Picking Grapes with My Host Family

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We had the day off last Monday, so our host mom (Okaasan) organized a trip for her, me, my housemate, and our two host sisters to go to Mt. Fuji.  Our host dad was in the US for a business trip, so we decided to have a ladies day.  We booked a tour with a company that picked us up at the train station, took us to several different events throughout the day, then dropped us back off at the station at night.  It was a big bus tour with mostly old couples.  My housemate and I were the only foreigners on the tour, not that it really mattered.  We had to get up pretty early in the morning to meet the bus, and then we were non-stop all day!

First we drove to a vineyard near the mountain.  I didn’t know that vineyards and wineries were popular in Japan, but I guess the area around Mt. Fuji is really good for growing grapes, so they make some nice wines there.  There was wine tasting and snacks, and a little shop.  Outside it was a beautiful day, and the scenery was lovely from the hill where the winery was.  When we finished there, the tour took us to the actual grape farm part.  There were tons of grapes everywhere, mostly hanging high above our heads in archways of vines.  The constructions made these type of grape rooms, with sunlight shining through the leaves.  We walked through the aisles of grapes until we came to a ‘grape room’ with a low ceiling.  The grapes growing from above were huge, bigger than any grapes I’ve seen.  We were allowed to cut down any grape bunches we wanted and eat as much as we could.  Everyone was trying to beat a record that was set by a previous touring family who ate seven bunches of grapes.  I don’t think anyone came close.  Our group could only eat two bunches collectively.  But they grapes were giant, so you couldn’t blame us.

After that the tour company gave us bento boxes to eat on the bus as we made our way to a giant flower farm.  At the farm we got to look around before getting back on the bus and heading up the actual mountain.  We went to the fifth level of Fuji.  Mt Fuji is divided into different levels, and you can drive a car up to level five.  After that you have to hike.  I want to hike Mt Fuji, but we weren’t there to do that.  Still, it was beautiful, especially with all the autumn trees and fog.  Some people were also riding horses on the trails, and a lot of families brought their dogs.  We met a particularly cute husky!  There were some shops where we stopped also, selling lots of Fuji specialty products.  We each received a little bell that was supposed to bring good look and make our lives longer.  But before we could get them, we had to get in line to pass by a man that was standing on a stool and hitting people with bell sticks and yelling something.  He would hit your back, your head, and your butt.  He hit the butt the hardest.  I was sore for a while.  But, it is supposed to drive out your evil spirits, so I guess I should be thankful?

Then we stopped at a shrine that was located on the mountain.  My family taught me how to make a prayer by bowing twice and clapping your hands after throwing some change into a box.  I also got my fortune, which my host sister translated for me.  There are about 6 different levels of luck I think, and I got second to worst.  But, my sister said not to worry, because luck goes in cycles.  Since my luck was low, it should be going up from there!  And actually, I had a very lucky week this week, even though it was full of midterms…

The last stop on our tour was a sushi dinner, all included.  We stopped at a big buffet place and just ate as much as we could.  I was so full that I konked out for the entire ride home.  I really enjoyed spending the time with my host family, and I’m thankful that they plan trips for us like that!

My housemate, me, and our sisters with a friendly husky on Mt. Fuji. My housemate blinked…

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