Matsumoto

07/21/2013 04:38

When I woke up this morning I decided that I would have an American breakfast because soba and miso are a bit harsh foods to have right in the morning.  I understand now why Japanese people don't usually eat breakfast.  I also learned that I only like hard boiled eggs.  Any other boiled egg is not bueno.  After breakfast we all headed to Matsumoto Castle.  It is the oldest warior castel in Japan.  It was built in the 15 century and was preserved in 1950 for viewing purposes.  There are 6 floors but from the outside it looks like only 5 floors.  The 3rd floor is hidden so that warriors can meet in private.  The stairs from the 4th to 5th floor are very steep. They are angled at 61 degrees so as to prevent the enemy from entering and protect the emporer.  It is also surrounded by a large moat to protect the castle incase of fire.  

During the Meiji restoration of Japan, a lot of the historical castles were burned or destroyed.  Very few survived.  Mastumoto was in danger of being destoyed but someone purchased it in 1872 to rescue the castle from destruction.  In 1902 a middle school principal donated a large sum towards it's restoration. 

When walking inside the castle you must take off your shoes and carry them in a plastic bag.  The steep stairs have carpet added for safety and there are workers monitoring the stairs in case of emergency.  Thankfully, no one was injured today.  

After viewing the castle I viewed a tea ceremony.  We paid our fee and once we sat we were handed sakura mochi (cherry blossom flavored rice cake) to eat.  The tea is a bit bitter so the mochi acts as a sweetener for your taste buds since it has a strong after taste.  After we finished eating the sakura mochi they gave us the green tea to drink.  They forgot to give me a cup so I asked where mine was and they were so apologetic.  They felt really bad and kept saying "Gomen-nasai" (I am very sorry).  When you recieve the bowl of tea, you have to rotate the bowl clockwise 3 times.  Then try to drink the tea in 3 sips and when you are finished, rotate the bowl counter clockwise 3 times.  After viewing the tea ceremony they allowed me to take a photo with the tea master.  It may not sound like much, but it is a very big deal to have your picture taken with the tea master.  He only let us because they forgot to give me my tea.

We went into the Matsumoto museum and walked around for a little while because we did not have much time to wonder around.  They had bowls and weapons and farming tools that have dated back to 30,000 BC.  It was quite amazing.  The funniest part of the museum would have to be the giant penis statues.  Yep, statues.  For some reason or another, Japan is very sexual.  It's in alot of the history and literature, but seeing giant penis statues was really funny.  I wanted to take a picture so I could show everyone but the museum wouldn't allow photos.

We then headed to a miso factory.  Miso is a soybean paste.  It is fermented for several months up to three years.  The older the miso, the richer the flavor. Miso will also change colors as it ages.  When miso is less than one year old, it is called shiroi miso meaning white miso and when it has aged 3 years it is called aka miso meaning red miso.  Although miso never actually gets white, it is very light in color and easily distinguishable from the red colored miso.  We were served a lunch made entirely out of foods with miso.  Even miso ice cream.  All the food was delicious and I was really enjoying everything.  The miso ice cream tasted like mocha ice cream.  I started to have an allergic reaction to the food and I thought it was the ice cream. I was having difficulty breathing, my chest felt like was being compressed and my skin flushed and started breaking out. I was thinking that perhaps maybe there was actually caffiene in it after all.  I immediately went to tell the program director of what was happening and she gave me a benedryl right away.  They gave me cold water and sat me infront of a cooling fan to help calm the reaction down.  They spoke with the chef and asked about all the ingrediaents to find out what could have caused this reaction.  Nothing I had contained caffiene.  So that meant that It had to be something I had never had before.  They started asked what exactly it was that I ate.  Everything at my table I had had before.  I have eaten miso soup, miso onigiri, salad, bread, soy sause, the only thing I never tried before was shichijoji (seven flavored chili powder).  Once I said that it was my first time eating the chili powder, the chef said that it's common for Japanese people who are allergic to caffiene to be also allergic to certain chili spices.  Now that I know, I will never have chili powder on anything ever again.  It was a very scary situation, but I'm glad I'm ok.  Benedryl really helped.

Then we headed for our long drive back to Tokyo.  It took 5 hours because of the heavy traffic on Sunday.  Many people visit Mt. Fuji on weekends which was near by to Tokyo.  We watched Torotoro anime in Japanese.  I actually understood most of the movie.  Then we watched most of Spirited Away on the bus.  The movie screen appearing was surprising.  Did not expect that to actually happen.  

I am now at my hotel I will be staying at for the rest of the duration of the program.  Kichijoji Tokyu Inn.  A coupld of us walked around to find something to eat for dinner but I was still not feeling so well from the reaction I had earlier so I just purchased a few things then went back to the hotel.  I thought I would try to find something on TV to watch but today was apparently election day in Japan so all that was on the television programs was the results.  But it looks like one of the guys is winning by a landslide.

I'm starting to feel a little out of place in Japan.  Before it was just the initial reaction to being in a new place and now I am realizing that I don't know hardly any Japanese, my customs are completely different from Japan's customs, and there are no similarities in the food here.  Things are seeming out of place and I'm feeling quite down and almost wanting to go home.  Right now even I'm wanting to cry.  I'm guessing this is what they call culture shock.