Strong as a Mountain, Quick as the Wind, Calm as Water and Fierce as Fire

IMG_1873 IMG_1880 IMG_1881 IMG_1872 IMG_1875There have been many incredible, fascinating and unique things that I have done in the two months plus since I arrive in this great land. I have climbed mountains, collected the seals of countless temples and shrines throughout the nation, traveled from the rural countryside of Chiba; all the way down to Hyogo bordering with the Sea of Japan, seen museums filled with trains, art and Samurai possessions, went to various local and national attractions and even went to the legendary grand castle of Japan, Himeji; and I still have a little over two months till I am to return! Has it been absolutely exhausting on both my mind and body? YES, it has, but it has all been worth it, I have done so many things that I did not believe that I would ever be able to and will treasure those memories and memorabilia for the rest of my life.

I have collected and came into the possession of many fascinating treasures, some common and local, while others are unique, exotic and can only be acquired from specific locations. Among these great treasures, one was a request from a friend, her request being a Shelly-May teddy bear, that can only be purchased at an Asian Disney park, so I had to go to Disney Sea to get it, but I love amusement parks especially Disney ones and would have been there even if not asked. Another friend of mine actually gave me a 150 year old hand written Japanese book from Tochigi prefecture, where apparently these kinds of books are viewed as useless as they cannot be read and can be bought at gift shops for cheap, thats just astonishing. I also bought some Anime figurines and giant robot models that you could never get directly imported outside of Japan, literally some of the models are only sold at one or two locations in the world and another was a special 7-11, yes the convenience store, robot model that was sold at the stores for a limited time a few years ago, making them highly sought after and I had to hunt one down for like the last month, but the feeling of satisfaction from getting my prize was incredible. I have came into the possession of a gigantic assortment of shirts that I have collected from all over place varying in theme from Japanese Baseball, to Disney, to Meiji University and Sumo, they are all so cool! Of course, I have gotten items with a more spiritual nature to them from the various spiritual sites that I have visited. Aside from the seals, I got a good luck keychain, a good health charm, a cat statue to draw in good fortune, a red cow statue to ward off illness and a protection charm with an adorable anime girl on it to put on my bag. The shrine I got it from made the anime girl officially a Shrine priestess and as it promotes tourism, its encouraged. Due to my family`s love of the Chinese Zodiac, I got a ceramic monkey for myself, a snake for my dad and a dragon for my mom. I also, got a Japanese summer robe called a Yukata, its pretty cool with dragons on it and I think I will find some good use for it!

As I mentioned before, I went to Himeji castle and spent the night as the trip was three hours. Of course, I traveled there by the greatest form of transportation there is in Japan by Shinkansen Bullet Train! I had always want to ride one, but they are very expensive and you have to have a trip planned out to make the most of it. How expensive, you may ask, at least a 100 dollars one way. I really enjoyed my ride on it as I got to see the magnificent Japanese countryside and many amazing cities like Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie with a sleek polished white body shaped like a rocket and a large blue racing stripe down the middle. The train`s name was Nozomi, which means Hope in Japanese, and gives it a graceful aura to itself. With a record of 52 years in service and no fatal accidents, the Shinkansen have a safer record than even walking!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a three day mega week planned with Sumo, Baseball and a grand festival on the list. The Sumo tournament was great and my group had a amazing seats to watch it from. Sumo is an easy sport to understand, two men wrestle and who ever either tosses their opponenet outside the ring or makes him fall wins. When the Yokozunas, the Sumo grand champions, appeared the audience went crazy. Yokozunas are the best of the best in Sumo, with there only usually being one individual worthy of the title at a time, but currently it is a great rarity with there being three, all whom are Mongolians, though they are given Japanese Sumo names. They are revered in Japan as Divine warriors as Sumo is closely related to Shintoism, the national religion, their very aura asserts might and grandeur. Then on Saturday, I went to Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants faced their crosstown rivals, the Yakult Swallows, the two teams are perfect Japanese equivalents to the Yankees and Mets, so it was a great match-up. The Giants won, which made me happy as I am a fan of them since I got a hat last time I came to Japan, and the cheering section was just amazing with them waving a full-sized team flag and even waving a giant banner like the ones you see at European Soccer games, the cheering section was so dedicated, that 20 minutes after the game ended, they were still cheering even though all the players left! Then I went to the Sannja Matsuri Festival at Senso-ji temple, the largest festival and temple in Tokyo, the festival was fun, but Senso-ji is always full of people, so it just felt like a very crowded day at the temple. I also went to Kamakura, which is an old coastal city, that once was the capital and has a lot of really amazing site to see!

I have my trip to Kyoto coming up soon, so that will be something to look forward to, but until then I probably will not be going on any huge trips, though there is a great black castle that would make a great day trip in Matsumoto, but we will see. I really love this country and I am still excited to see what tomorrow will bring! Of course, I am looking forward to seeing my friends, my family and my homeland again, but I really am enjoying myself here and the internet allows me to keep that distance feeling not too far. In all honest, I really am going to need a plan as to how I am going to bring all of my stuff back, I am allowed a second full-sized suitcase for free on my flight, but even that may not be enough.

Aaron is a History Major with the desire to see the world and learn as much as possible about it. He cannot wait to write about his adventures in Japan, making new friends, living in Tokyo and exploring both new & old Japan. This is Aaron's second Study Abroad program to Japan through SUNY New Paltz!

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