During our two-month study abroad in Japan, not only did we learn a lot of new vocabulary and grammar points, we also went on cultural excursions outside of Kanazawa. One of the main sites that we visited was the Kagaya Onsen in Notou, or the Kagaya Hotspring. Kagaya is a hotspring hotel that is one of the most luxurious throughout the country, and even many Japanese people have never had the chance to visit. I felt very privileged to be given this opportunity to stay there for a night, but at the same time I wondered if this experience would really draw me closer to the Japanese people.
The hotel was as expected; right when we got off the bus, there were beautiful women dressed in kimonos welcoming our arrival. The red carpeted floors and wooden pillars gave it a very oriental atmosphere. But, the chandelier that cast a dark orange light on the modern-styled sofas and grand piano gave it a western touch. It had been a while since I have ever entered a place as dazzling, yet intricately designed as such. We were soon given our room keys and were allowed to visit our room for the night. The room was completely Japanese, with its Tatami and paper sliding doors. Later, a lady came in and gave us each a different colour Yukata (a dress similar to a Kimono) and helped us put them on.
Dinner was another extravagant ritual. We were invited into a large tatami floored room and given our own seats. The food that was served was traditional Japanese food included sashimi and tempura. During our meal we were also given the chance to watch Japanese Wadaiko (drums) and various different traditional dances.
But, the most unforgettable experience was the Onsen. I have never been to a natural hotspring before, and this was the first time. Taking a bath together with people I didn’t know was very awkward, but the Onsen itself was very relaxing. I would really like to go back to Kagaya again in the future.
Time has passed in a blink of an eye, and before I knew it has been a month since I first met my host family, my teachers, and my classmates. I have learned and experienced so much, and yet I know there is so much more I need to learn.
My host family is a couple of slightly older age and have had a long history of hosting students just like me. More surprisingly, my host mum use to teach at the same place that I am taking lessons now. My host family has taken me in like family, which I am beyond grateful about and let me be participate in their everyday activities such as cooking and grocery shopping. They were also patient in teaching me everything I did not understand. My host father took me out to his garden and showed me the variety of different vegetables that he plants. He also let me harvest the zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes. My host mother taught me how to make Japanese hand-rolled sushi, which I dearly hope I can remember by the time I return home.
Although there is barely any free time, I am glad that the program is keeping me busy. On a weekday, I am usually finishing up homework or studying for a quiz the next day. On a weekend, I am either meeting students from Kanazawa University, or participating in cultural activities that the program provides us. By far I have participated in the making of Wagashi (Japanese sweets), Shodo (the art of writing) and Kado (the art of flower arrangement), all of which were challenging but extremely interesting to do. These traditional arts are very intricate and bear with it a cultural significance that reflects Japanese traditional thought, which I found challenging to understand but very interesting to know. Here are pictures of my attempt at these traditional arts:
I just finished my first semester and took the final exam last week. The exam was quite challenging, but tight now, I am very excited about the next semester. Apparently we will be learning Japanese from a storybook called Spirited Away. As an avid reader of fictional novels, I am very glad to finally get to read one in Japanese.