Oregon State University student, Juno, is studying at Akita International University in Japan and went on a weekend excursion that brought her closer with fellow students and taught her more about, "the wonderful place," of Akita.
At the end of my first week of my study abroad program at Akita International University (AIU) in Japan, the whole summer program and some students from AIU went on a field trip to Oga Peninsula. The trip had four destinations, each unique and fun in its own way. The trip was full of new experiences, learning, and making friends. Let’s get started, shall we?
So the day started off with getting up earlier than any college student wants to get up on a weekend and eating breakfast in the wonderful cafeteria they have here (I especially love the cafeteria here because I have food allergies and the ladies here make me delicious Japanese food that I can eat). After eating breakfast, we all loaded into buses and headed out. Our first stop was GAO Aquarium. It’s right on the beach so there are some wonderful views just walking to the building. Once inside the building, we were in front of a giant tank of fish, sting rays, and a couple turtles. Everyone stood there in awe taking pictures and admiring what ocean life had to offer before working our way through many more hallways of fish, jellyfish, octopi, polar bears, seals, penguins, and all sorts of other aquatic life. The seals were very cute and enjoyed swimming around near us and the color changing jellyfish looked like something out of a science fiction novel, but I have to say the Amazon tank was probably my favorite. There was this fish that just hung out near me and looked so dorky and hilarious. The rest of the life in the tank was cool too, but that fish just made my day. Also just a warning but the gift shop is absolutely amazing and you will want to buy everything in there. Just be prepared.
After exploring the aquarium, we all piled back into the buses and were on our way to Nyudozaki Cape to eat lunch and do some more exploring. The way there required driving on some windy roads, so my friend wasn’t feeling too good but the lovely organizer on the bus gave her some magical Japanese motion sickness medicine and she was great for the rest of the day. Anyway, we got to the cape and ate our lunch then started exploring the area. There were a lot of nice views to explore and some cool shops to check out too. A specialty to the area was black salt ice cream. Sounds super weird, but it’s actually super good (just be careful not to get a mouthful of salt!). With some help from a friend I managed to order some ice cream and helped a friend of mine order as well. The lady looked so happy when I managed to properly order ice cream for my friend. Experiences like this remind me of why I want to study Japanese.
Lunch was over and then it was time to head to the next stop of the day, the Namahage Museum. Namahage are monsters of the winter that come to your house to scare children into being good kids. Kinda like Santa but scary and loud. Well, to me they aren’t scary they are fantastic but at the Namahage show we went to there was a little kid that started crying when the Namahage came in banging on the doors and stomping and yelling. Anyway, the Namahage are great fun and the costumes are impressive. There was a station where you could dress up as Namahage and take pictures so of course we all had to try that. The whole Namahage Museum was great fun. After exploring the Namahage museum, some of my friends and I went to visit the shrines behind the museum. They were really beautiful and I got a charm thing from one of the shrines, but our little trip made us late getting back to the buses. The guy at the temple must have gotten a good laugh out of a group of exchange students running to get back to our bus but of course we ran the ran the wrong direction first. We made it back to the buses a little late but everything was fine.
The last stop of the day was a viewpoint at Mt. Kampuzan. There was a road up to the viewpoint so we thankfully didn’t have to do too much walking to get amazing views. There were some souvenir shops here as well, all of which are amazing. Honestly, I wanted to buy everything in every one of the shops I visited. That could have something to do with my love of cute things (like at the aquarium) and my newfound love of Namahage (they are just so great). I got myself some Namahage socks because Namahage socks are important obviously. After that I walked around with friends on the viewpoint which eventually culminated in rounding up as many summer program students as we could and taking a group photo. After that we were summoned back to the buses and started the ride home, all the while chatting and comparing finds.
Between the cute seals and unique ice cream and loud Namahage and beautiful viewpoints and everything else, that field trip was probably the most fun field trip of my life. We went to a huge aquarium then explored viewpoints and learned about the traditions of Namahage and other history of the area. I got to see so many amazing things, learn, and spend time with friends. Through this experience, I feel like I became closer friends with others in my program and learned more about the wonderful place I am studying in. If you ever find yourself studying at Akita International University in Akita, Japan, you too will get to experience this whirlwind field trip of amazingness. And if you do, tell the Namahage I said hi.