Jul 242005

Here I am, updating my website from a freshly formatted computer (at long last) in a 2/3 packed-up room next to a window looking out on a sunny (I repeat: sunny) day in Kyoto, Japan. Can life get better? I submit that it cannot.

By the way, I finally added the rest of the Gion Matsuri pictures to my previous post, as well as a video of some of the festivities…go back and cheggit!

So, this Wednesday was the Study in Kyoto Program’s completion ceremony, where the original members of YHM bid farewell to some of the awesomest teachers around. Thankfully, I have another whole semester with them to look forward to. The ceremony itself consisted of each person saying a few words in Japanese, followed by my fellow shamisen students and I performing our “final exam” for the entire graduating class. It didn’t go half-bad, considering we only had something like fourteen lessons in total.

After the ceremony there was a short school-sponsored reception of snacks and beer. Yes, OUR UNIVERSITY PAID FOR US TO DRINK BEER. Take that, UCSD!

But alas, their meager offerings proved to be insufficient to satisfy such a hoard of thirsty gaijin, and so we were left with little choice but to gather a posse of over 20 students and head down to Ippai2 (read: “Ippai-squared”), The Happiest Place on Earth. Why is it The Happiest Place on Earth? Well, because it’s an izakaya offering draft beer for 181 yen, of course!

181yen Beer + Justin = One happy gaijin.

Since recovering from the next day’s mild hangover, I’ve been spending most of my time just prepping for the rapidly approaching two months of wandering the earth, like Kain from Kung Fu. Speaking of which, my seemingly limitless thirst for travel has influenced me to add on even more time to my already intense travel agenda: Next Wednesday night, myself and many of the other YHM’ers will be climbing Mount Fuji in one last hurrah before they head back to their various countries of origin.

Oh, but that’s not all. Just over a week later, I’ll activate my 7-day Japan Rail Pass and head down to Kyushu (Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Aso, and Beppu) then to Shikoku (Matsuyama, Tokushima), followed by a 4 hour stop back in Kyoto to see the Daimonji Fire Festival, and then up to Tokyo just one day before Nick arrives.

In exchange for this, I’ve chosen to give up the 3 days I planned in Takayama. Takayama is right between here and Tokyo, and I figure it’s much more likely that I’ll get another chance to visit there than to see Kyushu and Shikoku, Japan’s two main southern islands, before my year abroad comes to an end.

As many of you might not be super-familiar with all of Japan’s offerings, here’s why I chose those particular places to visit:
Fukuoka – Supposedly a really cool city, the largest in Kyushu
Nagasaki – Uhh…I hope you know this one already
Aso – Active volcanos and fantastic hikes
Beppu – “The Hells” – Natural hotsprings, red sulfuric ponds, and steam vents as far as the eye can see
Matsuyama – Home of the Dogo Onsen (the bathhouse featured in the movie Spirited Away)
Tokushima – To see the “tokushima dance festival,” when the whole city takes to the streets and dances maniacally for three days straight.

Look out Japan, here I come!

  3 Responses to “Summer Vacation”

  1. Your trip sounds so exciting! I am sooo jealous :>

    Looking forward to pictures and stories!

  2. I was in Kyoto for Gion Matsuri too…it was amazing! I am so jealous of you! Kyoto is my happy place and it is my goal to live there! How did you get hooked up with the study in Kyoto program?
    Im a JET in Gifu, so if you ever wanna head up to Takayama, let me know! Its only about a 2 hour drive from here…not even! Us gaijin gotta stick together! (^-^)/

  3. Heather: Well then, pictures and stories is what you shall receive!

    Melissa: I’d love that! I fully intend on visiting Takayama before I leave Japan, and it’s always good to know someone while you’re traveling around 🙂 As far as the SKP program, I just applied independently – you can get an application right off the Ritsumeikan website.

    Everyone: Check out our Shamisen-action on the official Ritsumeikan website! I’m second from the left (just behind Dylan)

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