Originally published on 21 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first summer abroad while living and working in Japan!
Well hello! I hope everyone’s had a good week. Let me know what you’re up to!
Yesterday I went to the Shingu Shrine at the recommendation of the Fujitas, my friends in Tokyo. It was very, very far away! It was nearly 4 hours one way on the train, but the scenery was just beautiful. It rained all day, but as cold and yucky as it kind of was, I think the rain added to the mysticism of this place. It’s set up in the mountains with a waterfall right next to it. It’s beautiful and majestic and awesome and incredible and all those words you use when you’re just awed by what God created.
So like I said, it rained. All day. I was very VERY hungry by the time I got to the Shingu area, so I looked and looked for a place with an English menu or pictures or a display or something, but there was none to be found. Finally I went into a little place and the lady there was very helpful (I think she could tell how hungry I was). I ended up getting soba (buckwheat noodles) in miso soup. It was delicious on such a chilly and drizzly day! There were two people, a guy and a girl, there who were definitely NOT Japanese, and we sat together. They are 27 and are here from Finland!
We talked while we ate, and the girl said something that made me feel so good. She said the Japanese are all known for being so highly educated and intelligent, and they are, but she was surprised that hardly anyone speaks English, at least not very well. Just hearing that from another foreigner (whose first language is not English, by the way) was exactly what I needed to hear. I feel so incompetent here, especially with Yuri correcting me all the time. This is the closest I’ve ever been to illiterate since I learned to read (I can’t even read road signs!), and as terrible as I am with numbers, I’m so thankful for them because that’s all I can understand around here. Not that English is superior to any other language, but as my Finish friend said, “English is the international language, and it’s not that hard, especially the basics.” Maybe it’s wrong of me, but it really made me feel good–or at least not so ridiculously stupid!
After I ate and had a little English conversation, I felt ready to conquer the mountain and see the great beauty I’d heard about. So I started climbing the steps up the mountain. Up, up, up I went, stopping at the little shops along the way.
There was all this stuff made from black stone or something. And there were lots of owl figures, too. They’re everywhere I’ve been, but they were so many at this place! When I got to the place where the shrine is, I was completely awestruck at the view. There was the pagoda and waterfall, just like the pictures I’d seen on the internet. Only this view was more beautiful because it was right there in front of me! I could hear the water and smell the plants all around.
As it was rainy pretty hard at that point, I my took pictures and turned around to look at the rest of the shrine stuff. As I walked back to the other sacred areas, a gust of wind came and finished off my poor umbrella, which was already a bit broken! I remembered seeing umbrellas for sale for 300 yen (less than $3.00) in one of the shops, so I hurriedly went to find one, holding the broken umbrella as well as I could, trying to keep at least a small part of myself dry!
The first place I came to was actually a restaurant, not a shop, but I thought I’d ask if they had an umbrella for sale anyway. I could at least get out of the rain for a few minutes, even if they didn’t have one I could buy. Much to my delight, they did have one! A full-sized one! And you know what? I must’ve looked pretty pitiful because they insisted on giving it to me and disposed of my little broken one. God knows just the sort of pick-up you need right when you need it, and He always pulls through. Thanks! If I’d had to pay for it, I would have been in an even worse mood and wouldn’t have enjoyed the rest of the day at all. I’m a cheap college student, and I can’t take the umbrella home with me. I know, I’m a bit selfish, but God knows what you can handle. As much as I hate to admit it, little things like that are one of my many downfalls.
So I walked with my new umbrella to the other buildings. The mountains all around were just gorgeous. And the misty fog gave everything a sort of enchanted feeling. I really don’t know how else to describe it. It reminded me of “The Secret Garden,” for those of you who’ve read the book or seen the movie. I guess you could say it was “mist”ical. Much as I’d expected, the view from the other shrine structures was just as beautiful.
I took more pictures and started back down to catch the bus back to the train station. I stopped at some of the little shops again and was in such a nice mood that I bought one of those little owl thingies for a friend. Without that umbrella, I wouldn’t have wanted to buy anything else. I know that sounds incredibly silly.
When I got back down to the bus stop, I decided I needed nourishment for the trip back and allowed myself 2 sweet bean snacks that I’ve come to love so much in my time here. One was warm (ahh, warm sweets on a cold day), and one was this thing with jello-y stuff around it. Both were a delight!
So I made it to the train and changed at all the right places (thank goodness!), and I was back at the Iseshi station nearly 4 hours later at 6:43. I booked it to the grocery for some end-of-day sushi and vegetables, and then settled in at the apartment. It was, in fact, a good day, despite the rain and broken umbrella and hunger from the 4 hour train ride. I’m glad I went, and I wish it was closer so I could go back next week to see it in the sunshine! I’m actually glad I got to go on a rainy day, though. It had it’s benefits. There were few other people there!
Much love to you all,