Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 19

Today was the 4th of July, and instead of watching fireworks my area's YFU coordinators took the students and their families from the Kanagawa Prefecture to the Saijoji temple and Soshu Odawara castle.
We were told to dress casually for hiking up to the temple, but little did I know Japanese hiking and American hiking are totally different. I realized the first week that image is everything here - from food to gifts to clothes - so when I showed up in a CF t-shirt and athletic shorts I was surprised to be the only one. Japanese consider "hiking" to be walking up stone steps to the temple - 300 to be exact. Not exactly Mt. Fugi material....
This particular temple is unlike any other in the fact that it is completely submerged in the wilderness, which gives it a rustic and earthy feel. Another extremely extravagant and beautiful shrine furnished with incense, a cleansing station and an ema shrine (wall of wooden plaques with prayers on them).
We ate lunch and then headed to Odawara castle for some Japanese history! When entering visitors must to go through three gates to finally get to the castle, but when you finally do make it there it's awe-inspiring! The castle was built by the Omori family (coincidentally my host family's last name!) in the early 16th century, and now holds samurai culture such as armor, swords, drawings and ancient documents. It's pretty much like a public park, mini zoo and museum with an awesome view of the seaside.
Quick recap of Friday night dinner with my host grandparents!
Haruka and I went to eat with my host grandparents at a traditional style restaurant in Tokyo Friday night. The rice was cooked in a traditional "okama" which scorches the outside of the rice. They bought us both little frog charms which are called "kaeru" to return home safely. There are just so many aspects of the Japanese culture that I don't even know about yet! It seems like I try something new almost everyday. Part of the culture I've noticed for example is that on all the trains and buses that there is a specific area of seating designated for the elderly only. Even in the language there is different words to use when talking to adults that shows a higher level of respect. Also at a restaurant we ate at a small, medium or large order was all the same price. Why wouldn't everyone get the large then? Because the set price is a sign of customer service, and the customer in return only orders what they think they can eat. As crazy as it sounds it's that simple. Speaking of restaurants I was surprised to see that food chains like McD's and KFC have different "Asianized" menus. It's not any healthier by any means, it just applies more to the Asian pallet. For example instead of mac 'n cheese and mashed potatoes the menu offers gratin, which is like a casserole.
Well that was my weekend.... Happy forth of July everyone back home! Save me a firework or two:)

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