Journals from Kanto Gakuin University
2008-09-23 Study Tour
Walking through Temple Halls
Woo, we're back from the study tour. It was an exciting and exhausting three days. The first day was spent half on travel and then checking in at the Daiyuuzan Saijyo Temple. We went to our rooms and wandered for a while before the time we got to go take a bath. It was lovely and hot. Dinner was nice and early at 5:30 followed by a lesson on Zen. Sitting and listening was extremely uncomfortable and my legs hurt at the end, but we had to get up and walk downstairs so we could meditate. This was a little more comfortable because there were nice plush pillows to situate ourselves on, raising us higher and leading to a much more comfortable and relaxing experience. This only lasted a short while and we went up to hang out, play games and prepare for bed. The rule was lights out at 9, but the monks told us we could stay up later if we were quiet--"If we were quiet" being the key thing which some people seemed to ignore. It took some loud music and ridiculously sound blocking headphones and about 2 hours for me to finally fall asleep. Wake-up call was 5am when a monk ran around the temple ringing a bell. It was suggested we get up and ready earlier than that because we had meditation immediately following this. We listened to some morning prayers, ate breakfast and helped do some cleaning before being given a full tour of the temple. All the meals I should mention were vegetarian, simple, but still pretty good. On the tour of the temple we had to climb a LOT of stairs, but it was GORGEOUS. It was a lot of fun to walk around and see everything.
The rest of this day was spent touring Hakone. We took the Ropeway up to Owakudani (Valley of Greater Boiling Hell) where we ate boiled-black eggs. They were delicious and the eggs were literally black from being boiled in the volcano heated water. It is believed that one egg will extend your life span for 7 years. I almost finished an egg, so we figure I got about 5 years extra from it. We then took a sightseeing cruise on Hakone Lake via a "pirate ship." We stopped at another onsen (hot springs) before eating dinner at Wara Wara (smile smile.) For $20 a person we were served 9 different dishes to try and could drink as much as we wanted. It was wonderful fun and all paid for by the school/fees that we paid in advance to come to Japan. At this point we had all been up for some 16-17 hours and pretty much crashed when we got to the various guest houses and hotels.
Today (Thursday) was of course raining -.- We ate breakfast at the KGU Odawara campus before going through the campus as a brief tour. We went back into the city and then walked to Odawara castle. It was beautiful and we walked through the castle which they've turned into a museum and it was really interesting to see some of the artifacts and read some of the history of the castle. This was pretty much the end of the trip and we were on our own for lunch and given the leisure to return to Hayama when we wanted.
All in all it was an amazing experience and chance to talk to some Nihonjin that weren't from the school. There were a lot of interesting experiences and opportunities. It was a lot of fun.