Ah, it feels so good to be back with my host family, and to finally have Wifi again. I’m sorry, I’m a 21st century kid, I need my internet.
Anyway, the reason I’ve been M.I.A. for the past four days is because I went on a field trip! A group of 13 second-year high school students from Kumon went all the way up to Akita prefture, to visit Shirakamisanchi - a world heritage site. We traveled by Shinkansen from Tokyo early Tuesday morning, arriving in Akita in the afternoon. We then took a bus to Shirakamisanchi, which took another hour or so.
We stayed with host families, and I was put in the same home with two of my friends, Risa and Tomomi. The three of us were with a 64 year old woman, Keiko-san, who lived by herself, and she was more than hospitable, cooking all kinds of Akita foods that were delicious (photos to come). It was a little difficult for me because I’m not exactly fluent in Japanese, and in Akita they speak a slightly different dialect. Risa and Tomomi told me that even they had a hard time understanding Keiko-san sometimes!
The trip lasted from Tuesday until Friday, and during that time we explored the many kinds of nature for which Shirakamisanchi is famous. We hiked through the beech tree forests on the mountain, and learned about the plants and animals there. We made charcoal and chopped wood and made kiritanpo, a traditional food from Akita. We cut down trees and cleared out weeds and trimmed branches to help maintain the forest. We planted young saplings in an empty area on the mountain side, went to a farm to see some sheep (lamb and mutton are a Shirakami specialty), and then hiked a little to see a waterfall with delicious mountain water you can drink. Finally we made miso: we mixed the beans and salt and fermented-stuff-that-I-don’t-know-the-name-of together, and ground it up into a paste. Then we packaged it up to take home. I have like a half-gallon tub of it now.
We finally returned to Yokohama this evening, taking a short one-hour plane flight from Akita to Tokyo. I got home just in time for dinner, and I’m exhausted. I think I’ve had enough nature to last until I get back to New England.