Our class went to Unzen National Park on Friday morning. Unzen was the first national park in Japan. We stayed at a hot springs resort. We left at 9am on a bus towards Unzen (it was about a 2 hour drive.) On the way we passed a lot of really cool scenery and Mark filled us in on a lot of the history of the area. We stopped about 30 mins before Unzen and got out to look at some scenery.
Koi (carp) are flying everywhere. I think this is for boy’s day, which is in May.
On the way we passed through Obama city, which had I ♥ Obama flags flying everywhere with a little drawing of President Obama on it. It’s pretty funny how popular he is in Japan. Obama city has become a huge tourist attraction lately, because of the new president. Even my host mom is really into him. For the inauguration ceremony, she stayed up until midnight to watch it live. She also has a CD recording of his speech that day. Pretty interesting.
We finally arrived at the resort after the bus climbed the side of the mountain for a half hour. We settled into our room (it was George, Alexander, and I in the room) and then we had lunch. After lunch we set off to do some hiking up the mountain! From the base of the mountain, we climbed for a good 40 minutes straight…and it was difficult.
We eventually made it to the top, though…
A great view
Another great view!
At the top of the mountain, we met up with 3 girls from China in the NCIS program named Chouki, Sori, and Ginger. The names are Chinese, so the spelling is only an approximation. They decided to join up with Tami, Stephanie, Amina, and I. We stopped at a gift shop to get a souvenir for our host families, (I also got my first phone string, a penguin) and then started hiking back down alone. On the way we saw a park of stone animals. We stopped for some photos.
Tami and Stephanie are searching for something on their camel.
Drew, stone elephant tamer!
We took a photo of all of us. This was taken with Tami’s camera, so it’s widescreen.
We headed towards an ancient buddhist carving in the side of a mountain in the area. We had to take a very long long walk around the lake to get to it, though.
The lake. The water is a slightly different color than most lakes, and there are steam vents at the bottom of the lake from the volcano.
Eventually, we made it to the carving. No one knows exactly how old it is, but it is estimated to be 800 years old. Some of the temples here were actually founded as early as the year 700.
Me at the last gate before the carving. When you cross through the gate, you enter a new world.
A photo of the carving.
Us standing below the carving.
When we made it back, I took a much needed nap and then met in the meeting hall for a 7:00 dinner. Thankfully, the sun has been fairly kind to me so far and I haven’t gotten any bad sun burns. Surprisingly, the burns I got from this day were not very bad at all. Considering how much I’ve been in the sun since I’ve been here, I’ve been pretty lucky.
Everyone getting ready to eat. At the front of the room is Mark, our representative.
Part of the meal. This isn’t all of it though, because a lot of the bowls I forgot to uncover for the photo.
Chouki and Sori pose for Tami.
And then Tami passed out.
George and I in our traditional Japanese clothing.
After the meal, we had some forced Japanese activity where we had to interact with people or whatever. It was lame and lasted way to long. The Japanese was also very simple for the lower level students. It didn’t really leave much time at all for any sort of meaningful interaction either. After the activity, we had room parties. We started off by watching War of the Worlds which had been dubbed into Japanese. That was interesting. More and more people showed up though and we lost track of the movie.
Nicholas from Germany and Alexander from France. These guys are really amazing.
After the parties started winding down, George, Nate and I went to the Onsen (natural hot springs). We went to the indoor ones first and worked our way outside. The night air was a perfect mix with the hot water.
In the morning, we woke up and packed up our stuff. We went to check out the geyser basin a little before heading out of Unzen.
The geyser basins of Unzen.
I took a short video of the geysers with my camera. Here it is:
The smell was very sulfuric and not many people liked it. But, I got used to it. This is the same water we bathed in at the Onsen. Fun fact: during the persecution of the christians, this is where many of the martyrs were boiled to death.
Us and some NCIS students in front of the geysers.
Me in front of one of the large ones.
We also strolled a little through town before leaving…
Nate did some climbing action on the side of a building. Pretty impressive.
Here is my own beautiful picture of the sakura. The sakura season is winding down in Japan, already most of the sakura in Nagasaki are gone. They will be back next year.