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On Friday night, we went out for our last group dinner, and it was fantastic.  We ate so many different types of Japanese food—edamame (one of my personal favorites) and crickets (they were really scrumptious)—among other things.  We were also fortunate enough to have sake or shochu mixed drinks with our meal.  The best part about the dinner was spending it together.  It’s amazing to see how the group dynamic has evolved during our time in Japan.  It feels like we should be starting our trip rather than ending it.  After dinner, a bunch of us went to Club ID—a club we went to previously that Lindsay’s roommate introduced us to.  It was much more fun this time.  All of us just relaxed, danced and had a good time together.

I truly could not have asked for a better trip or a better group of people to share it with.  Not being a Dickinson student, I had my doubts embarking on a Japanese adventure with a bunch of Dickinson students that I had never met before.  I thought I was crazy the night before I left home.  I am extremely fortunate to have met each of you, and I sincerely hope that a simple obstacle like me not going to Dickinson will keep us from continuing our friendships.  Besides, after you call someone a beached whale, you kind of have to be their friend.

So, on Saturday, Ben Fixsen (I use his full name because he continues to mine), Greg, Nicci, and I went to the Iga Ninja House.  We went to the Nagoya Station, and then took a bus to Iga.  If it wasn’t for Ben, I don’t think that we would have gotten there.  Just kidding.  We took an hour and a half bus ride for 1800 yen.  We had an American bus for the majority of the bus ride.  So, we each spread out and slept for the most part.  While at the bus station, I remembered to get a return bus schedule, so that we would know what time to get back on the bus.  Hence, I was named “mom,” by Ben.  Sorry that someone needs to be responsible and prepared.

Once we arrived in Iga, I tried to get Ben to tell us where we were going.  But, I came prepared for the “I don’t know” with the pamphlet that Bates-sensei gave Ben earlier this month.  We finally figured our way to the koen (park), that housed the Ninja house.  Entering the ninja house, I soon realized that it was, indeed, geared towards four-six year olds.  Perfect, for Ben, who participated in hiding in trap doors and hidden staircases, when asked by the woman giving the demonstration.

We also watched a ninja show, performed by “real life ninjas” who used real ninja weapons.  It was pretty fun to watch and we were able to record a number of classy videos of ninjas ninja-ing people.  Ben and Greg later re-enacted portions of the show.  After the show, we moseyed our way throughout the museum.  We also walked through the park around the museum.  There was a castle nearby, and although the name escapes me, it had a beautiful moat surrounding it, so we took some outstanding pictures.  We, then, ended our escapades by walking back to the train station.

I’m glad we were able to navigate ourselves through Japan.

When we arrived in Kyoto, we took a taxi to our ryokan—a Japanese style inn.  The ryokan was extremely traditional and Japanese.  The low ceilings proved problematic for many of us on the trip, especially the boys who continuously hit their heads.  At the ryokan, I roomed with Shelagh in the 2 person room that faced the front street.  When we arrived, there was a table in the center of the room with hot tea and some sort of Japanese cake waiting for us.  We threw our luggage down, sat in a traditional Japanese posture and enjoyed our cake and tea.  Because the bathroom differs from the American bathrooms we are accustomed to, Meguro-sensei showed us how to use the “Japanese family bath.”  The bathrooms have two different parts—a shower and a hot tub.  In the bathroom, the tub is already filled with hot water, which you are supposed to soak in.  This type of tub, however, is supposed to be used for everyone, and the bather is not supposed to pull the plug.  Instead, the bather is supposed to enter the shower, wash her body, then use the tub to soak in, not to bath in.  There is a small stool, to sit on, and a bucket, which you fill with water.  Later, the girls and I went with Meguro-sensei to a public bath where we used the same procedure.  Bathing at the ryokan was certainly a Japanese cultural experience.

The hospitality we encountered at the ryokan amazed me—the women were so eager to help and accommodate each of us.  After we first arrived, we left soon after to go sight-seeing in Kyoto.  When we came back, our luggage was moved to its “appropriate spot” and our futon beds were set up and made, ready for our tired bodies to enter.  The women at the ryokan, also, always greeted us at the door with the typical Japanese greeting.  This became difficult, however, when some of us came home late at night.  We all felt quite guilty about waking up this woman in the wee hours of the morning.  She probably hated us.

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