So I never did make a post about the amazing experience that was my trip to Japan last summer. Our school had an opportunity to visit the country on an exchange program called the Kakehashi Program (Translating roughly to “bridge to tomorrow”) entirely funded by the government. Since not enough Japanese language study participants signed up, the International Baccalaureate Program candidates were also given the chance. I love traveling, so of course I signed up. I felt so excited the night before the trip as this was my first time traveling internationally without parental supervision. When we boarded the airplane before our 14 hour flight, I was shocked to learn that some of my classmates had never even been anywhere outside of Texas, much less flew on a plane. Having had so much previous international experienced made me feel privileged in comparison.
We arrived and had a nice dinner which consisted of fried chicken, miso soup, and udon noodles (this same arrangement would be placed on our dinner tables many times again) at the hotel. Since we were exhausted, most of us just slept that night.
We traveled by coach bus to a business building. It was interesting to see all the businessmen dressed up uniformly in a white shirt, black pants, and a black tie. Everyone rushed to and fro and we were lost in a sea of white and black. Eventually, we made it up to the conference room where Japanese officials and guests talked to us about the logistics of the trip and introduced us to fun aspects of their language, like the many words that they use to represent sounds. We have them too, in the form of onomatopoeia (buzz, tick-tock), but the Japanese describe some strange sounds. There’s a sound for smirking (にたにた nita nita) … I wasn’t aware that such an action actually made a sound.
Leaving Tokyo by bullet train, we traveled to the city of Toyama. The ride was breezy but every time we entered a tunnel, my ears popped (due to displaced air pressure). The city officials gave us a brief presentation on the traditions and specialties of Toyama prefecture and then we visited the Masu-no-Sushi Museum where we made our own sushi! This was probably the coolest thing we did on the whole trip because it was hands-on and the sushi was oishi. We were ushered into a large room wearing gloves, hair nets and masks over our mouth, looking utterly ridiculous. Everything had to be sanitary, so of course we were no exception. The sushi itself is basically a layer of pink trout meat pressed flat onto rice and wrapped up inside bamboo leaves.