Seeing the Sights and Settling In
The first three days of our trip were spent traveling Osaka, a great place for sightseeing here in Japan. We were able to see the amazing Osaka Castle. The five-tiered, forty meter high castle has been turned into a museum with many historical facts about Japan. Each floor contains artifacts from different time periods and events throughout history. On the top floor, there’s a balcony with an amazing view over the city! There are 40,000 rocks in the wall that surrounds the castle. Legend has it that powerful daimyo (feudal lords) from all parts of Japan competed in carrying the large rocks to display their loyalty to the Toyotomi leadership. The existing castle tower was built in 1931, and is the symbol of Osaka. I thought that this was the best place in Japan, until the next day of course.
Day two was a day full of walking. That may not sound like fun, but with all of the sights to see, I barely noticed how much I had to walk. We hiked all the way up a mountain in Minoh, and along the path we saw many little shops, including souvenir shops and my personal favorite, food shops. There were also many beautiful areas of nature to look at. When we arrived at the top, there was one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. Julia and I got the opportunity to just sit and relax in front of it. Along with that, we also got the chance to pet a dog. Who can deny that that’s a good time?! Lastly, we saw a wild monkey. It is very common around that area to see monkeys walking around freely — something we don’t see back home. It just climbed up into the tree, and people watched almost the entire time we were there.
Although those two sightseeing activities were very exciting, I can definitely say that sampling the Japanese food was my favorite activity. We ate at many different restaurants that are famous in Osaka. You’d be surprised to know that they actually do not have places that cook teppanyaki-style in front of you with a little show. Crazy, right?! They do, however, have places where they are cooking at grills that you can see. I am not quite sure where the idea for the Japanese steak houses back home comes from.
After three days of sightseeing, it was time for the 2.5 hour train ride to Fukui! When we arrived, we were surprisingly greeted by Ryoya, a Fukui University student who studied this past year at the University of Findlay. We met with him many times before our trip here, and it was very refreshing to see a familiar face. He came with us to meet the Dean of Education and the Vice President of the university.
After such a long day, it was finally time to move into our hotel! The hotel is a bit different, but we are really excited to experience this new style. We sleep on what are called futons. They are very thin pads on top of tatami mats. The tables are close to the floor, and we sit on pads to eat at them. Luckily, our hotel is right across from the grocery store. The grocery is set up very similar to ours, however, I cannot read a single thing in there. When I go to look for food, I just have to stick with the few items that I can recognize by sight (including fruits, vegetables and coffee).
Even though it is a bit of a struggle, we are really enjoying our experiences here so far. We will be going into different schools this week and even teaching some English classes. I am sure it will be challenging, but stay tuned to see how we do!