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A busy weekend...

Tsukuba Travel Blog

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inside the meiji shrine
The past weekend was jam packed with interesting events. On Saturday, I met up with my old Japanese TA from the States. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant in Harajuku. Afterward, we walked over to Meiji-shrine or Meiji-jingu, which is a quiet seclusion from the madness of Harajuku. Surrounded by Cypress trees, this shrine was erected in honor of Emperor Meiji in 1920. The original was destroyed during the Second World War and was rebuilt shortly after, but you couldn't tell this by looking at it. We made sure to complete the visit with 5-yen offerings, omikuji, and we even saw a traditional wedding procession pass by. It was a nice day to visit the shrine.

Later that evening, some friends and I went out to Tsuchiura for the largest fireworks show in Japan.
this one crappy photo of the fireworks definitely does not do the festival justice.
Located in the far countryside of Ibaraki-ken, Tsuchiura is about an hour outside of Tokyo. We made sure to bring obentos and a tarp so we could watch the show beside the river. Being the largest fireworks show, it was also extremely crowded, but we had a nice time and saw some great fireworks. It turned out that we didn't need our obentos since the banks of the river were lined with food vendors selling yakisoba to candy apples. We made sure to hit them up on our way back, which took us almost 3 hours!

The Tsuchiura train station is too small to handle the capacity of fireworks visitors that come out to see the show. Therefore, when it was over, the masses swarmed back to the station to catch the train home. The problem? There's not enough room on the trains to accomodate everyone, so we had to line up outside the train station and wait for over an hour.
proof that it was actually 5:57am when we stumbled back to the station.
It was like Disneyland. By the time we made it to the platform, we were swept on board the train by a rush of people and jammed wall-to-wall like it was rush hour. Because it took us so much longer to return back, we missed our last train home. This was not so good. We had to stay out all night until the trains started back up again at 5:30a.

So, this left us in Shinjuku. Luckily, we searched out a 24-hour internet "cafe" where we decided to hole up until sunrise. When I say internet cafe, it's not like you would think in the States or Europe. The cafes here are more like back rooms filled with little cubicles. Each cubicle has it's own computer and a small bench/reclining chair where you can lie down. It's a cheap solution though when you miss your last train and don't want to sleep in a "capsule" hotel.
the tea ceremony that we were able to attend.
We paid for 5 hours and it cost us under a 1000 yen (about 10 USD). I was able to sleep some, but the cubicles are definitely not long enough to accomodate a 6-foot guy comfortably.

At 6am, we stumbled out of the cafe and made our way back to the train station. I had enough time to nap on the train ride back to Minami-Nagareyama. However I was to meet my friend Aiko that same morning at 8 so that we could spend the day in Tsukuba. I rushed back to the dorm, showered, and went back to the trainstation to catch the express out to Tsukuba. Aiko and I met up with Erika and Matt, all of whom were exchange students at UCSD the year before last. Together, we caught a bus up to Tsukuba-san or Tsukuba mountain.
on top of tsukuba mountain!
At only 870 meters, it's not the tallest mountain in Japan, but it was pretty. We opted to skip the 60 minute hike to the top (thankfully because I think I would've fallen asleep while hiking, which can spell out danger on a mountain) and instead took the handy 5 minute tram. They have everything here for convenience in Japan. The view from the top was beautiful, although by the time we left, it too was becoming quite crowded.

All of us slept on the bus ride back to the station, but our day was far from over. We went to the University of Tsukuba (where Erika is a senior) for their school festival. It was a truly enjoyable experience. Many of the schools in Japan take some time off to have their festivals which consist of events, food, concerts, drink, and merriment. I wish the schools in the States would pick up more on this.
@ univ. of tsukuba festival, these guys are pounding rice to make mochi.
The spirit of the school and the students really came out when I was there. I felt like this was a great experience to be a part of.

The campus is much bigger than Sophia and is very pretty, especially as the foliage is making its progression toward autumn colors. We wandered, ate lots of delicious, cheap food, saw a magic show, participated in a traditional Japanese tea-ceremony, and listened to many different types of music, including an accapella concert.

As the evening drew to a close, we walked to a nearby pub for drinks. A tiny place, it was filled to the brim with other students and was very lively. We talked in Japanese and English over beers and more food. The time passed and finally it was time to go home. I had a great time catching up with some friends and spending the day in Tsukuba. I got back at 11:30p and crashed. I felt like the weekend had rushed by, but as I sit here typing out the events, I realize that it was truly a busy weekend.
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inside the meiji shrine
inside the meiji shrine
this one crappy photo of the firew…
this one crappy photo of the fire…
proof that it was actually 5:57am …
proof that it was actually 5:57am…
the tea ceremony that we were able…
the tea ceremony that we were abl…
on top of tsukuba mountain!
on top of tsukuba mountain!
@ univ. of tsukuba festival, these…
@ univ. of tsukuba festival, thes…
semi, or cicada. they make the mos…
semi, or cicada. they make the mo…
meiji jingu
meiji jingu
writing a prayer
writing a prayer
the torii to Meiji Jingu
the torii to Meiji Jingu
Sei-sensei and me
Sei-sensei and me
Destinee, Geri, Keri, and Erika
Destinee, Geri, Keri, and Erika
obento!
obento!
tsuchiura on the river
tsuchiura on the river
the river-side vendors
the river-side vendors
my favorite muffins!
my favorite muffins!
interesting barbecued fish, ill h…
interesting barbecued fish, i'll …
tako yaki!
tako yaki!
this was the crowd waiting to get …
this was the crowd waiting to get…
and this was the line to get back …
and this was the line to get back…
this is the inside of the cubicle …
this is the inside of the cubicle…
shinjuku sunrise
shinjuku sunrise
youd probably never see the stree…
you'd probably never see the stre…
tsukuba mountain
tsukuba mountain
that red gate is the start of the …
that red gate is the start of the…
the handy-dandy cable car to the t…
the handy-dandy cable car to the …
the final hike to the taller sum…
the final "hike" to the taller su…
there are two summits to tsukuba m…
there are two summits to tsukuba …
aiko and erika!
aiko and erika!
at the top theres a marble direct…
at the top there's a marble direc…
aiko braving the edge.
aiko braving the edge.
erika and me
erika and me
some strange performance/concert.
some strange performance/concert.
yakisoba okonmiyaki. it was awesom…
yakisoba okonmiyaki. it was aweso…
so many bicycles!
so many bicycles!
the university of tsukuba festival
the university of tsukuba festival
it really is a pretty campus
it really is a pretty campus
the evening brought about many dif…
the evening brought about many di…
the local izakaya
the local izakaya
A formal Japanese wedding process…
Tsukuba
photo by: lacarte