The great part about Japanese autumn is not just the leaves, but the numerous holidays that are scattered about. It seems that every two weeks there is some type of holiday or festival that usually includes a three day weekend. Today is health and sports day (taiiku no hi) which meant that I didn’t have to go to school. I took advantage of the long weekend and went on a trip with some fellow ALTs to Bandai-San, a famous mountain area in Fukushima Prefecture.
The trip started on Saturday morning as the seven of us packed into two cars and hit the Tohoku Expressway. We decided to take the “scenic” route later and got to see a few hidden beauties of the prefecture; however, it also meant we got kinda lost and added an hour to the trip. It was worth it though as now is a great time to view the leaves changing.
When we arrived at the mountain, the weather was frigid and the wind made it worse. Our campsite was across the water and so our host father/the father of the family owned camp site and his eldest son came to pick us up by boat. The son was really friendly and referred to us all as American-jin. Later that night he and his father introduced us to some of the fruits and flora of the island. We were given this purple fruit that tasted like water downed watermelon and some sour berries that looked dangerously close to holly berries.
The next morning the family made us breakfast and took us back across the water to our cars. Our plan was to go explore the five colored lakes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goshiki-numa) which are a famous natural attraction. The hike was rather easy and the view was amazing; it was perfect except for the heavy traffic.
When our hike was over we got some lunch in a restaurant that looked over the lake beneath Bandai and called otosan (the father). He picked us up but instead of taking us back to camp surprised us with an impromptu tour of the lake. The sun was just setting and made for great pictures of the mountain and lake. The best part of this detour was when we went to a natural hot spring at the base of the mountain. You could see the water steaming as it trickled down to the lake but it was difficult to anticipate just how hot it was. We determined it was about 50 degrees Celsius (122 F). Needless to say it felt great after a day of hiking in cold weather.
During the evening our dinner was paid for and the camp gave us a feast. We got to start the fire and cook at our own pace which was nice. After dinner and a soak in the bath I camp back to the fire to discover the other ALTs playing beer pong with a Japanese hiker. Now that’s what I call internationalization.
Today we packed up pretty early but had a few hours to do whatever we wanted. One of the ALTs and I took out a canoe on the lake and explored some more. We made it back to the hot spring and searched for the source. Sure enough it came right out of the earth, but unfortunately there was a locked room built on top of the spring.
Before we left we gave the host family and dozen local apples as omiyage and as thanks for their hospitality. We felt that we need to give them something for all that they did; however, they one upped us by give US omiyage AND drinks for the road AND a rebate because we didn’t use all the services they offered (e.g. fishing poles etc.) The trip was a blast and yet another reason why I love working in Japan as an ALT.
Here are some pictures:
Here is a link to a video: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=712176839793