day 7 – host family, warp station edo, 400 year old sakura tree, and kairaku-en

400 year old Sakura tree 0.0

We’ve now been here a full week!

Between the warm temperature in our place and the excitement of seeing my host family, I didn’t get a lot of sleep and eventually got out of bed at 7:30 to get dressed and ready to meet my host family at the train station at 8am.

We arrived right at 8am and I spotted Ayumi immediately.  She told me I looked just the same and it was easy to spot me (she looks just the same as well).  Mai, Yui, and Masayuki-san also came out to greet us and we all said hello and stood around a little awkwardly.  Ayumi explained it perfectly as nervousness and we headed to their rented van.

They drive on the right-hand side of the car here, which is something that tripped me up when I came back to the States.  When my parents first picked me up from the airport, I started to get into the driver’s seat.  Whoops.

Ayumi drove and would ask me questions every now and then.  She has the best English of the family, though sometimes she would ask Yui to translate a word or two, as Yui and Mai have been studying English very diligently.  We ended up talking about the difference between America and Japan quite a bit, how everyone here is very helpful, but you will not be greeted on the street, unlike America.  Convenience stores are much nicer here, whereas they sell mostly junk food in America.  The streets are also much cleaner here.

We spent most of the two hour car ride in silence though, as none of us spoke the other’s language fluently.  We did make one stop at a rest area.  Japanese rest stops are much nicer than the ones typically found in the States.  Their bathrooms are very clean and they will often have a convenience store at the very least.  This one looked like it had a few indoor shops and restaurants, along with a line of vending machines outside the bathrooms.

We piled back in the car and made it to Warp Station Edo at about 10am.  Warp Station Edo is an outdoor film set, where many Japanese movies have been made.  They had a lot of grand entrances with nothing inside.  It was quite fascinating and they made things look quite real:

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After exploring for about an hour, we returned to the car and traveled to Ryūgasaki to visit the Hannya-in temple and the 400-year old sakura tree.  It was truly spectacular.

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We had lunch at a local ramen place.  We sat on the floor, kneeling (or sitting cross-legged as the case may be) on the cushions.  Yummy!  I love ramen.

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Ayumi gave us the choice between a park or seeing traditional Japanese ceramic art.  I chose the park (surprise, surprise) and we went back to the car for another hour.  In Japan, it is not unheard of to spend lots of time traveling to see one thing as the island is so small.  Average commute time to work is two hours each way.

I am so glad I chose the park.  This park is known for its plum blossoms.  Unfortunately we missed the peak time, but we still got some spectacular views.

We visited the Kobuntei inside the park.  “The Kobuntei is a historic three-story wooden building.  It is made up of a main house and a one story annex, the nobility’s private quarters.  Nariaki played a key role in the Kobuntei’s construction.  He would invite writers, artists, and residents of his domain to the Kobuntei and host parties composing Japanese poetry and events to entertain the old.  The nobility’s private quarters also served as evacuation site in case a fire broke out on the castle grounds.  It was used by feudal lord’s wife and entourage.  The word “Kobun,” another name for the Japanese plum, originated from China.  On August 2, 1945, the Kobuntei was completely burned down as a result of an aerial attack, and took three years from 1955 to rebuild.”

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It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed being outside.  Because it would take us 3 hours to drive back to our place, we left at about 3:30.  Most if us slept and we made it back to our station in good time, about 6pm.  We said goodbye to the Fukuokas, though we’d be seeing them again the next day.

Sierra and Nick had gotten back to our place not long before us so we just headed home.  Soon after we arrived, I suggested that we go to the nearby park.  Within 10 minutes we were there.  The sun had already set so we had to make due with the fading light and lots of silhouettes.  There was a small playground and Nick, Jason, and I swung a bit before exploring more of the playground.

We decided we should come back when it’s light as there were many Sakura trees that looked almost fully in bloom.

After the park we started looking for a place to eat dinner.  We found something with curry and I was sold.  We entered and we’re greeted by a stooped older woman who didn’t appear to speak any English.  She brought us each some tea and then quickly came back to get our order.  We hadn’t had time to decipher the Japanese so we all got curry and rice, except for Sierra, who got tonkatsu (fried pork).

Everything was very delicious and we enjoyed our meal while watching some Japanese game shows.  Japanese game shows are very odd.  This one had a lot of different things going on, it might have been several different shows for all I know.  The last one we saw had three people who were to try and throw a dart at a target, but had a shock collar type contraption on their dominate arm.  The woman went first and every time they shocked her, her arm shot up and her fingers scrunched together.  She was laughing, so I’m guessing it wasn’t painful.

We paid and walked back to our place, finding Riley waiting for us.  He had separated from Nick and Sierra pretty much right away and had eaten dinner at a maid cafe.

We relaxed for a few hours and then headed to bed.

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