Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gunma Trip

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went with our friend's family to Gunma prefecture.  Gunma is an inaka (countryside) area of Japan.  The family's house that we stayed at was really in the middle of nowhere.  In most places I have been to in Japan, it's easy to find a train station or convenience store.  Where we were, it seemed like there was nothing for miles!  It honestly reminded me of the setting in 隣のトトロ (My Neighbor Totoro).

We arrived late on Friday night and went to bed shortly after we got there.  On Saturday, we got up early to pick vegetables from the farm property next to the house so that we could use them for tempura for lunch.

I found this cute little frog among the crops.
Besides the farm property, the grandparents lived next door it a really old, traditional style Japanese house.  We got to see the inside of it and it was really cool.  Gunma seems to be a pretty traditionally oriented area so we did an interesting thing for lunch that day besides picking the fresh vegetables for tempura.

For the main part of our lunch, we had nagashi somen!!! It's something I really wanted to try in Japan after seeing a funny scene abut it in an anime called Nichijou.  I'll just let you figure out what it is as you read as not to ruin the surprise.

In order to have our nagashi somen experience, we first had to cut down some bamboo... and then cut the whole thing in half.

Then, we cleared out all of the partitions...

This whole process probably took about an hour or more and it was hard work to do in the sun but definitely worth it for the finished result which is...

So basically you attach a hose to the end of the bamboo and put the somen noodles in it so that everyone else can try to catch them before dipping them in the tsuyu soup.  It was a lot harder than it looked, especially when they didn't put a lot of noodles at once.

I did my best.
So much somen!

It was really hot out when we did this, but eating the noodles from the cold water was really refreshing.  I thought it was so much fun and would love to do it again even though setting it up was a lot of work.

After lunch, we went to the river nearby so that the kids could swim.

This looked like so much fun and I wished I had brought proper clothing so I could go swimming.  Instead I just stood in the water for a few minutes.  It was surprisingly cold even though it was ridiculously hot out that day.  I think the water came from the mountains so that's probably why.

Later, we went to an onsen (bath house) in the mountains for a few hours.  It was really nice to sit in hot water pools outside and have a beautiful view of the mountains and river around us.

After dinner, we played with fireworks.  Maybe "sparklers" is a more accurate term.  I've seen these in stores here a lot lately but never tried them before.  It seems like each package comes with a few different colors/types.

I actually took like a billion photos, most of which were 300x better than these, but I don't want to post the ones with their faces displayed clearly without the family's permission first and only Chris has their contact info so these will have to suffice.

I had so much fun on this trip.  It was nice to get what felt like a super authentic Japanese experience compared to anything I could ever plan on my own... almost like the homestay I never had!  Most people who visit Japan don't ever make it to inaka places like Gunma but I think that to have the truly accurate Japan experience, it's important to leave Tokyo and spend time in the Japanese countryside too!

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