Students enjoyed free time with host families after classes on Saturday. They spent the weekend in a variety of ways, from traditional family activities to spiritual retreats at local shrines and temples. As always, these days included wonderful food and budding friendship.
From Olwyn Voss:
This weekend on Sunday, I went to Kawagoe with my host family. We walked around the town and ate various foods from street vendors, such as eel on a stick which was actually so good, and I ate a tofu doughnut! It was delicious! I was lucky enough to go to a kimono shop with my host family. I went through the process of putting on the kimono with its many layers and then we walked around the town. I visited a shrine and my host mother taught me how to pray, which was an amazing experience. We washed our hands to purify them using a bamboo spoon, and then put coins into a wooden basin and rang a bell to pray. The entire time we were in kimonos and the layers kept me warm, but my feet were so cold because I was wearing the traditional sock for sandals that have a separation between the big toe and the first toe. We went into a tea shop and my host mother taught me how to make tea using a special pot. I bought one for my own mom! I was able do see things that I never thought I would get to see in real life, including a bell tower called the “Bell of Time,” which is over 400 years old. We spent all day there, trying new foods together, laughing, shopping, and taking pictures to preserve our memories!
From Sofia Olivares:
My stay in Japan so far has been incredible everyday, and Monday was no exception. It was especially amazing because I was able to witness a national holiday, the National Coming of Age Day. First thing in the morning we visited the Tokyo Sky Tree and enjoyed beautiful, everlasting views of the city. Far in the distance we could see the peak of Mount Fuji in all its glory as it highlighted the skyline. Spread out below us were old and new buildings. We could see the Imperial Palace, central Tokyo, Asakusa, Tokyo Tower, and so much more. My host mother pointed out popular and important spots. My host sister and I took many photos together as well. Although Tokyo has felt small due to the narrow streets lit by many beautiful lanterns, I was reminded of its size at the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Afterwards we passed through a large mall called Solomochi where we bought sweets, souvenirs, and ate lunch. We also enjoyed matcha ice cream. Then we took a Sky Duck bus which is a tour bus that turns into a boat. So we drove around the Tokyo Sky Tree Town then we travelled on the Naka River. Once again, I was gifted with amazing views of the city. Finally, we went to Asakusa. This is an area rich in Japanese culture and history. We visited a grand temple and proceeded through a street busy with small shops. There were good smells wafting from all sides. I tried dango, a chocolate-covered banana, and several other sweets. When we reached the temple, my host sister showed me how to wash my hands and mouth. Then we entered the main temple and threw coins into a large vat. Everywhere we went, we took several photos and made wonderful memories. By the end I knew so much more about Japanese traditions. I’m so thankful to my host family for showing me their city and their culture.