Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The rest of the adventure

More fun and interesting topics for you all! Woohoo! Or at least I hope they’re interesting!

I figure it’s about time I tidy up some loose ends I’ve swept under the rug. Namely, the rest of my trip. So, here we go in a brief run down! Ready? Oh, and please, please, please. I LOVE to see comments. So if you have any questions or I confuse the heck out of anyone, please say so! I’d be happy to clarify!!

So the second day of my trip I headed out to meet up with my friend Mika. That’s her. Right there, on the end. The right side that is. Anyways, Mika was an exchange student at the University of Oregon up through last summer. We met through the language exchange program at the U of O, even if we ended up not really doing much language exchange.

Back to the story. So, on the second day of our trip we met up with Mika in Osaka. First stop, shopping. Second stop, my first ever covered shopping street out in Kobe. I like shopping, what can I say? Also, it rained, a lot, so a lot of our other options were out. Shopping completed we headed back to Mika’s place to drop off our bags and headed on bike to an onsen.

While onsen actually means hot spring, it’s also used to describe a specific type of bathing house. How it works is you go in and pay, the one I went to was gender separated, don’t know if this is true everywhere, put your stuff in a locker and head over to the onsen room. Oh, and uh, I haven’t mentioned yet, but uh, the onsen was a nude one. I shamefully hid behind my hand towel as best and often as possible as I’m not used to that kind of nudity.

Anyways, so you undress and head out and off to the side is a row bathing areas where you can shower off. No, it’s not like going to the pool where you do a quick rinse off. You’re expected to actually bathe before heading over into any of the pools. The onsen we went to had multiple pools, all very ,very warm and one freezing cold one. Yeah, glad I tested the water before I jumped into that one. There was also a sauna and a couple of outdoor pools. It was really fantastic, once I got over the fact that I was naked.

That pretty much sums up what happened in Kobe. So, moving chronologically along, a couple days later the gang and I headed out to Ise shrine. Now, what I didn’t realize when I decided to go to Ise shrine is that there are actually TWO shrines. Count ‘em. One. Two.

There is both the outer shrine

and the inner shrine.

If you don’t know which one you’re at here’s a quick explanation. If you crossed a bridge to get to it you’re at the inner shrine.

Bridge. Got it?
The outer shrine is dedicated to Toyouke, the deity of clothing, food and housing while the inner shrine is dedicated to none other than Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, herself. Oh, and I have I mentioned that Ise Shrine is the most sacred place in all of Japan?

This year was an extra cool year to go. Every 20 years they rebuild Ise Shrine at its adjacent site. During the rebuilding, which to my knowledge is done with only one specific type of wood and in the traditional style, the old building remains and you can see the new and old temples side by side. As far as I know Ise is one of very few, if not the only, shrine that gets rebuilt every 20 years. Back in the day, it was a big deal to do that for all the shrines, but as the materials became scarcer and the prices climbed complete rebuilding has been limited. So it was pretty neat to be able to show up and see something that only happens once every 20 years. Unfortunately because of rules and how the place is built, it wasn’t really possible to get pictures of the two places side by side.

The best I could do!!!

This was a super busy day by the way and we also headed out to the Wedded Rocks. Not quite sure why it's famous or what it stands for, but here's the picture!

Wedded Rocks.
Oh, and if you're ever bored alone with your friends on a train for thirty minutes waiting for it to leave a station, photo shoots are a fun idea.

About 2 days before leaving for Yokohama I headed out to Himeji shrine. Himeji shrine is a world heritage site and I was really excited to get to go see it in person. Unfortunately, the main building is in the middle of repairs. Which take a total of 5 years to complete.

 This is because it is done entirely in the traditional style and only a handful of people who have the required skills are allowed to do the work. 20 people all together is what I was told. It was still pretty cool though because there is building built up in front of the main building at the moment with an elevator and kind of museum installed. You can ride up the elevator for an extra 200 and go up to see the roof up close and watch the repairs being done. 

A bonus to the main building being closed was that they have a corridor opened up in another part of the building that isn’t normally open. If I read the signs right, hey, I could be wrong, the corridor they have opened up hasn’t been open to the public in a very, very long time. I’m talking around 400 years if I remember right. Anyways, the corridor is actually what used to be the women’s lodgings back in the day. It was pretty neat. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the repairs on Himeji Castle will be complete sometime in 2015. So if that’s something you want to see and you can afford to wait, sometime in 2015 it’ll be open again in its full glory.

No Scribbles!

Last thing I wanted to mention about the trip was the 旅館, or Japanese Inn, in Yokohama. After spending most of our day reading or otherwise napping on park benches, we headed to the 旅館. It was a bit farther from the trains than I anticipated, about a 15 minute walk to the station and just as we were thinking we were utterly lost, we saw this.

Houston, I think we found our destination.

The good thing about the ryokan is you can pay up front or at the end of your stay. The price per person per night (yes, per person, not per room) was 6,700 and ranged at one of the cheaper 旅館 we had seen. Our 旅館 had an onsen room, though the tub was pretty small, I could easily sit with my back against the wall and touch my feet to the other side with ease, but it was very nice. Our room was also a Japanese style room. By Japanese style I mean futon beds, tatami mats, the works. 

Dinner, however, I think was the highlight of our stay. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera upstairs and I haven’t been able to requisition Chelsea’s pictures yet, so there are no pictures at this time. I’m not sure all of what dinner was, but there was food. Sooo much food. The first thing on the table was some kind of soup set up with what looked like a candle under it at first glance and appeared to be sitting in something that looked suspiciously like a coffee filter. The lady serving food lit the candle, which ended up not being a candle, but the entire thing lit up to cook the soup above it, burning up the entirety of the… whatever it was, in the process. It was pretty sweet. There was also sashimi (raw fish), tempura, chawan mushi (wikipedia link here (, miso soup, and well, other things that I don’t quite remember. But it felt like the food just kept coming. We think that half of our fee went toward dinner.

Overall, it was a really good way to end our trip.

So now you have the full story, if in brief, of my adventures! More stuff to come soonish. But. I’m not sure how soon. Haha. Lots I want to write, but I’m also preparing to move to the dormitories on Sunday, with an early Easter dinner (being prepared by Briana and I) on Saturday and a trip to the coast on Friday. And I still need to pack my suitcases and get cracking on my spring break homework. Hoo boy. Here’s to hoping I make it through till Sunday!

Oh, for any of you travelers out there, or about to be travelers. This is the best advice I think I can give you. 

Sleep. Just do it.


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