Since having arrived home I have looked back incredibly deeply at my final days in Japan (inebtween sleeping and meeting friends and family eager to see me.)
From riding commuter bikes through countryside with new friends, to dancing in an awa dance festival and the excitement of the closing ceremony, the last few days in Japan were definately some of the best. After the culture module was over, the last activity I took part in was calligraphy, before winding down, packing up, and attending the closing ceremony, an evening with such a beautiful sunset that it made us wonder whether god wanted to make the night even more emotional. With speeches from the UN executive and head of the scout association of Japan and performances by many great Japanese performers the closing ceremony was one to remember (even if the live feed was cut at the end due to the foul language of one act).
The next day we woke early and travelled to Tokushima. A beautiful city with ancient architecture and a modern city vibe, Tokushima city is an amazing place to be. We spent our first night in a hostel in Tokushima city and found ourselves on tatami mats in quintessential Japanese rooms with paper walls and shutters. That night was easily the most comfortable I had had for a very long time!
The next morning we woke up and split into two groups, one with 9 girls and nine boys (group A) and my group, consisting of 18 boys (group B) group A left to explore a nearby mountain (named “the eyebrow mountain”) and try on some local clothes such as princesses kimonos and samurai armor. Group B left to Naruto city, of similar size to Leeds it is a bustling place and we joined some cyclists in its outskirts and rode a cycle route between sake and soy sauce factories and Meiji shrines and temples. It was a few small kilometres but on rickety old commuter bikes which we had been given, keeping your balance was hard enough!! It is fair to say that a lot of fun was had on the bikes, and everyone was ready for the hearty lunch we were given. After a short bus ride to the sea, we were prepared soben noodles fresh from a bamboo tube which you fished them out if as they were washed past on a wave of water. As well as the noodles, we were served sticky rice balls, pork with a spicy sauce and vegetables.
We all enjoyed a quick dip in the water (spotting lots of jellyfish) before it was time to go to our nights accommodation in Naruto.
At around 7 that evening, we hopped into buses and cars which took us into central Naruto where we enjoyed the atmosphere of the awa odori dance festival there. We were given the best seating at the dance, but after a while decided instead to leave the seating and head into the streets before having a good attempt ourselves. I’m not sure how pleased the people who paid for good seats were! We were even on live TV!
The next morning we were awakened by the sounds of children from a local primary school / daycare. They all wanted to play games with us and were, like most kids, incredibly active. After playing games of duck duck goose and ladders (in Japanese and English) we had to say goodbye to our newfound friends. After a quick speech by the mayor and tour of the prefectural offices, we left Tokushima, and Japan, travelling for 35 hours to finally reach home, and our own beds, and natural air con.
I’ll never forget the experiences of Japan and I hope someday to return to the beautiful country that I left just one week ago.