Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Golden Week!

Okay, so I've delayed long enough. Golden week is the first week of may. Most schools got the entire week off, but we were only given Thursday and Friday off. Still, it was enough time for many students to escape Nagoya for the weekend. A good portion of the students at I-House went to Osaka, but Jessica and I decided to go elsewhere. So, we went to Takayama. In other words, high mountain. In even more words, whoa homygosh I've never seen the ground be so un-flat in mah life!!!

I saw a swimming anteater...

Originally, we were supposed to stay in a cabin up in the mountains, but something got lost in translation. When we arrived, we were ushered to a room in a ryoukan. Despite the confusion, our stay was nice enough. Our window overlooked a small lake that crowds with people during the day. The first night we were there, we were given tea. Jessica and I had fun trying to decipher shapes from our tea leaves after we drank our first cups. The next day we strolled around the pond, taking dozens of pictures, then decided to follow roads toward town. Just as we were wandering away from the camp grounds we discovered a path covered in leaves and shrubbery that lead down into the trees. We were planning on trailing originally, so...why not? We descended upon the path with cameras in hand. The path led down and around hills through the forest following a creek. There was beauty in every step taken. Our cameras were exploding with photos! The path ended at a residential part of town with a small shrine. We wandered around quite a while. This town we were staying in appeared to be one where everyone seemed to be a farmer. Every little house was preceded by at least one small crop. There were a great number of yards full of vibrant tulips. We saw many people in tractors tilling up land that was covered in a few inches of water. I can only assume it was for rice, but it is hard to tell when none of it is growing yet.

 The only evidence I have left of our trail on Friday

Shout Out to Area Code 361!
It started raining while we wandered and as it got harder we had to take refuge in a stranger's garage. Jessica had lost her umbrella and mine was small, so fighting the rain and protecting our cameras was quite a task. It was awkward enough with no one there. There was a door to the house inside the garage that was left open. The wind caused it to continuously bang shut and swing back open. Eventually, someone came home and the awkwardness level rose! After a while, the rain seemed to lighten up a bit, but the awkwardness did not. So, we wandered down the street further. When finally we came across another pedestrian, we asked if there was anywhere to eat nearby. The only thing they were able to tell us was a small cafe further down the street that they weren't sure would be open or not. Never the less, we headed that way, only stopping to take shelter at a bus stop to read and let the rain die down. When it finally stopped, we continued and came across a cute little cafe that was in fact open. Good thing, too, because it was delicious!! Jessica got Curry Rice and I got Spaghetti. Sure, I'm in Japan and should be eating Japanese food. But, hey! This spaghetti is not the same. I have really taken a liking to it.

Sakura were still in Bloom!
Afterwards, we wound our way back up to the camp by way of road that went back and forth up the side of a hill. That night we went to an Onsen. It was a first time for both of us. Fortunately, we went with a Japanese woman from Nisshin that could show us the way. First step is declothing, of course. Yes, completely disrobe. No, you may not wear a swimsuit. On our way to the Onsen I certainly felt very nervous about the whole situation, but shortly after entering the locker room the awkwardness just melted away. It was the moment that we were all completely unclothed that the nervousness was completely gone. Second step is washing. Instead of getting into shared baths all dirty, you have to take a shower at a line of shower booths. They are not closed off, they are public. The only seperation you get is a very small wall in between them.There is body wash, facial wash (which actually wasn't at the booth I chose for some reason), shampoo and conditioner provided. Finally, you head to the baths! Which are, by the way, really really hot... We sat in the inside bath for a short while before going outside where the water seemed even more hot in contrast to the cold air. As far as how long we were there, I have no clue. It was fun and certainly an interesting experience.

The next day Jessica was determined to go to Kamikochi, which is high up in the mountains. We spent 5,000 Yen on a round trip, arriving around 1:30pm. First thing I noticed, and could not pass up, was SNOW. It really wasn't that cold, but there were stacks of snow on the sides of the road and parking lots. It was amazing to me. I was already in shock of all the hills and mountains, but snow in this quantity?!

Unfortunately, the last bus was at 5pm, so we did not have time to go on more than one trail. So, we chose one that lead to a pond further up in the mountains. Most of the trail was set out in wood, to lead the travelers up away from the wet path below, because it mostly followed a riverbed around the hills. Soon after we set out, we came across a monkey. A Macaque! It wasn't far into the trees and I was able to zoom in and get a decent picture with my small camera. Then, it walked across the very path we were walking on. And then! There was another monkey that passed in front of us as well. We followed them a few yards down the path before we turned to our right to see a field full of them! This was by far my favorite part of the day. It certainly made up for the loss of all of my pictures of the previous day (Oh yeah, btw... had a great start to this day with the accidental wiping of all of my photos from my canon). Alas, we continued down the trail seeing many a pretty sight and all the way seriously contemplating the idea of staying the night in the mountains. Meaning, roughing it with what little we had. The whole way we were pointing out good spots and ways we could stay warm and dry for the night. Somehow, this conversation made our walk all the more enjoyable. It took us a good hour and a half to get to the end, where we realized we only had an hour until the last bus back to Takayama. So, we booked it back, making it with 20 minutes to spare.

 Macaque Video of Splendor

Our last day, Jessica and I walked up the street to the old Hida village. When we finally arrived, I already had another issue with my camera. Somehow, my lens cap had gotten jammed into my lens. So, all of my photos of the village are taken with my smaller camera. Basically, it was a large outdoors museum. We walked around for a while. There were many houses you were allowed to enter. Naturally, you had to first take off your shoes. There was a lot of omiyage (souvenirs) and several workshops where you can participate in making your own omiyage. Unfortunately, we did not have the time nor the energy. Our bus back home was at 3pm. And thus, we headed home and studying for quizzes Monday had to finally commence.

I found this peaceful.

 From what I could tell, the majority of the products sold in the village were handmade by the people working there. These are spoons they were selling. There is clearly enough on the stand and I noticed he started up on the one he is working on in this video when we came around the corner, as if he was only working for show. I thought it was cute and was tempted to say he could stop, but had no clue how to say that and not sound rude.

This is a view from Kamikochi

Hope you enjoyed my photo/video dump!

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