Monday, October 12, 2015

Japanese Pear Picking in Chiba!

Today was such a beautiful day!  It would have been such a waste to stay inside (especially since it was also a holiday), so I decided to go Japanese pear picking!
Takaai Nashi Farm, Chiba
Japanese pears can be found in many supermarkets now, but the actual fruit picking period is quickly coming to a close.  According to many sites, many people can participate in Japanese pear picking from the end of August till the beginning of October.  I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to find a place to go pear picking but after many phone calls I found one that was still open!
Takaai Nashi Farm
Japanese pears, or nashi
About a 10 minute walk from the east exit of Higashi Matsudo Station in Chiba, Takaai Nashi Farm is a small Japanese pear orchard.  It is run by a nice lady who helped me pick the best pears!

Admission into the farm was free, and two pears cost about 300 yen.  I paid about 850 for the pears that I picked, and she even gave me one for free!
Bag of Japanese pears
For those planning on going, definitely call ahead!

Takaai Nashi Farm
Open: 10am-4pm

Sawara Fall Festival!

On October 10th, my friends and I went to Sawara, Chiba, for their biannual town festival!  This festival has a history of more than 300 years.
Onogawa River running through Sawara
Visitors to the Sawara Festival can arrive by boat!
Sawara has two festivals throughout the year, the Fall Festival and the Summer Festival.  It's famous for their towering doll dashi, or festival floats.
Citizen's pulling the doll festival floats.  Some of them weigh more than 2 tons!
Pulling them through the streets of Sawara
Walking around Sawara gives visitors a sense of going back in time, since the shops and buildings haven't changed for hundreds of years.  Many of the shops now are still as they were more than 100 years ago.
Visitors can also arrive by train at Sawara Station
The Sawara Festival (Fall especially) is one of my favorite festivals in Japan, since visitors can see traditional Japan wherever they look.  I always see and learn something new every time that I go!  Plus there is a lot of delicious food here!
Chocolate Banana sold at stall
Sweet Potato Ice Cream! Tasted just like Japanese sweet potato
Fan Dance
Floats lit up at night
Even young children help pull the floats! So cute!
In addition to the doll festival floats, Sawara is also famous for sake and for a shop that makes black soba (buckwheat) noodles.  I've never tried the soba noodles, but their sake is delicious!  If you get a chance, please try their Doburoku sweet sake!

Part 3: Digging for Sweet Potatoes!

On October 3rd, Asahi ALTs participated in the last event of the Asahi rice planting experience, where we got to dig up sweet potatoes and participate in mochi-tsuki, or pounding sticky rice cake.

Digging up the potatoes was pretty fun since we got dig with our hands!  Everyone had a small area where they dug up sweet potatoes. I didn't have many potatoes in my area, but the child who I was next found so many potatoes in his area!!! It was pretty unfair hahaha :P
Japanese sweet potatoes that I dug up
After potato digging we got to see children pounding the sticky rice cake with their big wooden hammer! It was so cute!

We also got a bag of rice!  I'm pretty sure that it was the rice that we had harvested before too! I thought that it was really cool knowing that we had helped harvest the rice that we were given.

Harvested rice

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teacher Trip to Yamanashi

Silver Week officially ended on September 23rd, but I had the 24th and 25th off from work so my coworkers planned a trip to Yamanashi!

I had been to Fuji-Q Highland before, but I had never actually traveled in Yamanashi so I was really excited to go.  I was especially excited to travel with my coworkers since they are awesome!
Good morning, time to get the party started
Playing card games during the bus ride
Since there were 19 of us, we rented a bus.  It was much more convenient than going by train since there were so many of us.  And it meant that we could drink and play games more easily!  My principal had even prepared a quiz for everyone to participate in, and I actually won!!
Here's what I won! A Japanese ukiyo-e drawing
We arrived at Chateau Katsunuma, our first stop on our Yamanashi tour, at about 10 am.  We went on a tour of the winery, where we saw how they bottle the wine and where they store it.  After the tour, we participated in a wine tasting.  I’m not a big wine fan, but I really liked the wine that I tried there!  I even bought one along with their popular scallop snacks.  They also have many kinds of grape juice, so people who don’t/ can’t drink can enjoy the tasting as well.
Starting the tour
Where they bottle the wine
Wine tasting
The next stop was Ichikoen for grape picking and lunch.  They had all-you-can-eat seedless Kyoho grapes, but it was only for 30 minutes.  The grapes were really big and sweet, but I wish that we could have stayed longer than 30 minutes.  After grape picking we went and had lunch!  Ichikoen offers grape picking as well as a barbecue lunch, where you barbecue your own food under the grape vines! 
Going to pick grapes (cut my head out on purpose muahaha)
Under the grape vines
Grapes as big as one's eyeball
Lunch under the grape vines
Time to barbecue
After lunch, we went to Kikyouya to try some of Yamanashi’s famous Shingen-mochi!  They do all-you-can-pack Shingen-mochi for 210 yen, but they were sold out by the time we had arrived!  However, they did have Shingen-mochi ice cream which was delicious!
Shingen-mochi ice cream at Kikyouya, 390 yen
We made our way to Koshu Wasabi Center next, where they had many different wasabi samples.
All the wasabi samples
The next stop was Fugaku Wind Cave.  I think that we were running late by this time though, so we sort of rushed through it so I didn’t get a chance to take a good look inside the cave.  It was pretty cold inside, and the ceiling was very low, so everyone had to squat-walk throughout most of the cave. 
Descent to the cave (sorry for the blurry pic)
Fugaku Wind Cave
After we left the cave, I saw that they were selling corn ice cream, so I decided to try it!  It tasted like corn, but it was still really good!
Corn ice cream, 360 yen
The last stop of the day was at our hotel, Kukuna.  It had a Hawaiian-atmosphere, and it was really nice!  The bath was especially nice!  They have an outdoor bath too, so guests can see Mt. Fuji from the bath on nice days!  After a delicious dinner at Kukuna, we went to bed to prepare for the next day of our trip.
Kukuna room

View from our room
The first stop of our last day in Yamanashi was Oshinohakkai Village.  It was raining pretty hard when we went, so we weren’t able to see Mt. Fuji.  So sad.  So I drowned my sadness in ice cream!  I got the lavender and peach mix, but the lavender was so much more delicious than the peach. 
Oshinohakkai Village
Lavender and peach ice cream, 400 yen
Our last stop in Yamanashi was at Gotemba Outlet.  I guess Japanese people love outlet malls?  At least my coworkers do anyway J  Overall, I had a really awesome time, especially since I rarely get the chance to see my coworkers outside of work!