Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Accidentally Hiking Up a Mountain

During my very long winter break, I expressed a desire to my family to go on a hike, like we used to when we went on vacation.  Once in Japan, I decided to act on this desire (just without my family) and had what was probably the single most enjoyable day on my entire trip (almost certainly the most beautiful).

This year, May 2-6 (Saturday-Wednesday) was Golden Week in Japan, a string of holidays that everyone uses to go on vacation and go sightseeing and such.  At TIU, we, too, have school off, so some of the Japan Studies Program (JSP) students organized trips for each day we had off.  Sadly, only two of us ended up on Saturday’s trip, but it was fun none the less.  We went to Kamakura, an area approximately southwest of Tokyo and Yokohama, for some sightseeing and hiking.

We started at the beach!  I was wearing my tennis shoes, so I had to walk very carefully to keep sand from getting in them.  Even so, it was nice to be able to visit a beach.  From there we turned around to follow the crowd from the train station to the major sites.  Kamakura is filled with temples and shrines, with numerous hiking trails connecting them.



See that giant Buddha?  You can go inside it for 20 yen (about 20 cents), which was quite the deal.  It was really interesting, but pretty cramped.  You can see how it was put together and where the head was reinforced later.  We also visited a shrine that you had to pass through a cave to get through.  If you washed your money there, apparently it was supposed to multiply.  The two of us couldn’t figure out the proper procedure for washing and blessing the money, so we did not do it in order to avoid the risk of doing something disrespectful.  We tried watching what others were doing, but the procedural order was very unclear.

It should be noted that there was not much of a plan ahead of time.  We had looked into which sites we wanted to see, and upon arrival in Kamakura, got some tourist maps and plotted out a route that would let us see the most in the time we had.  Perhaps, had we done more research, we would have known to get off the train at Kita-Kamakura and then hike to Kamakura and not the other way around.  As it was, we hiked up a mountain, passing better planners going the other way on a fairly regular basis.  On the other hand, the view became more and more impressive.  It was extremely gratifying to be able to turn around and see just how far we had come.

It was a wonderful day.  It was sunny and warm, but the hike was mostly through the forest.  The air in the forest was cool, it was shady, and the path was adventurous at times.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I have always been surrounded by trees, so getting to see the slight differences is flora was interesting.  For instance, we stumbled across small bamboo groves here and there.

Because many of the temples and shrines close up about 4, we ended up having time to go back to Yokohama for a bit of sightseeing there, as well.

We got off at Yokohama station, and then walked between the various areas we wanted to visit.  Luckily, a few of the specialty stores turned out to be in the same mall.  I made a few purchases and was given a ticket to a free concert the following Monday, so this was not my last trip out to Yokohama.  I was glad that I had already made the trip once before with a friend, because I ended up going by myself that Monday, despite the length of the trip.

That day was the perfect balance of planned and spontaneous.  We went in knowing what we wanted to see, but not how we would see it.  We figured it out as we went along, which made it feel relaxed without being inefficient.  We were met with surprises (like hiking up a mountain) and what we expected (the Big Buddha).  It was a great day!

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