This past weekend we went on a field trip to Unzen national park. It was a way to get the freshman as well as new students together before the start of classes. The JASIN students (my program) and NICS students went first, as we did a little sightseeing before hand. We left early in the morning, around 8:50am. We loaded onto the bus and took an hour long journey to a little area with a beautiful view of the sea! They also sold fried potatoes and Castella Ice (castella cake with ice cream in the middle). After that we drove to a place where we ate lunch, that was also the site of a Volcanic natural disaster in 1993. The lunch was Japanese style, and I’m not sure what each food was. The houses that were at the location had been unearthed from the volcanic lava and are still buried. It was really interesting to see the raw destruction, yet the houses were still pretty much intact. After lunch we went to a museum about the volcanic eruption in 1993. It had a simulation room, as well as different explanations of volcanic eruptions and a cute little puppet show! It also had a beautiful view of the sea. Once we left there, we went to Shimabara castle. We were only there for about 45 minutes, but it was still cool to see the castle. They also had samurai gear that we could try on, which was a lot of fun. Also around Shimabara castle, there was a samurai village, although most of it has become more modern. It has a stream of water flowing down the middle of it that people used to be able to use. Some of the houses are still there, or have been replicated to look like samurai houses, complete with thatched roofs! After that we went to the hotel, which looked like a normal hotel on the outside, but on the inside it was a ryokan, complete with hot springs. We checked in, but then we went to a gym in town for icebreakers with the Japanese freshman. They were interesting activities that included matching number, balancing balloons, and popping the balloons. Then we headed back to the hotel for a traditional Japanese dinner. Afterwards was freetime. The gai dai staff had set up Karaoke and some games. We also had a chance to go to the hot spring in the hotel. The hot springs are so good for your skin. They did smell of sulfur, and the whole town did. It was part of having natural geysers within the city. We also were allowed to wear the Yukata that the hotel provided. Everyone thought that the hot springs would be awkward (as it is a public bath, although it is separated by gender, being naked around a bunch of people you just met can be weird), but it was a nice experience. We all just relaxed and socialized, at least that is what the women did. I’m not sure about the men.
The next day we got up early for breakfast and then had some free time to do what we wanted. If it hadn’t been so rainy and foggy, we would have been able to go to the top of the mountain. My friends and I went to see a temple with a mysterious carving. No one knew who it was or who carved it. Then we went to some of the natural geysers, but because of all the fog, it was hard to see anything. We had lunch at the hotel, and on our way home we stopped at (no joke) Obama. It is a town with a public foot bath. The water is really really hot though, so I could only keep my feet in for about a minute at a time. It was a really enjoyable trip!