The first weekend in November, my family from Kumamoto came to visit me for the day in an area called Tenjin. This was my grandmother's little sister, and her daughter. It was so nice to see them! I had my Great Aunt Yoko almost ten years ago, but I did not meet her daughter before. They took me to go shopping at Ikea, and then to look at some Hakata weaving. It was a little crazy that day, since it was a holiday and there was a MILLION people everywhere we went. I was also suprised by the size of Ikea... when they originally told me they were taking me there, I was assuming it was just the size of a normal store, but this one was its own shopping-mall! After buying a few things there, we returned from Ikea back to Tenjin where we tracked down a store that sold Hakata-ori. It was really amazing for me since I have done weaving before! The quality and beauty of it, really is not captured well in the photos, but maybe you can get an idea.
Of course, right after this Halloween Party on the following Saturday, I had another Halloween Party at my dormitory. It took me two days to plan and prepare the food, but there was enough for everyone and they enjoyed to games. I introduced them to bobbing to apples (sort of, it was more like suspended apples that were switched out each round), a chopstick game, and a game of mafia (or in Japan, yakuza). It was a ton of laughs, and aside from the very bruised apples, I think everyone else had a good time. Also, a nice thing in Japan is that afterwards everyone will help you clean up before they leave. Maybe it was just my particular group of friends who did this, but I really appreciated their help setting up and taking down things (especially the really tall guy who could get stuff off the ceiling).
The week after this, I participated in a day-trip to Saga, Japan. The trip was organized by the international students club, and over all it was a fairly good experience. My only complaint is that the weather was really lousy, but what can you do about that? Our first stop was at a place called Kunenan:
Kunenan (nine-year hermitage), a national scenic beauty spot, is famous for its beautiful autumn leaves. It used to be the retreat of a successful Saga businessman Itami Yataro. The name is derived from the fact that its construction took 9 years beginning 1900 (33rd year of the Meiji Era) under the guidance of Hotori, a priest of the Zen Buddhism sect Jodo Shinshu. Azaleas and maple trees are planted around the Sukiya-style residence (traditional tea house architecture) .The garden uses a Japanese traditional gardening method Shakkei (Borrowed scenery) incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden, in this case the Chikushi Plain. Naturally growing trees and moss, which are found throughout the garden, create a quaint and elegant atmosphere. It is open to the public for only 9 days in the middle of November every year, which is the best season for autumn leaves. Today, Kunenan is owned by the Saga Prefectural Government.
This place was indeed very beautiful, but with the weather it was cold, wet, and muddy to venture around. Plus, with all the tourists stopping to take photos, the stay at Kunenan was nearly an hour late! They had to cut lunch-time short at our next stop at a park... but honestly the park was not too enjoyable due to the weather.
This park did however, have a really nice remake of a famous German building. I managed to get a picture of it while I was eating lunch with some students from Mexico (which by the way, I sprayed myself with salad dressing as we were talking. It was extremely embarrassing). At the park we took a large group photo, and quickly moved on to our last stop of the day trip.
Finally we arrived at Arita Porcelain Park, just as the rain stopped. This place would have been the best stop of the trip, if it hadn't been so creepy:
The porcelain of Arita Village has had an influence on the world of porcelain as well as appealing to European royalty since the 17th century. The first thing that grabs one’s attention is the symbol of the park, the Zwinger Palace, a beautiful reproduction of a palace referred to as a spectacular example of German baroque architecture of the early 18th century. Inside the palace artwork which was exported at the end of the Edo period and until the beginning of the Meiji period (19th Century) are on display. Also situated on the park grounds are other amenities including a studio where visitors can try their hand at making porcelain, tours of a refined sake, shochu (Japanese liquor similar to vodka) and beer factory, and taste testing sake. There is also an eating and drinking facility serving western and Japanese dishes, an all-you-can-eat buffet, coffee shop and a bakery, and is where one can spend a relaxing day.
The whole group got to paint their own little porcelain tea cup however they wanted, which was a lot of fun! However, the rest of the places in the park outside of the porcelain store, was closed... in fact we were the only people there. This is what made the theme park so creepy. I was really disappointed about the bakery being closed too! Who in the world decides to have most of the theme park stores closed on Saturday? Shouldn't that be the busiest day of the week? Most of the international students seemed to be having a great time anyways, so maybe it was only me disappointed by the lack of German pastries.
This concluded the day trip, and we arrived back after dark. I met a lot of nice people on this trip, so I hope to be able to run into them from time to time when I can. It's a little difficult on Ito campus to see other international students since the vast majority are at the Hakozaki campus location. However, the few that stay on Ito campus are a very tight-knit group, so when they do get-together, they usually have a good time.
This is all I have to report for now. The conclusion of November will be the campus festival, so I am really looking for to it!