Monday, September 13, 2010

Japan: Day 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 (Cultural Tour)

Are you tired of chocolate chip cookie recipes? Well this is my first post (of a few) about my trip to Japan. I guess I should give a little background about the trip first. So I spent about 3 1/2 weeks in Japan. 5 days was a cultural tour, and the rest of the time was spent with a host family and going to school. Yes, we actually went to school. But it wasn't like actual actual school. No, no, that would be wayyy to boring! We played games and field trips and all that fun stuff to help us learn Japanese. But that's for a different post. Today's post is about the cultural tour. Man, it was jam packed with stuff! 5 days, 3 different areas. Nara, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Busy, busy, busy!

First off, the flight! I never eat airplane food. (I didn't this time) But it was actually edible looking! JAL probably has the best airplane food. This is one of the dinners (maybe lunches??) they served. I got the curry. My friend ate it for me.....Hee hee...I ate musubis from Manabus!
Curry rice
 Once we got off the plane, we had to take the shinkansen (bullet train) to go to Hiroshima. It was like 9 at night there, but like 2 in the morning in Hawaii. I was sooo tired.
I'm on the left, my friend JJ* is on the right
Ugh. We had to wake up soooo early the next day! And where did we go? We went to Miyajima Island! See:
I'm on the left, my friend K* is on the right.

That's the famous gate they're known for. When it's low tide, you can walk all the way to the gate. Sadly, today was not low tide, and so I couldn't walk to the toro (gate).  But, I did eat a momiji manju! yum! It's a manju shaped like a maple leaf filled with something (I got azuki). Miyajima is also known for rice paddles. I think. Well they had a huge huge huge rice paddle. So I'm guessing it was important. You wanna see how big it was? I'm guessing the rice pot was even bigger!

Look how big it is!
 There was a lot that went on that day, but since I don't wanna bore you guys, I'll move on. (So it may not seem like 5 days have past. ) Also in Hiroshima that we visited was the peace park.  Everyone knows the tragic story right? About the dropping of the Hiroshima Atom Bomb? Well, this is a park dedicated to the was very sad....
Atom Bomb Dome
Everyone knows the story about sadako and the 1000 cranes? Well our class made 1000 cranes to hang at the children's memorial.
Sadako holding up a crane
You know what else Hiroshima is known for? Okonomiyaki! All 30 of us went to an okonomiyaki place and ate, you guessed it, okonomiyaki!
I'm not much of an okonomiyaki fan (don't like meat or oily things) so it was just okay. But everyone else ate the whole thing. Or at least most of it. And that's saying something cause it was wayyyy bigger than my head! The next day, we went to Nara Koen (park). Those deer were scary! Don't let their big bambi eyes suck you into thinking they're all sweet.  If you had shika senbei (the deer cracker), you better watch out! They're ferocious!!! Oh, and I guess you can tell by the name of the park that it isn't Hiroshima anymore...

Me with one of the scary deer! Don't let its big bambi eyes foul you!
So while we were in Nara, we also visited the daibutsuden. It's the world's largest wooden building. Inside is the daibutsu, or the world's largest buddha. It was pretty big. I heard like 7 people can stand in the buddha's palm. Or at least that's what I heard.
The big buddha!!!
 Well that's all for Nara, movin on to Kyoto. My favorite part of Kyoto had to be Nishiki Market aka Kyoto's Kitchen or a foodie's paradise. Sounds like heaven, yea? Well it was!
There were so many various food stalls. It wasn't very wide, and at times could get pretty crowded. We had an hour in there, and we didn't even make it all the way through! (It's like 400 meter long or something) Maybe we walk slow. I'm not sure, but I bet I could spend my entire day in there! They have just soooo much stuff. From freshly made senbei (rice crackers) to mini squid/octopus things on a stick. Those stick things were really weird. Plus, I saw like 15 people walking around with them. Here's a picture of it. I didn't get one, yea, I know I should've...
Squid/Octopus (I'm not sure which!) on a stick
What else did we do in Kyoto?? Hmm..I saw the Gion Matsuri Festival! It's like a huge huge huge thing in Japan. And July 17 is the big day. The day we just happened to be there. So we went. But, man, do I wish we did not go. It was soooo crowded. I'm talking bodies pressed against bodies, not sure who's sweat is who's! That kind of nasty stuff! Yuck, not my favorite time. But here's a picture of one of the floats. Oh yea, that was another thing. The festival was just a bunch of floats. No food stalls....sigh....
One of the most important floats
What else did we do in Kyoto....hmm...a lot of things, but one that I remember clearly is meeting a maiko (stage before a geisha) and making tofu. Yum! So first is meeting a maiko. We learned that geisha, unlike what most people think, are not bad. Also, it sounds really hard to become a geisha. Tons of school work and learning about how to do a lot of Japanese-y things. So we ate at this restaurant where maiko or geisha come to while you are dining. The meal was huge!!! And really tasty!
Me and the Maiko
And the last thing on the cultural tour I will write about is making tofu. It was soooo much fun! We boiled the soy milk, strained it, boiled it again, added some stuff, waited, pressed it, ate it, enjoyed it, loved it! It was just so fresh! Plus, it tastes better knowing you made it. groups tofu was..well it wasn't perfect. For some reason (idk y) it didn't firm up! It eventually turned out, but looked a little strange. See:
Homemade Tofu
There were many other things we did on the cultural tour, but since I think this post is long enough as it is, and I'm not really that interesting, I'll just end the post. Okay, well yes these were just some of things I did while on the cultural tour. :)

*Name change

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