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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

I took the night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto, and got to Kyoto Station around 5 am!! That’s super early, and about 1.5 hrs before we were scheduled to get there. NOTHING was open, it was terrible…so I got a locker for my stuff and went to McDonald’s. They actually opened an hour early, because there were 30 people wandering around with nowhere to go!! Once people started moving around, and places opened up, I decided to take my bags to my guesthouse. I got on the subway and went to Gion, then dropped my stuff off at the guesthouse at 7 am. There was no one outside, it was dead! I want to Yasaka Shrine for most of the day, it was amazing.

After Yasaka, I walked to Kenninji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. It was huge and a little overwhelming, and completely gorgeous.  I felt so calm and peaceful there, and I walked around in awe the entire time.

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The amazing ceiling!

The amazing ceiling!

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I went back to IchiEnSou after wandering around the area for another few hours. I met a few people who were staying there, and we went to the stairway leading to Kiyomizudera, so they could buy some presents for people back home. The stairs are lined on both sides with tons of little shops and cafes. They’re so cute, and an awesome place to buy gifts! Everyone had okonomiyaki for dinner…but it was the type of restaurant that only had once choice, and since I’m vegetarian, of course I couldn’t eat it. The little restaurant was tiny and had an awesome atmosphere, and it was funny trying to teach them how to say ごちそうさまでした.

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 I wandered arond the streets of Gion for a while, and eventually ended up at Yasaka shrine. I spent an hour or two walking around and taking pictures, I think I explored every possible part of the shrine that I could! I also went to a temple that was very close to Yasaka, I’m not sure of the name.
A small shrine in Gion.

A small shrine in Gion.

Yasaka shrine at 8 am.

Yasaka shrine at 8 am.

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The Yasaka shrine complex is huuuge.  There’s a park with a lake and stream, many different paths and smaller shrines all around the complex. There’s a very big cherry tree in the park, and many smaller trees. It’s gorgeous in the fall, and gorgeous in the spring. I’ll be posting more about Yasaka when I get to March (my mom visted me & I took her to Kyoto).

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I went to a temple that was very close to Yasaka shrine…I’m not sure of the name, but it was very nice. I was basically the only one there, because it was 9 am, so it was kind of eerie. But it was very calm and peaceful. I love temples and shrines.

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Tamura High School was my high school in Japan. It’s in Miharu, Japan and is the only high school in that town. There are about 900 students. Tamura is a sports school; some of the students are the best in Japan for the sports they participate in! Lots of students were in baseball, track and judo. Some kids were ranked top in Japan (or the WORLD) in their divisions in judo, archery, rowing and etc. Some of these kids traveled one or two HOURS per day to go to Tamura!

In Japan, high school has three grades. They call them first grade, second grade and third grade. I was in the second grade, even though I turned 19 in October, because 3rd grade/senior year is generally preparing for university entrance exams. Tamura had 7 homerooms per grade; 6 regular homerooms and one sports class. My homeroom was 2-5, and I love them so much! My teacher was Ikuko-sensei, she’s wonderful and an English teacher!

These are all pictures from my walk to school, from my house.I walked this same way twice a day for 6 months! I’ll add more posts about Tamura later!

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Neighborhood near the school

Neighborhood near the school

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Miharu Junior High School; less than 5 minutes walking distance from Tamura.

Miharu Junior High School; less than 5 minutes walking distance from Tamura.

Miharu Chu (Junior High)

Miharu Chu (Junior High)

Walking to the high school from my house took about 10 minutes

Walking to the high school from my house took about 10 minutes

Convenience store right next to Miharu Chu. This place was really popular before and after school.

Convenience store right next to Miharu Chu. This place was really popular before and after school.

Going past Miharu Chu

Going past Miharu Chu

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This path was ridiculous to get up during the winter; it was always iced over! I was actually late for school (along with 2/3 of the other stuends!) a few times because of ice!

This path was ridiculous to get up during the winter; it was always iced over! I was actually late for school (along with 2/3 of the other students!) a few times because of ice!

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The student entrance to the school; the lockers for our shoes are right inside those doors.

The student entrance to the school; the lockers for our shoes are right inside those doors.

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We had breakfast at our hotel, had time to hang out on the beach and get packed, and then got on the bus and drove to a lighthouse (or something like that). After that, we went to Ishigaki Airport and had lunch…one of our travel guides took me to a small convenience store so I could find something to eat!! The bento for lunch was all fish and meat, so I had a sandwich and ice cream for lunch. Mmmm, ice cream is my favorite!! We flew to Naha Airport, and then back to Fukushima Airport. There was no photography allowed on the plane, but of course, I took pictures!!  When we landed in Fukushima, the first thing we noticed is that it was COLD!!! It got down to freezing temps that night….we were miserable!! We took another bus back to the train station in Miharu and I went home. We didn’t have to be at school until around 1 pm the next day, so I got to sleep in!! It was such a fantastic trip, and I fell completely in love with Okinawa. I can’t wait to go back!!

Shells from the beach!

Shells from the beach!

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My homeroom teacher, in the middle of a group of boys at the lighthouse.

My homeroom teacher, in the middle of a group of boys at the lighthouse.

Look how CUTE my uniform is! Haha!!

Look how CUTE my uniform is! Haha!!

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I was always being asked to shut my cell phone, mp3 player or camera off when we were on the plane. I'm a rebel!

I was always being asked to shut my cell phone, mp3 player or camera off when we were on the plane. I'm a rebel!

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Landing at the airport in Naha.

Landing at the airport in Naha.

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Katsunori and Kohei on the bus back to Miharu. Aren't they just adorable?!

Katsunori and Kohei on the bus back to Miharu. Aren't they just adorable?!

Two of my very best friends at school; Ayaka and Akane.

Two of my very best friends at school; Ayaka and Akane.

 

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The third day was the best!! We woke up and the sun was shining! It was such a good start to the day. We had breakfast and I hung out on the beach and took pictures for a while before we left….what a wonderful way to wake up! When we were planning to go to Okinawa, we’d been given 4 choices for Day 3: take a ride in a glass bottom boat (along with other things…I forgot), canoe to a uninhabited island (Iriomote) & hang out there, go to a small island (Taketomi) and take a ride on a water buffal0 drawn cart, or go to the city and go shopping. I chose the trip to Taketomi. Of the 250/300 students, about 90 decided to go on the glass boat as well as 90 with my group…and around 50 or 60 for each of the other trips.

The girls at breakfast.

The girls at breakfast.

I miss Japanese food SO MUCH. Just the everyday foods. Like salad with goma/sesame dressing. The 100% cassis & grape juice and blueberry yogurt balls my host dad bought me everytime he bought groceries. Homemade everything. Awesome Japanese-Italian food. Delicious sweets. Amazing fresh fruit. Ahhhh, I need to be back!! ):

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Quite possibly my favorite picture of myself, ever....taken with self timer.

Quite possibly my favorite picture of myself, ever....taken with self timer.

 

Taketomi is a very small (population: around 300) island. It’s very traditional….no paved roads  and they don’t even allow you to throw away garbage!! They have a Ryukyu neighborhood, with traditional red clay roof and shisa(guardian figures) on the roof. There’s many holy sites, but you’re not allowed to enter them.  We took a very bumpy 10 minute ferry ride from Ishigaki port to Taketomi, then boarded yet again MORE buses. Since it was raining, we went to a museum about Taketomi. It was very small but very nice, with movies and cool exhibits. I bought a water bottle from a vending machine, and it was “natural coral reef water.” Once I got about halfway done with the water, I realized it tasted weird. Well, you could actually see little pieces of dirt/coral/etc floating in the bottom of the water! It was so strange!!

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 Once it stopped raining, we got on the buses again and went to the place for the water buffalo rides. It’s a huge tourist attraction in Taketomi…it’s simply a water buffalo pulling a cart around town, on the beach, etc. The entire ride took only 10-15 minutes, but it was a lot of fun. It was a gorgeous way to see the island, and fun to do something very touristy. Our water buffalo’s name was Yai, she was a 3 year old girl. And so cute!! And our bus “driver” even sang a song for us!

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After that, we loaded back onto buses and drove to the beach. This beach is called 星砂の浜 or Star Sand Beach. The sand is actually made from the shells of tiny tiny crustaceans. How weird is that! And it’s star shaped…seriously!! There’s also random cats roaming around, they’re very tame and friendly and will just lay there and let you pet them. I get the feeling that they’re quite spoiled…nothing wrong with that!! The beach was so gorgeous…I was in awe.

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 We went back to the village and had lunch. Since I’m vegetarian, I couldn’t eat many of the bentos/boxed lunches that were offered…so my teacher told me not to order. Instead of ordering food, paying a lot of money and then waiting for it to be cooked, my homeroom teacher offered to split her bento with me. After we ate, we still had around 30 minutes before we had to meet, so we decided to take a walk. We walked to another beach, about 10 minutes away, spent a few minutes there and then walked back. She explained a few things about the island to me, I think it was the 3rd time she’d chaperoned a trip to Okinawa.

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After everyone was done eating and back from lunch, we loaded back onto buses and went to back to Ishigaki port. I had ice cream (Blue Seal….so delicious!), and ended up eating three kinds! My favorite was the caramel and sea salt… it was so delicious!! I wasn’t courageous enough to try flavors like goya (bitter gourd/cucumber) or purple sweet potato. Maybe next time!! They gave us time to walk around and shop…I walked around by myself and didn’t buy anything, as I had run out of money(seriously!! no more cash for me!). I wish I would have taken pictures…but I will next time. I WILL be going back to Okinawa, including Ishigaki and Taketomi. I love it so much!!

We went back to the hotel and had dinner, and then they gave us the rest of the night to do whatever we wanted!! For the majority of us, that meant hanging out on the beach and playing in the ocean. It was November, so no one went swimming (I think it’s somewhat of an unspoken n0-no to go swimming after October in Japan?) but we just enjoyed the beach and ocean. The girls in my class decided to drag me into a water fight…so everyone was soaked!! We took showers and hung out in the room for a while. Every room had a balcony, so you could just step outside and see the ocean. It was gorgeous! We were on the 6th floor, so we had a fantastic view. My roommates kept locking me outside on the balcony, it was so funny! Whenever I was outside, people would constantly be screaming my name or saying hi. I love the kids from my school, they’re awesome. I miss them so much!!

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I went down to the pool and hung out with some girls. There were lots of us, maybe 20? And they decided to play a game and try to throw people into the pool. I started helping (haha!) and before I knew it…I was getting pushed into the pool!! With all of my clothes on! It was ridiculous, haha, but so much fun. Eventually it turned into a game of “push everyone into the pool.” We did get everyone in there eventually, but it took a little effort sometimes! We were all chasing each other around on the grass, getting 2 or 3 people together to try to push someone in…haha, it was such a great night. Eventually we had about 100 of our classmates/teachers out on balconies watching us and cheering for us, and the school photographer came and took pictures. When it was time for us to go inside, one of our teachers came out, and we threw him in! It was hilarious, he’s so awesome and he didn’t even care…even though he was in a suit! That night is one of my favorite memories from the trip.

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I went to Sendai with Kimie for 2 days in October. Her uncle lives there, and we stayed at her cousins まんしょん. Her uncle took us to an amazing pasta restaurant for dinner and we drove to the old castle grounds. The next day we went to Matsushima, which is gorgeous and incredibly busy. Such a tourist area!

It was my first trip anywhere with Kimie, and it was so much fun. She’s such an amazing おねえちゃん!

I’ll upload a few Japan posts since I don’t know when I’ll be getting film developed. I also made an about page and an archives page, so you can go check those out (:

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We thought he was Onigiri man (:

We thought he was Onigiri man (:

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Late night snacks!

Late night snacks!

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Matsushima

Matsushima

 

Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho

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Ramen at a Chinese restaurant in Sendai Station

Ramen at a Chinese restaurant in Sendai Station

The view from the 7th(?) floor of Sendai Station.

The view from the 7th(?) floor of Sendai Station.

 

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In September, I climbed a waterfall/mountain with my host sister and some of her friends. No…seriously! It was so much fun! I don’t know the name of the mountain, but it was in Fukushima-ken. After the climb, we went to a hot spring and relaxed…it was amazing! Definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had so far, and I hope to do it again someday!!

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I was freaking out...I was so scared!! It felt so much higher than it looks.

I was freaking out...I was so scared!! It felt so much higher than it looks.

Next we had to go across this ledge that was only about a foot wide! It was so scary, if we slipped we would have fallen at least 50 feet!

Next we had to go across this ledge that was only about a foot wide! It was so scary, if we slipped we would have fallen at least 50 feet!

Well, I made it up the slope. And my pants were soaked!
Well, I made it up the slope. And my pants were soaked!

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His name is Takei, and he's awesome!

His name is Takei, and he's awesome!

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There was a manmade slide that ran into a pool of water, and everyone was going down it. I was really nervous...

There was a natural "slide" that ran into a pool of water, and everyone was going down it. I was really nervous...

Ahhh!!!

Ahhh!!!

It was so cold!!

It was so cold!!

I made Takei go with me, he really didn't want to but well...I guess I talked him into it!

I made Takei go with me, he really didn't want to but well...I guess I talked him into it!

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Making our way to the waterfall.

Making our way to the waterfall.

It was so worth it...this is what we saw when we finally reached the waterfall!!

It was so worth it...this is what we saw when we finally reached the waterfall!!

Under the spray of the waterfall...it was so incredibly cold and really painful!

Under the spray of the waterfall...it was so incredibly cold and really painful!

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The finish line!

The finish line!

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All the hard work paid off and we got to relax in a (natural!!) hot spring before we went home.

All the hard work paid off and we got to relax in a (natural!!) hot spring before we went home.

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