Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nikko and World Heritage

Well, as I blog, the rain has finally come! The weather has cooled significantly, so I'm laying low and updating the blog at the moment, which watching the landing on Mars.

Summer vacation has started, and that means that I'm taking advantage of being in Japan and exploring the local area.

And, what better way to explore than by foot!

...was what Jay, Max, Aenea and I thought...

So, in order to make this "epic" summer the definition of "epic," we decided we wanted to make a trip from Kasukabe Station to Nikko.

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According to the map, it would have taken us about 19 hours to walk 57.5 miles.

And, if we walked it, wouldn't that be the definition of "epic"? Plus, 19 hours didn't sound too bad--we could probably walk it in two days. A walk in a very big park to an even more epic park!

Or so I thought.

The plan was to walk from Kasukabe Station, but after a "short" 5 hour detour to Kuki, we began to move North and walked for over 12 hours with some brief breaks.

Needless to say, as the day progressed, the walk got less epic and more and more annoying as we tracked our progress on a map. After a day, we "only" walked 20 miles (a centimeter on Google Maps) and my feet felt as if they would give out.

So, due to half the team feeling like utter crap at the end of the day, we ended up caving and taking an express train from Koga to Utsunomiya. This "express" train still took 45 minutes.

Upon reaching Utsunomiya, our first order of business was to get to a manga cafe--preferably ASAP so I could finally sit down and give my poor legs some relief.

At the manga cafe, we got a computer booth to ourselves and there were also showers and bathrooms available along with a drink bar. I think it would've been great to browse if I hadn't been so tired, but as it was, I fell asleep in the chair immediately after that well-appreciated shower.

The next morning, we got up and began to get ready to head to Nikko--this time by train. But, since we were in Utsunomiya, we also had to try some of their famous specialty gyoza.

My "gyoza" (to the left) was basically a stuffed tonkatsu and was absolutely delicious with a unique taste different from the dumplings we normally make at home. Max got the 12-flavor gyoza (to the right), which came with a variety of different flavors, including cheese and kimchi.

After having our late breakfast/early lunch, we readied ourselves for our journey to Nikko--this time by train.

Nikko itself is an incredibly beautiful place. When one talks about the beauties of "old" Japan, people usually think of Kyoto. Nikko, also a World Heritage Site, has its own beauty with its numerous temples nestled in the mountains.

After visiting, I might even say that I like it more than Kyoto, which was much more crowded than Nikko. Although there were still a fair share of tourists, being up in the mountains made Nikko much more tranquil than any other major temple I've visited.

Nikko is also famous for yuba. For people who have made soymilk at home (I came from a very lucky household that did), yuba is the film of soy milk that solidified at the very top as it cools. It's delicious with a fresh hot bowl of soymilk.

However, I also discovered how delicious it was in Nikko's delicious yuba ice cream.

While the pictures were unimpressive (it looked like regular vanilla soft serve), yuba ice cream is essentially a soymilk ice cream with yuba flecks. With the weather as hot as it was, it was a delicious treat to reward myself for taking on (and cheating (;´∀`) ) this long journey.

There were several other highlights during the blog absence, one of which included a post-semester party and a local festival.

The post-semester party was at an incredible French restaurant, and it made me understand why Tokyo has as many Michelin stars as it does. It was also a good chance for me to bond with my coworkers as a few of them got amusingly drunk.

The thing I'll end with was the local 夏祭 (natsu matsuri, summer festival). This was so local that I saw several of the kids from my school (the festival was run by the local neighborhood association).

Several of them, shocked to see me, asked why I was there. I supposed it's the same anywhere you go, children will think that their teachers live at school.

I also managed to get the aerial shot of the festival because Marumi様 (see Akita trip) invited us over for a gathering. It was super fun as I got to meet a bunch of new people and also got the chance to cook in a decent kitchen.

Anyways, I will (finally) finish this post with some more pictures.

Till next time!

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