On Tuesday, we traveled to Misaki and Miura Beach for the annual Chakkirako Festival, a celebration of the fishing industry that offers prayers and blessings for a successful fishing season. The festival is hosted at the local temple, a UNESCO Word Heritage Cultural Site, and the festival has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Event., with village girls participating in the traditional dance and song, accompanied by generations of women. This ceremony travels throughout the village to honor the fisherman who have sustained Mirua Beach. Following the ceremony, we ate sashimi from local tuna, and departed to a flag-maker’s studio to create a symbol of a prosperous fishing season. We made two flags: one to dozo (give) to our hosts at Kichijo School, and one to return with us to Farmington, an emblem of the close relationship we have forged with host country.
Later, some enjoyed a traditional onsen, while others walked in the hot-springs area. Following the spa, we traveled to Yasuko Nagase’s ’96 “share-house,” and hiked into the hill above the beach, surrounded by temples, bamboo, and ocean views. We were treated to a feast of local foods, and helped prepare takoyaki, (a savory cake-pop with octopus inside–quote from Mia Gergis!). After dinner, we played a game about Sustainable Developing Goals.
Following an early and abundant breakfast on Wednesday morning, we attended the tuna auction, and watched opening bids. After learning about the auction and bidding process, we headed to a cooking class to learn how to assemble and decorate nerikiri, a traditional Japanese sweet consisting of white beans, boiled rice and sugar. Nerikiri is served with matcha tea; the sweet bean paste complements the bitter tea.
That afternoon, we took a bus, a train and a boat to Yokohama, where we spent some time shopping and exploring the area, including Chinatown.
A happy and tired crew traveled back to the Nishi-Ogukubo station to meet host sisters back at Kichijo School.
Sara Baltser and Marley Chang offer their reflection on their experiences:
Today was our first day at Miura beach. After spending a couple of hours traveling from Kichijo to Miura we finally arrived at our destination. Very soon after getting off the bus we were able to witness traditional dancing in front of a shrine in the village due to a festival that celebrates success in the fishing industry. After that we went to a workshop that taught us how to paint flags, and we ourselves got to paint two flags in order to celebrate our time in Japan. Later we got cozy in a traditional Japanese restaurant, that served us delicious fish and rice and well as Miso soup. After lunch we enjoyed a scenic walk in Miura as the weather cleared up and the sun was shining bright. Of course one of the most memorable events of the days was a dip in the traditional hot springs of Japan, which some of us took the opportunity to enjoy. To end this busy and wonderful day we had a feast together in the share house, enjoyed each other’s company and even learned how to make takoyaki.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, our group was fortunate enough to go on an overnight trip to Muira Beach, where we stayed at a sharehouse owned by a Porter’s graduate, Yasuko Nagase. After the two-hour bus ride from Tokyo to Muira filled with laughs, music, and plenty of snacks, we got off the bus and immediately went to a shrine for the Chakkirako festival. This festival is special to Muira and is a celebration where young girls dance and chant prayers for a prosperous fishing season. After watching and experiencing this beautiful tradition, we were split into two groups, and my group went to a local traditional seafood restaurant first for lunch. After arriving, we took off our shoes before climbing a set of stairs, where we were greeted by a beautiful dining area, complete with low tables and legless seats on the floor. After being seated, we were immediately served hot tea, miso soup, and a beautiful bowl of sashimi and rice. Though I do not eat seafood for ethical and dietary reasons, I was able to overcome my personal limitations, making sure to try pieces of each different kind of fish and seafood; however, I ended up giving out most of the fish to my friends– I didn’t want any of it going to waste! After our delicious meal, we walked to a tiny shop, where we were able to paint our own Tairyobata, a flag typically displayed on boats when returning to ports by fisherman to indicate a successful and big catch. My group came together as we discussed which colors to use and where, as well as switching spots and swapping brushes in order to ensure everyone had equal opportunities to paint the flag. It was an amazing bonding moment, especially at the end when we were able to step back and admire our work! We then reunited with the other half of our InterMission group and traveled to Jogashima Island, where we were able to walk around and explore a park on the island. After taking many photos, we finally made our way to the sharehouse, where we checked in and dropped off our bags before heading to a traditional Japanese hot spring. After spending an hour enjoying the relaxing hot water, we returned to the sharehouse, where we enjoyed a delicious meal, played a game related to the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and finally, went to made our way back to our rooms to the futons set up on the floor. All of us were exhausted from our full day, and fell asleep very quickly!
On Wednesday, I set an alarm for 6, so I could have time to myself to watch the sunrise and eat breakfast before the rest of my InterMission group woke up. After helping prepare breakfast, eating, and packing up our belongings, our InterMission group traveled via public bus to the Misaki Seafood Regional Wholesale Market, which was essentially a wholesale auction for tuna. This experience truly opened my eyes to the size and value of tuna fish and sparked a discussion between a few of us within our group about the seafood industry and the ethics behind seafood consumption. We were all amazed at the size of the fish, and how much each fish was selling for. After leaving the fish market, we went on to have a lesson where we learned how to make traditional Japanese red bean sweets shaped like chrysanthemums! After snacking on our beautiful creations and drinking matcha tea, we took another bus, a train, and a boat to Yokohama, where we were able to explore and buy lunch in Chinatown. Though I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time and the activities we’ve done in Japan, I was grateful to have an hour just to wander and explore with my friends by my side. Lastly, we took our final few trains and arrived back at Kichijo, where we parted ways for a night in with our host families.