Naomi at Akita Week 6: きりたんぽ and 栗駒山

This past weekend we had a four-day weekend due to the AIU Festival!! It was two long days of food, performances, games, food, and food. Many students/clubs came together and set up food stands. There was even an Okinawa Soba (my favorite food from home) stand! Some of our friends were selling food as well like cinnamon waffles, which were amazing by the way, hot dogs, curry udon, fried meat/cheese/pumpkin, and bubble tea. I was able to go on the outside of a bridge connecting two of our buildings to snap a picture of some of the stands. Unfortunately, I had to crouch down and go through some barriers that were filled with spider webs but it was worth it. The web did get on my cap but I was able to refrain from yelling. Also, halfway through the festival, Patrik decided to take a break and re-dyed his hair blue. I helped him out since he couldn’t see the back of his head. When we returned to the festival everyone pointed out how blue his hair was and of course, he responded with “I swam across the China Sea and back and the ocean rubbed off.” Oh, wait, he had another response that is my favorite: “I married a mermaid.”

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Before we headed out the first day, I went to Patrik’s room to get my daily dose of coffee, of course. Unfortunately, he ran out of cup noodle containers so I had to use an actual mug. After inhaling some coffee, we met up with some other friends and walked around. ワン (One), the school’s mascot, was walking around so of course, I told Patrick to take a picture with it. This is the pose he chose.

I took a couple of pictures of some of the events/performances that were held during the festival. Well, the first picture is of two of my friends from Colorado, Isabella and Annabelle, practicing for their dance performance. They’re both in a hip-hop club. Patrik tried practicing with them for a minute, as he was in the hip-hop club for about a week before he dropped it. He couldn’t recall any of the dance moves though so he ended up just moving in weird motions. There were about 5-8 different dance groups that performed that night. One of the groups danced to Michael Jackson, which made me super excited. I was dancing towards Patrik while we were standing in the crowd and he just laughed at me; it was a great feeling. On the second day of the festival, I woke up super early…well, 10:00am, to watch some of my friends perform. Two of my friends that attend AIU sang a couple of American songs and it was beautiful. Bea’s voice was so soothing. Afterwards, I went up to them and saw Bea holding a stuffed animal of Woody’s horse from Toy Story. I think the horses name is Bullseye? It was so random but apparently, Bullseye is their third member of their small band who couldn’t attend. I thought it was cute and worth mentioning.

The second day of the festival also started with me going to Patrik’s room to drink more coffee. Well, I went to his room after watching my friends perform earlier in the morning. I told him that I was going to buy a bowl of きりたんぽ (Kiritanpo) for breakfast because it was cheap and also something I needed to try while living in Akita. Patrik still ate breakfast though: a container of yogurt with his milk coffee and bread chunks mixed in. That right there is the definition of poor college life. He still ended up buying a bowl of Kiritanpo though, as did another friend that joined us. Kiritanpo is a famous dish in the Akita prefecture. Freshly cooked rice is mashed and wrapped around bamboo sticks, forming a cylinder shape, then toasted. That’s the main part of the dish but there are also mushrooms, chicken carcass, green onion, ginger, shirataki noodles, and burdock root. Two ladies working behind the stand tried talking to us about the chewy smashed rice. They wanted to teach us that it was made of rice. Patrik and I understand some Japanese so we were able to respond; they were so 元気 (lively) and their smiles made our day. Griff, Patrik, and I took our bowls and went to the side to eat our bowls of Kiritanpo. It wasn’t too cold out but the hot soup was perfect. The three of us finished our bowls so quickly then headed over to buy some cinnamon waffles.

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My friend, Isabella, invited me to join the Wandervogel Club. I ended up joining along with a couple of other friends and man, what a great decision. Emil, the leader of the club, sets up monthly trips and this past week we went hiking on 栗駒山 (Mountain Kurikoma). It was the perfect time to go because of all the fall colors. We still had an hour left to drive before we made it to the mountain but made a pit stop for a bathroom break and the view was already so beautiful. Takao (right of the picture above) took my camera and snapped pictures of everyone. Every time I’m around him with my camera he asks to take pictures. He’s even thinking of buying his own now!

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Emil told us that it would be -3 degrees Celusius at the top of the mountain so everyone obviously dressed in thick layers. I was wearing pants under a pair of sweatpants, two pairs of socks, a t-shirt, long sleeve, sweater, rain jacket, and jean jacket. I need to buy a winter jacket…but yes, the point is we were all wearing a lot of layers of clothing. Probably 13 seconds after we started hiking, everyone started stripping off their clothes. Halfway up, some of us were sweating. I even sweated through my shirt and onto my backpack. I’m not going to lie, I’m very much out of shape so hiking up the steeps parts of the path was slightly difficult. I was messing around and jokingly yelling while making the trek. Okka started singing “Marry Me” by Bruno Mars and some people started joining in. Isabella practically free-styled for some of the trek. I think the pain from hiking was getting to us. The pain was definitely worth the view climbing up though. The vibrant colors of the trees were beautiful. The way the trees were set up made it look pixelated in some areas of the mountains. We started getting higher than the clouds. We even saw a helicopter in the distance surrounded by clouds and it was the coolest thing; I wish I took a picture of it but my camera wouldn’t be able to zoom in that close.

Look at the clouds! It was such a beautiful sight. We were all so relieved when we finally made it to the top. The last minute of the hike was the hardest because of the steepness but we all forced our way up. As soon as we got to the top we took a quick group picture with the flags that Emil made. A minute later, we immediately started getting cold and put back on the clothes we initially stripped off. Emil brought some pots to boil hot water for everyone so we could all eat cup noodles. We stopped at Family Mart (convenience store) before driving over to the mountain so we could buy some breakfast and cup noodles. Oh man, it was delicious. Takao was sharing his snacks with us while we waited for the water to boil. My mouth was watering for the noodles though. The hot spicy soup was delicious. It warmed up my fingers momentarily so I was able to use my chopsticks correctly. For the next five minutes, everyone was slurping away at their noodles.

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After we made it back down the mountain, we realized that we were two hours behind the schedule Emil set up for the day. Fortunately, no one was in a hurry to get back on campus so we all agreed that we would go to the onsen (hot springs) and get dinner together. We drove about an hour to the onsen. It was a life changing experience. I recommend everyone go. It may be uncomfortable for you to undress completely in front of other people but here no one cares so it gives you ease. The girls and boys are obviously separate so it’s not bad at all. Isabella and I practically ran into the locker room after paying our 600-yen. We were both so cold and I know Isabella had been waiting all week to go to the onsen. She was practically yelling “ONSEN!” with every step she took up that mountain as motivation. It was my first time so I didn’t know how hot the water would be; my skin was on fire! It was so refreshing though; I felt like a new person. We had an hour in the onsen and I knew I wasn’t able to take the heat for that long. I was hanging off the ledge with my arms hanging on the side. Isabella ended up just laying on the ledge so I decided to join. The cool wind felt wonderful. I still can’t believe I was comfortable laying out completely naked like that in the freezing cold. Afterwards, we all took a shower and headed to a restaurant. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it served set Japanese meals. I sat with Takao, Adiya, Bea, and Isabella. Takao, Adiya, and I all got カツ丼 with a side of Miso soup. カツ丼 is a popular Japanese food with a bowl of rice topped with deep-fried pork cutlet, egg, and sautéed onions. The egg is cooked in a sweet and salty broth as well and it’s so delicious. I wanted to eat another bowl. After dinner, we drove another hour and a half back on campus. We didn’t get back till 12am…we left campus at 6am the day before! All of us were so tired but it was worth it. I can’t wait till next month’s trip!

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