(Read Part Two here!)
And the story continues! In this part, I’ll share about our study trip to Hiroshima and Kyoto. If you’re interested in Japan, you’ve probably heard about the shinkansen (新幹線 – sometimes called the bullet train). Going at up to 320 km/h, these trains move… well, pretty fast. My first shinkansen ride was from Osaka to Hiroshima, the first stop on our study trip. Osaka and Hiroshima are about 330 km apart, and the trip took about an hour and twenty minutes (as opposed to the 6 hours it would have taken by bus).
So interesting thing – the day we arrived in Hiroshima, was the day of the infamous Typhoon Goni. The sensei-tachi advised us to buy umbrellas at the hyaku en shoppu in advance to prepare for the typhoon. Hiroshima wasn’t too badly affected, but the weather was pretty horrible with some rain and really strong gusts of wind… my hyaku en shoppu umbrella tried its best but sadly fell victim to the powerful wind. 🙁 We had originally planned to visit Miyajima Island that first day, but because of the typhoon the ferry wasn’t in operation. So we visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park instead (which was to be the second day’s agenda). It was a sad yet enlightening experience to visit the park, which was built in memory of the atomic bomb that was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945.
We also went into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was really, really sad. There were some remnants of items of the victims of the bomb, such as watches and articles of clothing, together with touching stories about the victims. There were also video stations where you could watch videos of survivors telling their stories, translated into various languages.
After this, we went to Aki Grand Hotel, where we were to stay that night. The hotel was one of my best experiences so far. We stayed in traditional Japanese rooms, had a traditional Japanese dinner (where we were all dressed in identical yukatas), and best of all, there was an onsen!!
For the uninitiated, an onsen is a public bath. They are very popular in Japan as a way to relax and unwind after a long hard day. After visiting one, I have to say the Japanese have the right idea about relaxation! It was amazing. Here’s how it works: there are two separate onsens, one for men, and one for women. Each onsen is separate and well-hidden, so you can’t stumble into the onsen by accident. No one can peep and see what’s going on. Cameras are not allowed and taking photographs is forbidden, for obvious reasons. You aren’t allowed to wear any clothing in the onsen. Not a stitch.
First, you wash your body thoroughly. At the hotel, there was an area just for washing, with several “shower stations”. They provided shower gel and face wash at each station, as well as a stool for sitting on, and one of those hand-held shower heads. The shower stations were pretty much in the open, not enclosed or partitioned, so you couldn’t really hide (although with everyone sitting on the stools and facing the wall, no one could see what they weren’t strictly entitled to). Next, when you’re all nice and clean, you walk into the onsen, sit back, relax, and enjoy. 🙂 The actual onsen is like a heated pool of water. The hotel we were staying at had three different pools, so it was nice to enjoy all of them. It was honestly a great experience, nowhere near as awkward as you’d imagine it to be. It helps to know that everybody is there with the same agenda: to relax and unwind. Knowing that, you’ll be able to let go of your inhibitions and relax as well! You’d be surprised at the awesome conversations that can be had in an onsen. Timea, Richie, and I actually ended up having a lovely heart-to-heart about guys… but that’s a story for another day! 😀
The following day we went to Miyajima Island (宮島- shrine island), also known as the island of gods. It is home to Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage site, whose gate (torii) appears to float on the surface of the water at high tide.
Later that day, we went to Kyoto! It was Melissa’s birthday, so Giang, Nadja, Nastya and I sneaked off to buy her a cake and birthday card. Then that night, about 35 of us went to some restaurant near the hotel we were staying and threw her a surprise party with dinner and lots of cake! The only spanner in the works was that the waitress didn’t split our bill… so we ended up with a huge bill for 35 people, together with miscellaneous costs like sitting charge and tax!! It was an absolute nightmare trying to figure out who owed what… in the end a couple of people just paid the balance and we left!
The following day we had a free day in Kyoto, dedicated to sightseeing! We went to Arashiyama, the bamboo forest, as well as Fushimi Inari Shrine. Later that day we went to Nishiki Market, a shopping street lined with shops and restaurants. We also tried to spot some geishas in Gion (祇園), Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. We weren’t lucky. 🙁 I also got to cross one item off my bucket list – visiting a neko (猫 – cat) café. A neko café is a place where you pay to hang out with cats. 🙂
And with that our study trip to Kyoto and Hiroshima came to an end! Even though touring was great, we all missed the centre and Rinku Town a lot! I almost cried with joy when I saw our ferris wheel on the way back home, and I was practically kissing the walls when I got back to the centre (mostly because there’s nothing quite as nice as having a room all to yourself!). 😀
That’s it for Part Three! (Is it just me, or was this post really long? Sorry!) Part Four is the next and final part of this series. Until then, why don’t you subscribe to The Wondercores blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?
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Mbithe’s ideal life would consist of an infinite loop of travelling to beautiful, idyllic locations with breathtaking views, amazing food, and nothing on her to-do list but relaxation and rejuvenation. Mbithe’s actual life involves a lot of proposals, research papers, and code, with just enough travel to make up for the rest of it.