Let me start by saying thank you to the people who have given me the opportunity to become a tourism ambassador! To be honest I was anxious whether I will get this role or not but luckily I was able to get in together with other 24 ambassadors! So again thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.
So this tour started early as I expected. Normally I am not a morning person but since I was really excited to know what is stored for us I walk up earlier than expected. The itinerary for the first tour was filled with activities and I was wondering if we could finish all this in time, but then again Japanese people have really good sense of time unlike as Filipinos we are really bad with time management thus we coined up the word “Filipino time” meaning fashionably late.
The trip from Sendai to Shiogama was roughly around 40 minutes but I did not feel it since a lot of things happened inside the bus. By the way I really love the bus! It is so clean, comfortable and have a very big leg room, which I always look for when I am travelling. Aside from that there are food and drink holders which is very convenient when you want to bring food and beverage while travelling. After discussing the objectives of what being an ambassador means, everyone was given a chance to introduce himself or herself. To be honest I did not catch all the names of my fellow ambassadors but thankfully I have a lot time to catch up on this.
So now let me talk about what happened during this year. The first stop of our tour was to visit Fresh wholesale market in Shiogama. Japan is famous for its seafood harvest so I was really looking forward on what this market has to offer. The market did not fail me at all! There are tons of sea foods everywhere! From shrimp to crab to whale,etc. name it and they have it! The thing that catch my attention here is the some stalls offer taste trials. For example if the stall is selling tuna they have a slice tuna already waiting for you to taste! And my tuna was really delicious! I am actually allergic to sea foods especially if it has this fishy or stale like after taste and I did not even taste it at all! All I can taste is the freshness and quality tuna meat that is perfect when combined with shoyu! After seeing how the nice Uncle from the stall cut the higashimono we have some time left to go around the rest of the market! I was really surprised that the prices of these products were so affordable as compared to buying them in the super market or groceries! So now I have an idea that whenever I want to pig out for sea foods all I have to do is travel to Shiogama. The only thing that I am a bit anxious about is I do not know how to haggle with the vendors since my Japanese is not yet that good and I could not read the writings on each sea food products. So maybe I need a little bit of help with the reading part. I hope the Market administrator will find time to put a big signage regarding the product prices in both Japanese and English so that the foreigners can also have a better idea of what the people are selling.
After feasting ourselves with delicious higashimono is time to head to Matsushima by taking the ferry. Marine gate is filled with different restaurants, omiyage shops, and other food shops which the passengers can enjoy when they are waiting for their boat ride. As expected buying tickets and falling in line is not a problem since Japanese people are really organize and are very costumer friendly. Again I think if I am a total newbie in this place and has zero knowledge on Nihongo I think I will have a hard time buying the tickets since I did not notice anything in English or maybe it is too small to see or not prominent enough to be notice. I hope the brochures given to the passengers were also filled with info about the different islands that they will see. Since during the despite having an audio background it is difficult to hear the speaker especially if you are outside the sitting area. The entire trip felt like a refuge for me since I am enjoying the scenery of Mother Nature while interacting with some of the ambassadors. Despite the cold weather and the smell of gasoline I still enjoyed the trip because the beauty of what I am seeing already compensated for the misgivings of the trip. I did not felt that it was 50 minutes at all!
Arriving at Matsushima the first activity was to cook sasa-kamaboko. I was expecting that we will do it from scratch but then I realize maybe it will take a lot of time thus we can’t do the rest of the planned activities. It was really fun watching the sasa-kamaboko cooked! I did not know that is rises, expands and changes back to its original color it was so fun like watching an anime come to life from the manga! Eating sasa-kamaboko filled my apetite despite not having a breakfast prior to the tour. Know I am really thinking that Japanese loves to eat but the they eat foods that are low in calories therefore they don’t gain weight apart from having genetic traits that I think prevent them from getting fat! Now I am envious!!! I forgot what the store’s name is since I could not read the writings on the wall and again there are no English translations anywhere! So for them to attract foreigners to buy their products they have to find a way to let the consumers know what they are selling since people will not buy products which they do not have any idea what it is! The plus point of the store is that they have a drinking station for teas that is perfect with the sasa-kamaboko (I think sake will be a perfect match too!) Sasa-kamaboko is also affordable so students like my can also enjoy it! But I think cooking or roasting sasa-kamaboko is only done in Matsushima even if I see this in Sendai so that means people will find an excuse to visit Matsushima whenever they are craving for this Miyagi delicacy!
Now that we are full from the sasa-kamaboko and tea we are ready to tap into our artistry! Inside the colorful grounds of Entsuin temple there is a place where you can go and create your own prayer beads or juzu. Again I realize that the place is not tourist friendly; meaning there are no English translation everywhere. Even though there are temple staff present at the site it will still be a little bit difficult to finish the bracelet. So I am suggesting to put some translation in the “how to make you prayer beads guide” and also put the meaning of the color of the stones. Visitors might want to create their own beads according to their heart’s desire. I enjoyed making my beads even though it took me some time to figure which color I want to put since I am aiming for the meaning of the color of the beads. I wonder how long does the Auntie from the temple been doing this stuff because she is really a pro in putting the bracelet together! The rest of our time was spent wandering around the grounds of Entsuin temple. It is so peaceful and you can feel the tranquility while walking in the garden and in the woods. Again I commend the Japanese people for keeping their history intact. We are very lucky to visit this place because we can see the different colors of the leaves as it embraces autumn. There was a place field with spades and diamonds ornaments which I think was one of the memorial site for Date Mansamune. He must be very much adored by the people back then and I think it’s because of how he value his constituents, his friends and his environment. The flowers in the rose garden and the Japanese moss garden are very lovely too! This place is a feast in the eyes and easy on the budget!
Walking around was a bit tiring and to be honest we were all hungry. Everybody was excited about the food they are going to serve us. The restaurant was just a few walks away from Entsuin garden so we only waited for a bit. At first I thought it was a small restaurant but when we went upstairs there are so many long tables meant for a lot of people to come and eat together. Our set includes sashimi (tuna and squid), sasa-kamaboko, soup garnish with seaweeds, a bowl of slices chicken and fish balls. Everything is delicious! My tummy was really full! I was to hear from my other co- ambassadors about the amount of food but maybe they really eat a lot during day time which is the other way around for me I eat less during the day but eat more at night.
Moving on, now that we are fully recharge our next stop was Zuiganji. Zuiganji was built during the Kamakura era. It has been one of the most important Zen temple in Japan but it came to a breaking point. That is when Date Mansamune came to the rescue. He rebuilt the temple again to its glorious days! Everybody must be very happy when the temple was put back into his proper form. Though the grounds and the temples are undergoing renovation, the surrounding still gave me a very dramatic and historical feeling. At one point I was confuse in one of the markers nearby the Zuiganji temple caves because the wheel of the train looked like a dumbbell. Thanks to one of my co-ambassador she told me that the site was for the worker of the railway. That is when I realize that this is a wheel of train and not a dumbbell. Since the temples are being renovated, the Kuri Kitchen, which is one of the most important National Treasure of Japan serve as a storage ground for the important artifacts from the different temple. I am still at awe with the drawings and painting from the wall especially the peacock room. It is really beautiful! It felt like I was transported in the olden days! I was imagining I am a princess during that era (me and my big imagination)! I must commend the Lady from the temple because she volunteered to guide us during our entire visit. And mind you she told us the stories behind each item in English! So hands down to her! The most unforgettable stories that I heard was when we were in the room with the small statues of the samurai. She said this are the samurais who committed suicide during the time when Date Mansamune and his son died. 20 samurai committed hara-kiri or suicide by blade. Gosh I did not understand why they have to do this! But ok props to their dedication and loyalty to the former feudal lord. Luckily since the grounds are being renovated, we were allowed to visit the grave of Date Mansamune’s wife Megohime Mansamune which is located on top of the hill passing by the latter’s abode. Some of the places we visited like the art museum, we were not allowed to take photos so I don’t have anything to show to my friends. But I understand that this pieces are very delicate so, I will just tell a lot of my friends to visit Zuiganji temple instead.
To cap off our first tour we went to Sendai’s Uminomori Aquarium. I think this is the first aquarium here in Sendai and they have a lot sea animals. All of them are a joy to watch! Unfortunately my battery was drained and I forgot to bring my power bank. I will definitely come back again, this timed around together with my labmates to take more pictures to see those adorable sea lions once again.
Highs and lows of the tour…
- The trip was really well planned and on the dot! All the schedules were followed according to time.
- Meeting other people out of my comfort zone. Lately it takes a lot of time for me to warm up towards other people. Maybe my socialization skills are rusty. Therefore another reason to be thankful about being an ambassador.
- All the places are beautiful! It is unfair that my camera cannot translate all the beauty that I am seeing!
- To all the organizers you really did a great job in making this activities come together! Japanese people are truly hardworking people and they always give 101% percent when it comes to work. I am looking forward to get to know you all.
- Time is not enough to go around and explore the grounds of Zuiganji and Sendai Uminomori Aquarium.
- Not enough English translations, which we will be a bit difficult for foreigners who have zero knowledge in Nihongo.
Almost complete! Ambassadors from different parts of the world come together to help promote Miyagi’s tourism! Looking forward to know you all well! Till our next journey!