A while back when I was on the trip to Nara with all of the foreign students, a good friend of mine, Asami, sent me a message. In this message she asked if I were free towards the end of August and then invited me to go on a trip with her and her family. Of course I agreed to go because it sounded really fun. The time came and I had such an amazing experience with her and her family. This is what we did.
Friday morning, Rob and I jumped on a train for Nagoya to meet Asami and her friend. We spent the day there doing some sightseeing and enjoying ourselves. After buying our day passes for the subway, the first thing we did was go to Oosu. It’s a section of Nagoya that is popular among the young folks of the area. Although it was mostly clothing stores, there were many places to eat, as well as a few record stores. We walked, talked, shot a few photos, and grabbed a bite to eat. I tried a rice ball with fried shrimp on the inside that is particularly famous in Nagoya along with some udon noodles. After eating we made our way back to the subway station for our next destination, Nagoya Castle. It was an amazing castle…much bigger than I thought it would be. On the inside, there is a museum that is filled with some old clothing, swords, and other cool stuff. We spent a great deal of time there, observing some history and goofing around. We were getting tired and ready to move on, so we went to the very center of the city, Sakae. There we went to an interesting building that had a glass pond as the roof. It was really cool, and we could see a decent view of the city. We were going to sit and take a break, but then a crazy man caught our eye, and we went to see what he was doing. In the middle of the city with many observers, this man was pulling markers from his pants and scribbling in random patterns and colors on the back of a white dress shirt. He did this for about 20 minutes, stopped, and then received applause. Art? I’m not going to judge. Think what you will, but it was strange. We rested, and then decided to go on a Ferris wheel nearby. I’ve got a few photos taken from the ride on my Flickr account.
It came time to part our ways. Asami’s friend took off, and Rob and I went back to Asami’s home with her for my first experience with a family in Japan. As soon as we walked in the door, her mother was very welcoming. Telling us to come in and relax. Everyone was inquiring about where we were from, why Japan, and other typical questions that come when you are a foreign student. We had a delicious dinner of everything from a homemade Japanese pizza to raw fish. Afterwards the mother of the family wanted to treat everyone to the public bath/spa, otherwise known as an Onsen in Japanese. I’m not too fond of the idea of a hundred naked men sitting around soaking in warm water together, and I definitely don’t understand the point, but it was offered and I didn’t want to be rude. So we went. It was actually nice. We first put on some spa robes, went to the sauna and relaxed on a bed of hot pebbles. We really took our time, just chilling for a little less than two hours, and then I went to get cleaned up. You sit on a little stool in front of a strange looking vanity shelf with strange smelling shampoos and soap, washing yourself with an un-mounted showerhead. Next, you get up and go into the crowded shallow pool full of naked men. That’s how you use the Onsen. I managed even though it’s a bit different. I Came out clean, relaxed and craving a bed. To my surprise, they had a spare room for Rob and I to stay in with futons. I’m pretty sure that having a spare bedroom is a rarity in Japan because they are so pressed for space, so I was grateful. The plan was to wake up at 8, leave for Takayama at 9. Alarms were set, and I went into the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long while.
The only problem is that I killed the alarm, went right back to sleep and then woke up at 9:00. Rob and I both dreamt that they woke us up, so we were worried they were waiting on us downstairs. Maybe because they didn’t want to be rude, they only woke us up the one time. I felt terrible…that is until I went downstairs and realized that everyone else had overslept. The father went and woke everyone up, and it was great to hear everyone frantically waking up because we were late. We had a quick breakfast, and headed on our way. The car ride was about 3 hours, yet was very enjoyable. I got to practice lots and lots of Japanese because only Asami understands English.
We arrived in Takayama and picked up one of Asami’s friends. Everyone together, we went to a museum that displayed items of ancient Japanese parades. Sort of like a street festival, but wit the floats being carried by people. It was cool, it was fun, but we moved on. We went to the downtown part of the little city, and I ate so many good foods. The beef is famous there, and I know why…it’s delicious. The only special local food that I didn’t try was the raw beef, because it’s just really sketchy. You can only do so much walking, talking, and eating in the same area before you get a little tired, so we went to the arcade and took some pictures that are similar to my current facebook profile photo. In Japanese “Purikura”…supposed to be short for “print club,” but I think they made a mistake somewhere in the translation. It’s a thing that younger people do here to remember when you spend time with your friends. We bought a few souvenirs, learned about a mythical doll, and then bought more souvenirs pertaining to that mythical doll. “Sarubobo” is the name if you wish to Google it.
We went to a nice restaurant and had some dinner, went and rented a movie and bought snacks and food for our night at the guesthouse. Somehow, they managed to get a guesthouse for the five of us young peeps, and we stayed up watching movies and drinking a bit of alcohol. Took a normal shower this time too. Slept, woke up, and went to Shirakawago. This was my favorite place we visited during the course of this exciting weekend. Shirakawago is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for it’s extreme serenity and beautiful location right in the valley of giant mountains. You get a really cool feeling as you see the unique homes and the mountains towering above you. This place gets a lot of snow in the winter, so the homes are much different from most Japanese homes in order to adapt to the snow. Even though it was not winter, it’s still a good place to go to see some Japanese culture.
At one point Asami randomly picked up some pine needles and used it to make a small bow and arrow. I immediately and randomly grabbed a piece of grass and tried to show her how whistle with it. Soon, everyone was trying, and it was a hilarious scene. Seven people standing around blowing on grass. We had some pretty funny moments just like this one throughout the trip. Right before we started our journey back, we went to an amazing viewpoint that overlooks the village. I took lots of photos, and you can see a few on Flickr. I really enjoyed my time there, and it was a perfect way to end the weekend trip.
It’s funny how much I enjoyed the car rides. We talked for a really long time about life and family. They were asking me so many questions about my family, and I was glad to talk about them. I really got to know Asami’s family on the trip, especially during the car ride conversations. They dropped us off at Nagoya Station saying our sincere thank you’s and goodbyes. They said they want to have us over some more, and I was glad to hear that…I’m sure more time spent with them will be fun. On the train ride home I sat and reminisced about the weekend, and realized how lucky I am to know such a cool family!