Stories From The Road

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Technos International Week – Day 9

Monday June 14, 2010

Shinto arch entrance to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

KAMAKURA, Japan – Today began with a reunion of sorts. Everyone who had been away on a home stay had returned and met back up with the rest of the international students at the hotel. Everyone tried to quickly share his or her individual experiences and eat the usual egg breakfast before boarding the bus to Kamakura.

Today’s trip was to two different destinations. Our first trip is to Kamakura. Kamakura is located to the southwest of Tokyo about a two-hour drive and home to the second largest Buddha statue in Japan. Technos students in the tourism department led the entire trip.

Sake and Beer donations to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

The trip was prolonged by the pouring rain, which marked the beginning of the rainy season. The drive came to an end and we exited the bus and walked down the flooded street side toward Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, a Shinto shrine. A large red arch graces the entrance to the shrine. An elongated walkway leads to an arched bridge that crosses over a small river. Today the arched bridge was closed, but there was still a walkway that surrounded the bridge. We walked down the walkway reaching a temple/shrine wash station. We washed our hands then continued on our way. Not soon after the wash station we were faced with a steep set of stairs that led up to the shrine. To the left of the stairs there were stacks of offerings of sake and to the right there were a few shops.

Steps up to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

We walked up the steps and reached the shrine. Inside the shrine people made offerings of coins and bowed and clapped as a sign of respect. We exited the shrine and walked over to some nearby shops where everyone bought their fortunes. We then continued walking the grounds and found a smaller shrine up a small set of stairs. We checked out the shrine then headed back to the bus. Once everyone was aboard the bus it was off to lunch.

fried fish lunch

We drove through the quiet streets of Kamakura and stopped outside of small shop. Everyone entered the shop, which sold a variety of goods made in Kamakura. Once inside everyone made his or her way up to the second floor, which was where lunch was to be served.

Great Buddha at Kamakura

Lunch was a lightly fried fish, served with sashimi and pickled salads. The fish was served on the body again and had a slight lemon flavor to it. Once lunch was finished we went back down to the shop. Downstairs I purchased a hand carved wooden plate, which is a specialty found only in Kamakura. The wood used in these plates is allowed to reach its driest point before it is carved. As such the finished plate is extremely lite.

We crossed the street and entered another shrine. This shrine housed the second largest stature of the Buddha in Japan. The statue is made of copper just like the statue of liberty. We walked around the statue then eventually went inside. There was short spiral staircase that led to a base within the statue to stand. The statue is completely hollow, with two windows in the back for ventilation.

When our tour of the statue was finished we boarded the bus again for Yokohama. Yokohama is also known as China Town.

Entrance to Yokohama

After an hours ride we reached China Town. China Town was designated by a large blue Chinese archway that opens up to a complex of streets lined with shops and vendors. Most of the shops sell food, such as dumplings and sesame balls. The dumplings that they sold were the largest I had ever seen; they were round in shape and about four inches wide. My dumpling was filled with a meat mixture. However, the fillings varied from being filled with sweet bean paste, to vegetables, or meat. The rain picked up, which made it hard to enjoy Yokohama. We walked up and down the street of Yokohama looking for a snack that is unique to Yokohama. It looks like a fried spring roll filled with tapioca. The tourism students told us of the snack, however, no one at any of the shops had any idea what we were talking about. Our hour of exploring was over and we boarded the bus again returning to Tokyo.

Streets of Yokohama

When we arrived back at the hotel, a bunch of us gathered and traveled to Shibuya to go clubbing with the Technos students. When we arrived n Shibuya we all went to a small Italian restaurant for dinner. After we walked to Club Camelot. However, a bunch of us didn’t feel like going into it and decided to just walk around. As it turns out the people who went to the club didn’t do to much because everyone was busy watching Japan in their first world cup game.

I chose to not go into the club and instead walked around Shibuya. I visited a tower records and wandered around for a while. After about an hour of walking we walked back and caught the train to the hotel.

Technos International Week – Day 3

Tuesday June 8, 2010

SHUNJUKU, Tokyo – I awoke early, had breakfast and then left for Technos College. When we arrived we were brought into the gym for an introduction to Japanese Culture. The introduction ceremony included demonstrations in Japanese Calligraphy and Japanese dance; where girls and guys wearing kimonos came out and danced with fans. Later a traditional Japanese drumming group demonstrated their skill along with dancers dressed as lions, people, and foxes. Then the 2005 World Karate Champion did a demonstration. He broke two bats held below him and  one bat held above his head. All of the bats were broken with his bare feet. His final act was to break twenty Japanese tiles. His master had only broken fifteen and he had never before broken any tiles. On his first attempt he used his elbow and broke seven, on his second try he broke eight, and finally the last five tiles.

Matt, an English teacher at Technos, did the final demonstration. He was from Canada but has been living in Japan for six years. He played the samisen a traditional string instrument. After the demonstrations we had lunch. I ate udon soup, fried pork, miso soup and rice.
After lunch I checked out the school convenience store. Students that we passed along the way  were always approaching us asking to take  pictures with them and throwing up the peace sign.

Next ,we had to introduce our colleges to the students and faculty at Technos College. I introduced HWS with AUT, Bates, and McKendree. Then Technos students introduced the airline, hotel, bridal, English, and tourism departments.

After the introductions we went back to Shinjuku for dinner. This part of the city  was what I pictured Tokyo to look like. There were bright lights and people hustled about. It reminded me of Times Square in New York only much bigger. Meagan, Bianca, Astrid, Kaad, Annie, and Kenji joined us. Before dinner we did some shopping and exploring of Shinjuku. I went off and explored the eastern area of Shinjuku with Annie. Shinjuku was a massive city, with the bright lights and signs going on forever. While walking we found a small shine buried deep within the skyscrapers.

Shinto Arches leading to the peaceful shrine in the middle of the bustling metropolitan

Pillar outside the shrine

The restaurant we went to had a very traditional feel to it. The tables were low with an area to put your feet underneath. I had a ginger highball and sake – clear, cold sake. I learned that there are three types of sake, clear sake, brown sake, and sake with clumps of rice left over from the brewing process. Sake is normally supposed to be served cold. Only less purified sake is meant to be served warm. For dinner I ate chicken and rice. The chicken was stir fried in soy sauce with sugar. Round after round of food came with Kenji ordering traditional food for all of us to try. Kenji was one of our Technos student guides for the week.

Shinjuku Skyscrapers

The restaurant

After dinner we returned to the hotel for an early night for tomorrow we had an early day.