Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far! I cannot say it enough! I really appreciate everyone who is praying for me and the other staff at NORTHSTAR.
Two weeks ago I went off the grid for a few days. It was our fall break so we had four days off to do whatever we wanted. Brad and his wife Michie were planning a camping trip to the beach as well as visiting Michie’s parents, and they invited us interns to go along. We accepted, so on a rainy Tuesday morning we drove down the mountain and toward Michie’s home town. Our route was as follows: Norikura > Ueda > Toyama > Norikura. If you start at the red pin and go counter clock-wise that is the way we took.
Michie told us that Ueda was a pretty standard city for Japan. There was nothing really exciting or historical about it, but to me, it was wonderful. It was great to get away from the more touristy feel of Norikura and Matsumoto and go to a regular Japanese city without all the extras. As we got to Ueda we stopped at the castle ruins near the center of the city. There was only one tower left standing as the rest had been destroyed. But the rest of the grounds had been turned into a beautiful park, which we all enjoyed.
Later we went to Michie’s parent’s house. Ka san (Mom, in Japanese), and To san (Dad) were the most welcoming hosts we could have asked for. To san was very enthusiastic about practicing his English and I was more than willing to help him and practice my Japanese! He took us out for sushi, which was delicious. This sushi was not wrapped in seaweed like I often picture it. It was rice with a piece of raw fish or squid laid on top of it. Picking it up, dipping it in soy sauce, and getting it into my mouth with chopsticks without it falling apart took some skill. Squid meat is white and very soft and smooth, with almost no taste. I really enjoyed it!
After spending the night on traditional futon we had breakfast. What a breakfast! There was fruit, rice, miso soup, and pregnant fish. They were crunchy, kind of like Mexican grasshoppers. After breakfast we packed the van up and headed out to the beach! It was a pretty long drive to the beach so we drove directly to our site, set up camp, and went in search of dinner. The water was still warm, but since it was late we did not play in the water. Instead we set off fireworks!
The next morning Brad made French toast for breakfast, then we played in the Sea of Japan for a few hours tossing the Frisbee. It was a wonderful de-stressor and none of us were ready to leave. But we had some more sites to see! Our main objective was the Glass Art Museum in downtown Toyama, but on the way there we stopped for lunch at a rest stop right next to the ocean. The food was good, but the main attraction to us was the foot bath. The bath was around 40° C, which is well over 100° F. But it was so relaxing and really good for circulation, plus there was a great view of the ocean.
The Glass Art Musuem had opened just a few weeks prior and only cost ¥200 to get in, just under $2. It was a beautiful construction made of glass and wood. The exhibits were full of artists from all over, including one main exhibit by Chihuly.
Our final stop was something I wanted to do just because: McDonalds! Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, it was pretty much like any other McDonalds. I had a teriyaki burger, but it was still McDonalds. We made it back Thursday night, and it was still raining in Norikura. And a fantastic road trip was had by all!