2015 excursions highlights: juniors

The juniors go to Shirakawa-go!

Darya R (11), Writer

The juniors were up and ready to go by seven a.m. on the second day of excursions to head to a UNESCO world heritage site, Shirakawa – go. The juniors were the first to enter this village, before all the tour buses started to roll in.

Shirakawa -go is famous for its Gassho – zukuri  farmhouses. Gassho zukuri translates into “constructed into hands like prayer, as the steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer,”according to the Japan Guide.

The juniors were fascinated by this site, as they were able to walk in a village where people, even today, live their daily lives. “There is a reason Shirakawa-go is one of UNESCO’s heritage sites. The history is preserved differently here. Instead of looking at artifacts you can’t touch, or reading long paragraphs you won’t remember, walking through Shirakawa-go is like walking through the 20th century,” said Theint Theint (11).

Students were also able to enter the “Kanda” house, which was an example of the houses that people lived in, and were able to walk from floor to floor and imagine what it would be like to live in such houses. “What I loved about Shirakawa-go is how different it was from Tokyo. We think we know Japan so well since we live in the center of its capital, but in reality we’re rarely exposed to true Japanese (traditional) culture,” says Hana (11).

Another highlight of visiting Shirakawa-go was the local cuisine. Inside the village, some of the local people started to sell their local food, due to the large number of tourists that started to come after Shirakawa-go was chosen as a world heritage site. Some of the popular foods included the seventy-yen mitarashi dangos, or cooked beef on sticks. “The goma-miso mitarashidango was a unique taste but wasn’t what I expected. It was sweet, instead of salty which is what I was expecting. The soy sauce mitarashidango was absolutely delicious. I also loved the gyu-kushi! Although I only had one bite of it, it was the juiciest, most delicious bite I had ever had.The food was definitely one of the highlights of the excursions!” said Megu (11). Just like Megu, most students found that their wallets were much lighter on the shinkansen back home.

Unlike previous years, the juniors this year decided to make tie dye bandanas during homeroom and bring them all to excursions to wear as a grade. The colorful bandanas, either worn or tied on bags, were able to unite the grade. Many students took cute photos in their bandanas and enjoyed having an accessory that matched with the other students. The bandanas were a vibrant addition to the already cheerful class, and were most worn on the second day of excursions. “I thought that the bandanas united the grade because we all carried a piece of our grade with us all the time everywhere we went,” said Madeline (11). “Also the bandanas made it easier for the chaperones to find and headcount the students in crowded places,” added Mirei (11).