Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Month Away: Part 4

So I realized that I really need to finish off my blogging about Minakami since Vammy's coming on Monday then right after she leaves, I go to Seoul with Rachel. If I don't get it all down now, it's never happening which I'm sure would disappoint everyone who reads this.

So here goes! With pictures!

This is a view of the lake that was right by my house. There were lots of beautiful shots, but the one time I remembered to bring my camera, the batteries died right after taking this photo. Every other time, my decisions to walk around the lake were spur of the moment so I'd forget to grab my camera.

The water was the most impressive thing to me. It was such a beautiful teal color.

This lake is actually there because of a dam. The river that they dammed to make this lake is the second largest in Japan and provides much of the water used in Tokyo. So when I turn on the tap in the kitchen, it's likely that water came from Minakami :D I thought that was a pretty cool tidbit of trivia.

This next picture is of me trying to climb a rock wall though I was not very successful (this was the harder climbing wall by the way). Lydia, Ian, and myself were given several cool activities where we mingled with Minakami people doing fun things. The wall climbing was one of them that we did with a children's sports club.

After wall climbing, we got to participate in another super cool activity. We helped make mochi! Mochi is a Japanese food that is pretty much flavorless so you can put it in anything and is very chewy and sticky. It's a traditional food to eat at New Years (though you can eat it at other times). As you can see, the process of making mochi is rather labor intensive when done by hand.

After making the stuff, we got to eat it. There was sugar and soy sauce and other flavoring to mix it with (obviously the sugar and soy sauce were not together).

The last picture I put here from that day is of Ian (from my program) and Takkun (from Garuni--the inn I worked at). Ayami-chan and I kept trying to convince Takkun to cut his hair because we both liked it better that way (he had short hair at their wedding--Ayami-chan showed me the wedding album).

The next activity Lydia, Ian, and I did was visit a high school in the area. We went an talked to an international econ class. In the picture is me, talking about New Mexico (in Japanese!). When Lydia and I walked in the classroom, several of the students said "Kakkoii!" which means "cool!" and that made us happy. They all really liked Ian too maybe because he's super tall...

They got to ask us questions and were told to try to do so in English so we got a lot of "what sports do you do?" and, of course, "do you have a boyfriend?" We also got several questions in Japanese because they were mostly pretty shy about their English. Actually shy in general since the teacher had to pick someone at random to ask the first question (that person then picked the next, etc.)

Except for the uniforms and the fact that everyone was Japanese, it was really a lot like high school at LAHS. Well, the class size was bigger too I guess... But the students acted pretty similar. Like teenagers.

After going to the school, we were taken to Takumi no Satou which is a village place where there's these shops that let you make crafts. Some are traditional Japanese crafts like making Japanese paper and some could be less traditional, like glass blowing. We decided to go traditional and paint omen (masks). Though I picked a cat to paint which isn't exactly a traditional one, but I like cats. Everyone else went scary.

The lady on the left is from the Minakami city office. Then there's me, Lydia, and Ian. Kobayashi-san (also from the city office) is taking the photo.

But wait there's more! Lydia and I got invited by Ian's host family to do a snowshoe tour! Ian led the tour though his host father also came with us. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! We went up to a really cool cave called Ooyu (Big Demon/Death or something like that, hard to translate the second kanji, but the big part is easy).

The first picture is of the Totoro tree that was near the path. We fit Ian, Lydia, and myself in there (anyone who's seen Tonari no Totoro will understand the reason for the name). We were trying to make a snow bunny but decided it looked more like a totoro so we put it at the tree's entrance. Cute yes?

The next photo shows Ian snoeshowing, Lydia biffing, and me snowshoeing. I also fell at the exact spot Lydia did. That slope was steep! Next to Ian is our destination. This cave was super cool!

We had lunch at the cave (mmm... udon and really good tea) before heading back down. Ian and Nori-san (his host-father) had brought little sleds so the down was super fun (and way faster than the up).

So behind us in the picture you can see what makes the cave so awesome. Those things grow like stalagmites except they aren't pointy. I thought they looked kind of like jelly-fish-scicles.

Next we have the last group outing. Lydia and I went to Takumi no Sato this time without Ian and made pottery. That was really fun though I was not very good at it. Here is me pictured with my pot.

After that, we met up with Ian at an onsen which was relaxing and very nice of course. And after the onsen we went to an izakaya (Japanese style bar) for a nomihoudai with some people from the city office. A very fun night though I won't go into details ~_^ All you get is this picture. I think Ian is trying to look cool, Lydia is imitating a guy that you see often on Japanese television, and I'm trying to be creative with my use of the peace sign...

I hope this helps to satisfy you guys and show you that I got to do many things during my time in Minakami. Certainly a month well spent. It was a really great experience. So much so that all three of us want to go back when it gets warmer and go river rafting!

I also hope there's enough pictures for you (we are visual creatures, I know). However, if not, let me add this video of me sledding down part of the mountain we snowshoed up:

I will have you know that everyone was super impressed by that 360 I did.

And here's a video of us running in our snowshoes (Minakami Baywatch Style!):

Wow, we look like idiots. It was super fun though.

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