Been quite awhile since I have updated, but now that I am back in America I will have plenty of time to post more of my adventures in Japan. However, many of the post will be separated according to event time. Believe me, a lot can happen in just a few months so hope you can look forward to the next updates.
May 17 – 18, 2015
For this spring semester’s trip, the exchange students were given the opportunity to visit Kyoto and experience historical Japan. This was not my first time in Kyoto, but it was a first to visit many museums, parks, and other cities in the area with other exchange students. Around 9:00AM, the students, international center staff, and six Japanese students, got on a tour bus going towards Kyoto. The first stop was Sanjusangen-do(三十三間堂) is known as the Hall of the Lotus King. The name Sanjusangen-do means the hall of thirty three spaces. So what does this entail? Well, within this Buddhist temple is long hallway filled with life sized statues of deities from both Hinduism and Buddhism. Of all the museums I have been to in Japan, this was the most breathtaking of them all. No cameras were allowed within the premises; therefore, you must experience this museum with your own two eyes.
The last time I visited this area the streets were not so crowded; however, this particular weekend was packed with locals and tourists from all over the world. You can believe me when I say a day of walking around will exhaust you, especially when there is no time to rest except during times of eating. Which, of course, is not a problem when your dinner is a buffet with food which is famous for its quality of taste in Kyoto. Talk about fine dining!
Afterwards, we were treated with a free lunch in the town of Gion, one of Kyoto’s most popular tourists spots for historical sight seeing. This semester we were given a bit more free time for exploring, but what better way to explore than a nice stop in a small local matcha parfait shop for some delicious desserts after a delicious meal?
The day itself was pretty long, but we ended it with a delicious buffet dinner all paid for by the university. For the rest of the evening we were given the opportunity to stay in an exquisite Ryokan located near the Kamo River. If you get the chance to be around this area, I highly recommend taking a stroll along the river for some street performances, music, and a nice lively atmosphere.
The following day we were treated with a pleasant trip to Nijo Castle (二条城) to learn of ancient Japan’s feudal system. Each time you took a step within this castle a creak could be heard. Was this on purpose or not? Ninjas, which may not be the ones you see in games, were the spies of Japan during the feudal era. To ensure security, the builders of this castle purposely made the floors creaky even light-footed ninjas could not sneak within the castle.
Next on the list was a visit to Kinkakujin （金閣寺ん）. This is where you can view the infamous golden temple. The stroll to the temple should not be left out because along the way you get to experience beautiful statues and nature scenery. However, be prepared because during certain times the area is packed with middle school students on a field trip. If you are in a group, I would suggest not trying to stick together and just meet up at the exit. Otherwise, it will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
For the last activity we were released into the city of Arashiyama… I think. I’m not quite sure on the name of the town; nonetheless, it was gorgeous! Another exchange student and I ended up eating lunch at a small restaurant which served rice bowls and green tea zaru soba noodles.
Afterwards, we took a stroll around town in search of shaved ice with green tea syrup. It took awhile but after an hour or so there was a shop with what I believe was the best shaved ice I have ever had. After half an hour of more walking the exchange student regrouped with the coordinators for a free tea ceremony. This is a ceremony which not many Japanese people get to experience. For them, this is not just another time for tea drinking but a privilege of honor and respect.
A big thank you to the International Program at Chukyo University for giving the students this opportunity to experience Kyoto. For those interested in traveling to Japan and love history, food, and a good time, go visit Kyoto in your spare time. Money is a number but an experience is a lifetime. Until next time~