Another weekend was approaching and I seemed to have no plans other than to stay in my dorm and relax. Nonetheless, as I was talking to my Vietnamese friend about what to do, she told me about an adventure to Awaji and Toku island she was going to do with other dorm friends. The idea seemed highly intriguing to me and when she told me there was a possible spot for another person I did not hesitate to take the opportunity. What was unique about this one particularly was that this was a road trip. One of our Japanese room mentors was going to rent a car and drive us around. It’s not every day you can find a local Japanese person who is willing to give a personal tour of the many beautiful spots Japan has to offer.
As I usually ride on buses or trains as a means for transportation, it was indeed different going through Japan in a car for a couple of hours. It was then that I learned of a different Japanese driving custom – they flash their hazard lights twice as a means to thank when another driver lets them pass. In Puerto Rico, they just wave their hand as a means to thank.
On the way, we realized there wasn’t enough time to go see Toku Island, so we headed towards Awaji, which was where we were going to stay. One of the most impressive things was the fact that we had to pass through Naruto Bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in the world and the one that connects mainland Japan to these other islands. The view while passing the bridge was simply mesmerizing. You could see the vast sea from both sides.
Our first stop was indeed in the town called Naruto, which is also the name for one of the most popular animes to come from Japan. Here, I finally discovered how the name of the protagonist is derived from. Being Naruto the location in Japan, such characters last name is Uzumaki. What’s interesting about the place Naruto is that its known for whirlpools, and thus the shape that whirlpools make is called Uzumaki. In addition, the insignia of his village has the same spiral shape that one can also associate to his affinity to ramen as the Japanese fish cakes (Narutomaki), found in ramen are also spiral shaped.
By the time we arrived at the place where we were going to stay it was already nighttime. We had known the place had a barbeque and so we decided to buy some meat and cook it there. As we began to prepare we realized we forgot to buy some seasonings and materials to cook. However, the Japanese lady who rented us the place was so nice and kind that she gave us what we needed and even gifted us with an extra onion, as we only had one. As we continued to cook, I was in charge of the potatoes, while others were in charge of preparing the meat, barbeque or doing a salad. Despite the fact the weather was a bit chilly already, as winter was coming, we all went to the table which was outside near the barbeque and ate together. The meal was scrumptious and despite not knowing how to cook that well, I managed to make some fine potatoes.
As the meal was finished, one of my friends suggested to do a bonfire on a nearby beach and it was then that we began to search for enough wood in order to build it. Afterwards, we gathered all our drinks, snacks, and wood, and went on our way to the beach. However, as none of us knew the way there, the house owner had to guide us. It was here that the friend who suggested the bonfire was able to light it up and we stayed the remainder of the night relaxing and talking about life and our experiences.
As the next day approached, we had decided to drive to Kobe, which was on the way back and do some sightseeing. Being the capital of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe was particularly famous for its cut of beef and steak, Chinese market, and hot springs. We did some sightseeing through the port city tower and then toured through Chinatown. Eating Kobe beef was a must and so we enjoyed some steak burgers. As a last stop in Kobe, we decided to refresh ourselves in a traditional Japanese onsen. Being the second time in it, I already knew the process and did not feel as lost as before. Despite not staying that much time as we had to return to the dorm, we had a relaxing time. Lastly, upon arriving to our town, we had some delicious noodles, Yakisoba, and Japanese pancakes, Okonomiyaki.