Friday, May 25, 2012

Overnight Excursion

   Early May 25th, us Ryuugakusei gathered for the much anticipated overnight trip to Wajima. For the whole thing we only paid 10,000 yen and had to attend an hour long orientation a week before going. It was somewhat daunting going in, since it appeared we had a very tight schedule we had to adhere to or suffer being left behind. Thankfully, not a single student got lost. :]

   Our trip started Friday morning on the bus. We drove for two and a half hours before reaching Shirakawa Village. First, I would like to point out we watched Totoro on the way and it was super cute. Shirakawa is home to old fashioned Japanese homes with heavily thatched roofs. Even after seeing the homes in Hida, it is simply surprising, after all that I've heard about the tiny homes of Japan, that these houses were so big! Going through them felt like going back in time to visit the home of a rather large family. Only an hour and a half later we had to be back on the bus, in which we would spend another half hour before making it to Suganuma Village. The experience was about the same, just several miles further.

   We left Suganuma at 2:45 to head out for the last two and a half hours to Wajima. Our hotel worked very much like a Ryokan, only it was much more fancy than any that I have been to before. Upon arrival we were given tea and a sweet, that I neglected to take a picture of, as well as instructions on how to use the room - even though all of the people in my room were already aware. Our rooms overlooked the shore which was really just a hop and a skip away from the building. The only thing separating us from the shore was a several meter wide concrete block barrier (and, well, 4 floors).

Dining Hall!
   We did not have long in our rooms before we had to head down the banquet hall on the second floor for dinner. We were going to be treated with a traditional Japanese dinner. We each had our own tray, sitting on cushions on the floor, that were covered in various bowls of different dishes. To begin with, there was a lot of food on our trays, but as the dinner went on servers brought different things to us. It was quite daunting. There was nothing I truly recognized except a dish of crab. I excitedly exclaimed 'CRAB!' when I saw it. I was so proud I knew at least one thing I was eating. As I later found out, there was more hiding

The initial layout
around our tables that I knew. There was a covered dish that was propped up on the left corner that contained pork belly, a single carrot, a single green bean, and a hearty slice of onion. Why was it covered and propped up? Because it was going to cook at our very tables! Another thing that cooked at our seats was a small pot of rice. The servers came around and lit a strange tea-light sized object underneath the two cookers and we were told not to open them until after the flame had gone out. I'm not going to explain everything we had, but I do have a ton of pictures at the bottom of the page... There are a lot of things we ate that I did not take pictures of, so I'll briefly list those. They are... Sashimi, Plum Wine, Radish Bun, Fried shrimp (was next to the fried sandfish below), pickled cucumber and Japanese radish, and strawberry pudding desert.

   During dinner we were treated to a Gojinjou-daiko performance. Basically, a bunch of guys in really creepy masked hop around stage and beat on a single dream in the most creepy way possible. This form of taiko was developed as a form of defense against enemies, intending to scare them away essentially. It would totally work on me.

   And, let me tell you this, there was enough food served there for five of me...and yet I tried my best to eat whatever I could possibly fit in my mouth. Big mistake! After dinner, I was so full I felt like my stomach was leaking into the rest of my body. Everything ached like I was about to explode! We rested in our rooms for about an hour or two, changed into yukata, then made our way to the public baths downstairs. The public baths were very much like an onsen. We had to wash after entering and before getting into the bath. I was so conflicted, because it felt so good on my back but so terrible on my stomach. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the edge with just my legs in, which felt so good after the bus rides.

   When we came back to our rooms our beds (futon) were already set out for us, so we were able to just crawl in bed and go off to lala land until morning. I slept so comfortably it should be illegal!

   In the morning we were offered another traditional Japanese meal. After the previous night, most of it I was not at all willing to put in my mouth. My sense of adventure died away with tummy aches, so I was very wary of what I was eating.

Random Beheaded Angel in Morning Market
   After breakfast, we went to the morning market. Along the street there was booth after booth of fresh fish, crabs, etc just sitting out in the sun. The smell of fishy death was heavy in the air! Ah, but that was not all that was offered. Much to my wallet's dismay, there were innumerable amounts of gift shops that I had a hard time resisting. At the end of the hour I had several bags that made it awkward when I had to run back to the bus, but I'm proud to say I did not spend more than $100 this entire trip. Amidst all the rather expensive items Wajima has to offer, there are also a lot of rather cheap but still pretty things to choose from. I was rather proud of my purchases.

Kiriko (Best picture I got)
   Since the morning market trip was optional, we had to return to the hotel to pick up the others that did not go before heading to a Kiriko Kaikan! That is, a paper lantern museum. These lanterns are not the small hand held ones you might be thinking of. Well, they're hand held, yes, but they require many hands to hold them up. Most of them are huge and require large bands of people to carry them during festivals. Basically, they are like our floats during parades, but they are not supported by machinery. Instead, they are supported by pure man power. At the museum we were treated to another type of taiko performance. This one was much more upbeat. The drummers were adorable, cute, and handsome all at once. I just wanted to hug them all. The show started off with a group of them lined up along the back of the stage while people took turns drumming and dancing around. Then... masked people came out that made all of us giggle. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

   After wandering the museum a little, we were taken next door to a lacquer-ware museum. Wajima is famous for its lacquer-ware. There we were given a short tour during which we were given the run-down of how they are made, then were ushered into a room full of extremely expensive lacquer-ware. This marked the end of our trip. We were now due to sit on the bus for a good six hours with a few stops along the way.
Some sort of Octopus, I think - Didn't like

Pickled Something - Delicious
Pickled Shrimp, I think - Okay

CRAB! Loved it

Iced Seaweed Noodles - Loved it

Fixin's for the noodles - good touch

Cooking Pork Belly

Tofu, I believe - Hated

Fried fish carcass (Sandfish) - Didn't dare

Rice cooked with fish - Okayish

Not sure, not sure, Umeboshi - Didn't try

Fish cooked at our station - Very good

Much welcomed plain rice, and not so welcome strange egg

This salad hit the spot so well!

I didn't know and didn't want to know.

Another didn't know and didn't want to know

Miso soup with clams - Pretty good

Natto - Hell... No (Yes, I tried it)
Hope you enjoyed the photo dump! :]

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