611 and looked quite grand surrounded by its stone walls, what makes this castle so special is that among the many castle in Japan, Matsue castle is one of the few that stands completely original. We started our tour with a boat ride around the castle moat before checking out the castles interior.

You could feel the history and age in the wood, it was rather spectacular. (http://www.kankou-shimane.com/en/?p=649)

That afternoon we went out for okonomiyaki that we cooked ourselves, we was apparent that all of us were amateurs but we manage to cook it well enough.

Due to the rain we had to skip the shrine visit, so we drove home early for dinner and sleep.

The next day I met up with everyone for a trip to the University of Shimane. img_0307We began our university trip with a formal meeting with the University president. Next, we went for lunch in the cafeteria with the local students, It was fun meeting them and talking about our interests and hobbies. The rest of the visit we played activities in the library and classrooms before leaving.

I had a lot of fun at the uni meeting all those people, It was interesting seeing a English class in Japan. Once I got home, Miyuki had dinner ready for my final night with them. Isao and I shared a beer and a bottle of sake while we all chatted throughout the night. We even watched a Japanese tv show that teaches English, and the fun part was the theme for the show that day was the Gold Coast, Australia. So, I helped Isao with his English before bath and bed. I enjoyed my time with the Kuya family very much, they were warm and welcoming and spoiled me everyday. Isao reminded me of my grandfather and even looked like him, Miyuki was so caring and an amazing cook she really took care of me during my stay and I am grateful to have met them.

Saying goodbye the next day was tough as I’m not very fond of goodbyes, I still managed to get their address before leaving so I plan to send them a postcard when I’m back in Australia. Next stop is Hiroshima and Tokyo.

 

Kyoto 京都 Jan 25 – Jan 28

Wednesday 25 January – Saturday 28 January

We made it to Kyoto safe and sound! It was a bit of a hike to the ryokan from the station, but what made it worse was we were all a little over dressed for the Kyoto weather. Once at the ryokan (the Yadoya Hiraiwa 「宿や平岩」 ) we checked in and quickly and met up back outside for our walk to Sanjūsangendō 「三十三間堂」 . we saw 1001 Buddhist statues which was really cool, though we were rushed through as we had a tight schedule to keep. (http://www.taleofgenji.org/sanjusangendo.html)

Next stop was Fushimiinaritaisha  「伏見稲荷大」 where we had snacks and saw the 5000 orange torii gates. (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3915.html)

After returning to the ryokan, we went for an onsen bath down the street which was refreshing. Before heading back to the ryokan, Brant, Sensei and I went out for drinks at a nearby bar. We talked about Japan and Linguistics while drinking beer and Fugu Sake, It was fun bonding with the boys over a few drinks.img_9811

Next day we visited Kinkakuji 「金閣寺」 the golden pavilion, it was extremely beautiful the way the gardens surrounded it. We walked through buying lucky charms and hot chocolate before leaving for Nara 「奈良」 to see the Deer and Tōdaiji 「東大寺」. (http://kyoto.travel/en/shrine_temple/132)

The deer were everywhere and really cute, we even got to feed them. Todaiji was incredible, built in 752 Todaiji Temple’s Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden structure in the world and houses an immense statue of Rushana Butsu weighing 500 tonnes. (http://www.taleofgenji.org/todaiji.html)

After leaving Nara we went for dinner in Osaka before bed back at the ryokan.

Our last day in Kyoto was a little more relaxed, first we left to visit Kiyomizudera 「清水寺」 where I got to try the special water from the Otowa waterfall, the three channels of water fall into a pond which supposedly have wish-granting powers. Each of the streams is believed to have a different effect such as bringing success, love and longevity. (http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/en/)

After the Temple, we split up for free time and lunch. I left with a few other for Soba noodles before spending the rest of the day relaxing in my room.img_9900 One of the interesting things I noticed while travelling around the Kansai region of Japan was the difference in regional dialect. For example, Kansai ben and Osaka ben. I overheard a lot of strange Japanese that I didn’t quite understand walking around the streets, most prominently I was exposed during my homestay in Akashi. Ritsuko would play with me by throwing in some Kansai ben during our conversation. Some of the words I heard were like

  • honma 「ほんま」(truly),
  • meccha 「めっちゃ」 (very),
  • omoroi 「おもろい」 (interesting),
  • doushitan 「どしたん」(what’s wrong),
  • tabetan 「食べたん」 (ate),
  • nani shiton 「何しとん」 (what are you doing?),
  • and of course Osaka’s nandeyanen 「なんでやねん」 (what the hell?).

Studying linguistics, it made me interested in how this dialect conjugates compared to the standard. I did notice that to make past tense for example, the usual (tabeta) 「食べた」 has the final (ta) 「た」 dropped and replaced with (tan) 「たん」 making it (tabetan) 「食べたん」. For the present future tense (yomanai) 「飲まない」is suffixed with (hen) 「へん」 instead of (nai) 「ない」 making the verb (nomahen) 「飲まへん」. I also heard the slur when pronouncing words such as (omoroi) 「おもろい」 that I assumed was (omoshiroi) 「おもしろい」without the (shi) 「し」. I was also intrigued with the drop of the glottal stop 「っ」in word like (tsukatte)「 つかって」 where it is replaced with a long (O) 「お」 vowel (tsukoute)「つこうて」. Another oddity I heard during the homestay was (nani shiton) 「何しとん」which confused me abit as it seemed like a form of past tense, however it is actually the continuous form. I’ll stop there as I could dribble on forever about dialect. I really like Kansai and Osaka ben, I find it more expressive and less plain compared to the Japanese we are taught in class. (http://www.kansaiben.com/)

We left early the next morning, during my time in Kyoto I saw a lot of things and had tonnes of fun… I’ll definitely consider returning one day.