It’s been around two weeks now since I’ve arrived in Japan, and I’ve already done so much, yet so little. Since we arrived during sakura season (luckily!) all the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom, and the streets just outside our dormitories were covered with cherry blossom petals. It was definitely almost surreal how pretty it was.
Finally all done with orientations, I’ve gotten quite settled in and ready to start the school year off right. But the biggest event we’ve had so far, has been the exchange students spring excursion to Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture! We all woke up on a cold, rainy, Sunday morning, meeting at the gates of our school by 8:15 AM. Rain or shine, we were going to go! The ride itself took around 3 hours (of which I mostly slept), but by 11 we had arrived in Chichibu. First on our schedule? Nagatoro River rafting! By ‘rafting’ though, I really mean slowly flowing down the river until we hit a small dip which resembles the dip into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It wasn’t nearly as crazy and wet-sounding as I thought it was going to be, which was actually a nice surprise. It was really quite peaceful, and the nature on either side of the river is quite beautiful.
After our river tour, we heading over to a different area where we were able to experience making fresh mochi, an activity that I had never done before. It took incredible strength to swing that wooden hammer-like tool to pound the rice into mochi, but the results were worth all the effort. The mochi was some of the most delicious I’d ever tasted. We were then able to eat it in a couple of different ways, the most notable one being as the outside to an ichigo daifuku, which is basically a strawberry covered in red bean paste, and then wrapped in mochi! Sadly, ever person only got one… but we were able to enjoy the leftover mochi in different ways: with pure soy sauce, or with raddish mixed with soy sauce. Both were quite good.
Now with our stomachs somewhat full of pounded rice, we were able to eat our lunch – barbeque! Sitting around several long tables, we were able to grill our own slices of pork and vegetables, dipping them in a very yummy sauce~ But the last part of our trip might have been the best: all you can eat strawberry picking! Now, I understand why this was last, after all the mochi and barbeque we ate already; the strawberries were so sweet and fresh that if we hadn’t already eaten quite a bit, we’d have ate all the strawberries in the green house. Because they had been grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on top, we were able to pick them straight off the stems and plop them in our mouths. They were definitely some of the best strawberries I’d ever eaten in my life.
With full bellies of mochi, barbeque, and strawberries, we then sadly said goodbye to Chichibu, and returned home to Tokyo. I’d definitely love to visit again in the future, as well as other parts of the less metropolitan areas of Japan. The quiet and peaceful atmosphere was so much different from the bustling mega-city of Tokyo – something everyone needs once in a while.