Temple Japan continues to set the bar high this week. My most recent and final excursion with TUJ activities happened last Saturday. About thirty students, including myself, hopped onto a bus at 7:30AM and made our way to Saijoji, a buddhist temple, where we would begin our hike up Mt. Ashigara.


At the start of the hike


About 2-3 hours in and still climbing


Just about at the summit of the mountain

The hike was no walk in the park. It was equally exhausting and rewarding at the same time. From the beginning, the hike started with a steep climb up some stairs. From there, the steep incline continued but we had to go through trees, narrow passages, muddy canals, and loose rocks. The first hour or so of the hike was probably the hardest for me. However, at one point my body adjusted and I was fuelled with energy to keep going. The views along the whole way were breath taking. The higher we climbed, the more we were rewarded in sounds and sights. Totally encapsulated by nature, the sounds of birds and cicadas filled the air while we made our way through views of tree trunks to tree tops. Along the way up to the summit, the group had split up into smaller groups going at their own pace. We all reconvened at the summit where we all stopped to eat a packed bento lunch and take in the views.


Direction signs that helped keep us on track when we got separated


Views from the summit of Mt. Ashigara


The wonderful Nahomi resting and talking with students Greg and Rob


Steep slopes on the way down the mountain

Throughout the hike we passed several other hikers, all of whom were Japanese and we greeted each other with a friendly Konnichiwa as we crossed paths. The kindness in this country never ceases to amaze me.

After the hike, we all got bussed to an Onsen. It was one of the nicest onsens I’ve been to in Japan and it was even better experienced right after a 6 hour hike.

Tanabata also took place this weekend. Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is a festival in Japan that celebrates the meeting of two deities. This was the second festival I was able to take part in while here in Japan. (The first one was during my excursion to Niigata for the Battle of the Giant Kites trip with TUJ.) Louis, a friend of mine in Japan, had invited me out to go to a festival in Asakusa, and of course I took him up on it.



Louis and I at Sensoji Temple. [Photo Credit: Friendly stranger]

We met up and headed to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest temple. This was my third time visiting Sensoji, however this time was made special because of all the stands and booths that were placed for the festival.


Street festival for Tanabata!

After Sensoji, Louis and I walked down a few streets where we were greeted with a full on street festival. The streets were lined with decorations and filled with visitors both local and foreign. Along 3 or 4 blocks, food and drink vendors lined the sidewalks while different performance groups set up stage in the middle. As you walked down to see more of the festival, you would run into more and more dance or music groups. It was such a lively and exciting environment!


Wishes tied to a bamboo tree as part of the Tanabata tradition


Taiko drummers performing along the streets of the festival!


Sensoji Temple at night

After we had gotten our fill of the festival, Louis and I made our way to Tokyo SkyTree where we got to see a spectacular view of Tokyo at night.

Every now and then, I get hit with moments of “Am I really here?”. Even as I reach the end of my stay in Japan I still experience things that make me stop and think about where I am and who I am in this moment.


Tokyo as seen from the very top of Tokyo SkyTree

This past week pushed me physically and mentally. In all honesty, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the hike, and if I had known how difficult it was going to be, I’m not sure I would have even signed up for it at all. However, I’m so glad I did sign up for it and that I completed it. My physical endurance was pushed to its max and it was all a mental game for me to get up to the top. Somewhere on that mountain I broke through barriers that were keeping me from doing bigger and better things. As I reflect back on it, I feel empowered to reach for higher goals in my life and to go for things I might have thought were out of reach for me previously. Everyday here in Tokyo I feel my limits being pushed, forcing me to be a better student, artist, and person.


About richeldiazinjapan

Hello, I'm Richel! I'm a sophomore Visual Arts major with a concentration in Photography and Design at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Being born and raised in New Jersey, I have decided to break out of my comfort zone and travel with Temple University all the way to Japan. Aside from photography and design, I'm also interested in symphonic band, culinary arts, and dance. I can't wait for all the adventures, new experiences and food ahead!

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