Marymount Japan School Trip, February 2014
The following is an account of a blog from Jolyon of Marymount School, detailing an account of their amazing Japan school trip organised by Adaptable Travel, in February 2014.
The twelve-hour flight took us over the arctic circle and the deserted wastes of eastern Russia before landing through snow flurries into Tokyo. As we made our way to the hotel in Ikebukuro the snow intensified and soon the streets of the city were white, covered by the worst snow Tokyo had seen for 45 years! The next morning we waited for transport to come back to life and then made our way to the excellent Ghibli Museum and its beautiful displays on animated film making. From there we crossed the city to the Meiji Shrine, where we sloshed through the snow between woods devastated by the heavy snowfall. Shopping therapy was needed badly at this point and we headed down Takeshita Dori, a focus for teenage culture in Tokyo.
The following day we caught the bullettrain to Kyoto from Tokyo Station, while our bags had to be flown down, as the highway was still completely blocked by snow. We zipped passed Mt Fuji and in a couple of hours reached the amazing city of Kyoto, where we immediately made our way to the enormous Kiyomizu-dera shrine and to the fascinating old streets of Kyoto, where we encountered Maiko (junior Geishas) walking through the streets. By the time we reached Gion corner and the performance of Japanese art, we were pretty tired!
The next day we visited the famous Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavillion, the burning down of which was made known world-wide through Yukio Mishima’s novel. From there we went into the wonderful Ryoan-ji with its evocative dry garden made from gravel and 15 strategically placed stones. After lunch we toured Kyoto Palace before heading to the city centre to wander through the street markets and nearby shopping streets.
Leaving Kyoto, we headed up 1000 metres into the mountains at Koyasan, where we walked through 1000 year old cedar trees and thick snow, visiting the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism before settling into the Ekoin Monastery for the night. Our rooms were traditional Japanese style, and the food vegan, which created an amazing atmosphere. We woke early to sub-zero temperatures and two religious services, one based on the chanting of the sutra, the other based on the burning of worldly desires through fire ritual, before descending the mountain and heading to Osaka Castle and the bullet train back to Tokyo.
Our last full day took us north of Tokyo to the beautifully decorated Toshogu Shrine at Nikko, and then to the town of Mashiko, recently twinned with St. Ives in Cornwall, where we visited a working pottery, as well as house of the world famous potter Hamada, who with Bernard Leach did so much to revitalise pottery in the UK.
In none of the above has food been mentioned! We had a splendid variety of Japanese food, from the obvious sushi, to tempura and okonomiyaki, as well as wonderful buffets with their soups, seafood and salads. It was truly a trip of a lifetime!