Long time no blog! Sorry for the lack of blog posts in the past few weeks; it isn’t because I haven’t been doing anything. Rather, it is because of a combination of laziness, being busy, and the fact that I had a blog post and then the draft disappeared. Rewriting that post and uploading the content is still a work in progress. However, instead of letting that hold me back I am finally going to share my experiences from last weekend!
To start off the weekend I went to another welcome party for international students held by the IFL which is another circle at Rikkyo (Maybe it’s a club and not a circle? I forget). It was free and I could have a nice Japanese conversation with two girls and also eat some Japanese pizza. It had mayo on it but it was still really good, though I know some people from North America really don’t appreciate it! Because the welcome party was so fun, afterwards when everyone decided that they wanted to go to 飲み放題 (nomihoudai – all-you-can-drink), I decided that I would go along with them! It was 3,000￥ for 3 hours and you could drink as much alcohol as you wanted and they also provided food! This is something that takes place at a Japanese pub (居酒屋-izakaya) so it was something really interesting that I could experience. I stayed there with most of the group until after midnight before I had to catch the last train from Ikebukuro back to Shiki. Those in Halifax are probably a little jealous of that availability! I went back with two boys from the dorm that’s at the station before mine and we were joking around on the train and a 30 year old Japanese woman started to talking to us! From that moment I decided I loved the last train – the atmosphere is really relaxed and a lot of people are chatting because they have been out drinking. It’s completely different to how the train is during the day where everyone is usually pretty quiet and staring at their phone/shoes/book/etc. Even though it was really fun, I was initially worried because our dorm actually has a curfew of midnight. Others just get people to let them in but I was nervous to do this but it didn’t matter because the front door of the dorm wasn’t even shut when I got back!
The second thing that I did was go to Kawagoe Matsuri. The festival took place on October 17th and 18th and is especially known for the large 山車 (floats) that are present during the festival. Kawagoe is around a 20 minute train ride on the Tobu-Tojo Line further into Saitama. I went on Saturday (the 17th) with an American girl from my dorm. We went in the evening because from my experience at Fukuro Matsuri in Ikebukuro, it’s the busiest time to go but also the most exciting! The lights and all the vendors just seem to be more lively in the evening. Actually, the feeling of the whole festival overall was a lot different from Fukuro Matsuri. I think that it is because Kawagoe Matsuri has longer history than Fukuro Matsuri that was only established in the 1980’s.
As you can see, there are about a trillion people present. I’m pretty sure that I almost got trampled as many times. Actually, because I was there in the evening, I was able to see how they move these giant floats (they are around two stories tall). Once I figure out how to upload videos easily I’ll post the link along with the videos that I lost previously. Sneak teaser: the floats are moved with only man power through this huge crowd with the help of the police. Hopefully it happens sometime before I leave Japan HAHA. It’s hard to see in the picture but actually there were people performing on the floats. There were two musicians and an actor that was playing out the story that went along with the music. Sometimes it was a masked woman and other types it was Japanese mythical creatures. Another really amazing part about this festival was the shear size of it. There were at least three streets completely closed to traffic that were FULL of food vendors of varying kinds. Of course there was also an extensive amount of beer being sold as well. I even came across an eating area with a karaoke stage down a side alley as well! This is just a sample of one of the really popular vendors; these are chocolate covered bananas ( I swear it’s true…).
Lastly, on Sunday I braved going on a tour organized by the Niiza City Office all my by self! I had no idea what kind of people with and wasn’t sure that I would know any of the other four Rikkyo international students that were going. As it turned out, one of the people that went is a Chinese masters student that lives in the same dorm as me named Wu. However…he was the only person there that I knew. Not only that but I was actually the only person there that wasn’t from an Asian country. There were a lot of older Japanese that had organized the tour, quite a few Chinese and Vietnamese, and a few Koreans. To fully explain…one of the Japanese men on the tour called me Canada – that was somehow my whole identity. It also meant that I had to speak Japanese for the whole tour which was really good! Too bad I can’t seem to get that into my normal routine! Meet the new friends I could make, Wu and Ji Yeon! (Yes, that is Mount Fuji!!!)
For the tour we traveled to Yamanashi Prefecture which is a few hours by bus from NIiza. At first we were a little worried because the weather was really cloudy but it turned out to be really hot and sunny! This was great because a big point of the whole trip was to see Mount Fuji! We stopped at two places, the first of which is where the picture to the right was taken. Unfortunately I forget the name of the place but I have a picture of the sign somewhere. It was a little village kind of area with little traditional buildings that had Japanese traditional things in them. Some buildings had sweets, some trinkets, and some other types of food. We also ate lunch here in the traditional Japanese style – tatami, on the floor, with traditional food. It was a really an amazing experience!! I ate a whole fish…minus the eyes part because it kind of freaked me out.
The next stop for our trip was a place full of different types of ponds called Oshino Hakkai. It was really pretty there but we only stayed for a really short time. It was a nice place to see Japanese countryside life though because I am always in the city. It was really relaxing. I want to go back and stay for a longer period of time for a vacation or something. In this area they also had a water mill that was pounding flour to make soba noodles! The only downside was the fact that I experienced the horror of walking into a bathroom with a Japanese style toilet. For anyone that doesn’t know Japanese style toilets are basically a porcelain hole in the floor. After waiting in a really long line I actually decided that I didn’t need to go to the bathroom anymore. My camping memories haunt me and I am not sure that I could use this style of toilet successfully…One of the Japanese women laughed with me about it later though so it could still be a fun experience in the end!
The bus ride home was a long one but it was another opportunity to see a lot of really nice mountainous scenery so that was okay! Being from a pretty flat place, being in a country that is 70% mountainous is really amazing. I am pretty sure for both trips to Yamanashi and back my mouth was dangling open because I was so amazed!