Today’s travel was an exercise in extremes – the team woke in up in a boutique ryokan (traditional inn) in the mountains adjacent to the Japanese Alps and went to sleep in an ultra-modern high-rise hotel in Shinagawa, Tokyo. A shock to the system? Perhaps. An exciting change of pace? Definitely. Is DisneySea so close the students can smell it? Absolutely!
But…back to the countryside – the breathtakingly beautiful countryside adorned with waterfalls and painted with the colours of autumn. It has truly been a spectacular opportunity for students to learn to look around them and appreciate the sights and sounds of nature and the value of observing careful traditions without needing to fill every void with noise and chatter. This has been an easy lesson to learn for some students, while others may need a little more practice!
The first stop was at Owakudani, whose name literally translates to ‘Hell’s Valley.’ Awash with natural, sulphuric hot springs, this area is the result of a crater appearing after the last eruption of Mount Hakone thousands of years ago. It is part of an active volcanic zone and kurotamago (black eggs) are a cuisine of choice, boiled in the sulphuric water and turned a jet black colour. Some students bravely sampled these eggs (freshly warm from their hot spring ‘saucepan’) only to discover that the inside is much like your usual garden-variety boiled egg! The valley’s pungent smell took some getting used to and one of the students described it as taking a stroll in ‘Mother Nature’s armpit.’ Poetic, no?
Onwards to Ashi-no-ko (Lake Ashi) and a trip on the pirate-ship inspired ferry across its width to explore Hakone Sekisho (the Hakone Checkpoint).
The team loaded onto the bus again after lunch to take to the highway. Pretty soon, the countryside gave way to higher density zones and the first glimpses of Tokyo were had (to great excitement and a few cheers) in the form of the iconic orange Tokyo Tower. The students explored the famous Nakamise Dori shopping street and shrine in Asakusa before eating a tempura dinner and travelling in (and then a long way up) to Tokyo Skytree’s observation deck. From this vantage point, the full expanse of Japan’s capital city could be appreciated and admired. It was a clear night and so visibility was excellent. Most team members attempted walking on the glass floor as well!
Once the team settled into their hotel for the night, the students’ attention turned to preparations for their long-anticipated Disney adventure tomorrow!
As JOE 2018 moves into its final days, we would like to take a moment to say how thankful the staff and students are to Mrs Shimizu for her tireless efforts both before we departed and whilst we have been in Japan. Her wealth of experience, wisdom and care have been a blessing beyond measure and so we say, hontou ni otsukaresama deshita (‘truly, thank-you for all the heartfelt care and trouble you have gone to’).
And with that, from Tokyo, we say… oyasuminasai (goodnight)!
Sent from my iPhone