The first overnight school trip was a journey to Shizuoka, a prefecture along the coast of Japan. Unfortunately, the trip really didn’t start off on the best foot. After boarding another early morning bus, prepared for another several hours driving through the countryside, we learned that there was a change of plans. Due to rain and safety concerns, two of the activities, hiking the bottom of Mt. Fuji and visiting Shiogo Suspension Bridge, needed to be cancelled. Instead, we were informed, we were going to be visiting a few other destinations, including an aquarium and the Horai Bridge, the world’s longest wooden bridge.
While certainly not as glamorous as climbing on Mt. Fuji, it still turned out to be a pretty great day. Personally, I love aquariums and thought the bridge was actually pretty cool. It took about half an hour to go from one end to the other and back again. It also made for some pretty nice pictures!
Fortunately, once we arrived at Kawane Onsen Hotel, the rest of the trip went perfectly as planned. The TUJ students were pretty much let loose on the hotel once we checked in, which gave me time to explore the nearby riverbed, enjoy a relaxing bath at the onsen, and hang out on the roof-level observation deck before heading in for a buffet dinner! After dinner (the highlights of which included a chocolate fountain and freshly made diced steak), we tried renting a room for karaoke, but the price was a little steep at 1000 yen for the room for an hour, and 100 yen a song. So instead, we enjoyed the cool night air on the observation deck.
The next day, we all loaded back up into the bus and headed to the first destination, a green tea farm called The Tea Museum. There we learned about the process of making green tea firsthand. We picked our own leaves, and brought them in for preparation. We learned how to properly cook and dry the leaves and turn them into green tea itself. After making tea, we also got to walk through the museum’s beautiful Japanese gardens, which offered some great views of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area. Upon leaving, we were given both pre-made tea and bags of green tea leaves to bring home and make ourselves.
After a quick lunch at a rest stop, we arrived at Nihondaira, a scenic seaside area in Shizuoka. There we took a ropeway across to Mt. Kuno Toshogu Shrine, which is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirit of of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the last of the feudal governments in Japan. The shrine is located at the top of Mt. Kuno, accessible by either the ropeway that we took, or a stone staircase with more than a thousand steps cut into the mountainside.
The shrine, like all of the previous shrines I have visited, was peaceful and beautiful. After climbing up through the stairs and courtyards to the top, the only way forward was down. We weren’t lucky enough to be able to take the ropeway both ways, so to get down we had to descend the giant, imposing staircase. The climb down was a little tricky, as the stairs were worn away in some places, but it offered some beautiful views of the town below and the ocean in the distance. Once at the bottom, we got back on the bus and headed back through rain and traffic to get to Tokyo. Even despite the rocky start, it turned out to be a pretty excellent weekend.