Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク)- First Half

More vibrant fish

I didn’t realize that it’s been more than a week since my last post! I am so sorry! I normally try to keep it at a steady two per week. Not only did I fail last week, but I will fail again this week! It’s Golden Week all over Japan. Basically, it’s a bunch of national holidays that happen to fall within a week of each other. The good part is you get a bunch of paid holidays. The bad part is you have to go to work on the days that aren’t holidays. For me that was Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Fortunately, I went into school on Tuesday and they said it was a School district-wide holiday. Then they said to please go home. I didn’t argue. The first half of Golden Week (last weekend) was spent in Mito! For the full adventure, read on. 

Last week was basically school and more school. I was definitely looking forward to the 3-day weekend arriving. On Saturday, Carolyn and I got a late start, but we set out for Mito 水戸市 city which happens to be the capitol city of Ibaraki. So, as you can imagine, it’s quite large. From Koga, it takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. The route was relatively scenic, and we stopped through Tsukuba again to get something from the electronics store. We decided to meet our fellow ALT friends Joey and Lisa at the lake in Mito. It’s quite difficult to miss, considering it’s size. Not to mention, there is a famous garden and old shine next to the lake. It’s Mito-shi’s trademark attraction. By the time we arrived, it was too late to see the gardens, but we enjoyed snapping photos of the lake and everyone out enjoying the weather. That included the swans of Mito. We went to a coffee shop with our friends and I decided to try out a sesame-seed pastry in the shape of a swan. It was pretty tasty.

Favorite picture from the weekend

After coffee, we stopped in the station for Starbucks and some shopping at the import store there. I bought a box of Mac N’ Cheese. Yum. From there, we drove to their city, Hitachiomiya. Dinner was conveyer-belt sushi (kaiten zushi). As usual, I ate all the weird stuff. I tried one that was egg, cheese, and mayo on rice. It was disgusting. I love those restaurants though because there is all kinds of strange food and it’s super cheap. I ate 6 plates and only payed 600yen. Amazing, I know. On our way back to their place for a slumber party, we grabbed liquor from the 7-11. The rest of the night was spent enjoying fine convenience store alcoholic drinks in good company. Joey and Lisa’s friend (Kris) who is also an ALT showed up later too! Then we painted each others nails.

I’m kidding abou that last part.

On Sunday, we took a trip to Fukurota, which has a famous waterfall (seen in the gallery). The falls were cool and all, but what I thought was even better was the climb up the mountain that we tackled next. When we walked up to the set of vertical stairs that seemed to stretch endlessly into the sky, I figured the end was just beyond my vision. I was so wrong. It’s literally the most vertical staircase you’ve ever seen, and it winds on for 1.3 km. It took us a long time to climb it. Once up top, the view was totally worth it. But man, those were some impressive, never-ending stairs. We thought ahead and bought bento boxes to enjoy on the mountain top. Mine was a rice ball medley. It was delicious.

We found a bell

The way down was much kinder to us and rather easy. The trail passed through a small, somewhat forgotten shrine. The farther down the mountain we got, the taller the trees became. If you’re a Miyazaki fan, it looked like a scene straight out of Princess Mononoke. We were half expecting fairies to appear at any moment. The fresh spring rain had brought with it a plethora of bright colors and sounds in the forest. There was one moment when I stayed back to take pictures and suddenly found my self alone on the path through this enchanting forrest. The trees were second only to the redwoods in height. In my moment alone, I said the prayer I really want to say at the shrine: please, help me in my translation. That’s why I’m really here, yes? To change, to learn, to grow, to find myself. Which ever spirits are listening, that’s all I really want.

All the driving over the weekend was tiring but at the same time I love seeing all the different scenes. In Fukurota, it was all mountains and valleys. The foothills of Japan have very steep, vertical sides, making them look like the teeth of some monster that jut out of the earth. We would often round a corner to find an amazing vista with mountains and rice fields as far as the eye can see. Somedays, I am reminded how lucky I am. On the drive home from Mito, the navigation system took us through some back-country roads. They were narrow and winding but we saw some very unique things. For one, we came across a festival in the middle of nowhere. They were flying tens of carps for Kids Day (May 5th, こどもの日). Traditionally, there is one carp per family member. The larger and higher on the pole, the older and more important the family member. The festival was filled with all kinds of hand-made goods and home-made delicacies. I had milk-strawberry hand-spun ice cream. It was so delicious. We both agreed that we were super lucky to stumble upon this festival.

Tomorrow, bright and early, we are leaving for the coast of Ibaraki. The plan is to spend time in Chiba and in Tokyo this weekend. Everyone is really excited. It’s time for sleep-over part 2! It’s going to be a house filled with people for the weekend. I’m rather excited 🙂

Please forgive my lack of posting lately, but enjoy the pictures in the gallery and look forward to next week’s post!


7 thoughts on “Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク)- First Half

  1. Yasuhiro Nakatani says:

    Here are some trivia. The surface area of Japan is about 147,621.09 sq. mile and that of the state of California is 155,779.22 sq. mile (by the way, 1 mile = 1.6 km or 1 km = 0.625 mile). The population of Japan in 4/2012 is reportedly about 127,650,000 and that of the USA in 4/2012 is about 313,454,000. It means that about 40.7% of total population of the US live in a country which is smaller than the state of California. Even though Japan is such a small country, there are still a lot of places where I have never visited and it’s so nice to see the pictures you posted. I think you have been living in Japan by now for over a month and a half. According to your post in the past, you were planning to spend one year in Japan. I’m wondering if you have changed your mind and decided to extend your stay in Japan. However, I don’t blame you even if you want to go back to the US after one year. I totally understand that living in a different country with a different culture is very difficult and above all you miss your family and friends.

    • Woah, I didn’t know that! Awesome facts 🙂 I haven’t decided what I want to do yet. I might stay longer, I might not. I’m rather enjoying myself at the moment! It’s a great country.

      • Yasuhiro Nakatani says:

        Yah, you may be right. Here is a quote: “The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” by Alice Morse Earle.

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