Culture by day, Sake by night

Anagh Chaudhry (2020) - Japan.jpg

Anagh Chaudhry, Class of 2020

After a grueling 13-hour flight (even longer for those without a direct routing), our 80-strong group of Boothies landed in Osaka to bright, beautiful skies and temperatures at a pleasant 50°F. We began our tour in Nara Park, where the shika-yose (the blowing of a horn) summoned the deer from the forest. These ‘messengers of god’ were quick to devour the rice crackers we offered them. The evening dinner included unlimited sake and other frosty beverages, the first of many times on the trip that we enjoyed what the Japanese call nomihodai, or all-you-can-drink!

Our day trip to Kyoto was jam-packed with activity. Known for its natural beauty, Kyoto’s sights included the Tenryuji Temple with its adjoining bamboo grove, and the Golden Pavilion – Kinkakuji – that housed sacred relics of the Buddha. With our Japanese-style lunch, we had the privilege to watch an exquisite performance by a geiko and maiko (formerly known as geishas). They also played what a game with us called konpira fune fune – as typical B-school students, we were quick to convert it into a drinking game. Our day ended with dressing up in colorful kimonos and visiting the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, with over 1,000 orange torii gates – donated by worshippers in exchange for a granted wish.

A visit to Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park the following day took us back to the tragic events of 1945. Going through physical remains from the atomic blast, as well as the audio-visual accounts of the day, was a stark reminder of the destructive power of nuclear bombs. After taking a short ferry, we then reached Miyajima Island to see the spectacular “floating” torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine.

We left Osaka the next day for Hakone – a mountainous town known for its onsen (hot springs). While many of us were fascinated at the Japanese tradition of taking dips in the springs fully nude, others preferred the privacy of individual rooms. What followed was probably the wildest night of the trip. All of us wore the yukata, a simplified kimono, and were treated to another decadent dinner plus nomihodai. In high spirits, we then ambled over to the karaoke rooms to belt out Booth renditions of ‘Complicated’ and ‘Barbie Girl’. Many of us, especially me, found it difficult to wake up the following morning.

The group in yukata, or simplified kimonos, at a post-onsen dinner with nomihodai

The group in yukata, or simplified kimonos, at a post-onsen dinner with nomihodai

The next few days were spent in Tokyo, where we undertook various activities including:

  1. Shopping in the starry, luxurious streets of Ginza, including the oldest stationery store in the world, Itoya

  2. Drinking at the watering holes of Golden Gai in Shinjuku, where the coziness of each bar is matched only by the sheer number of them (over 250 packed in 5 alleys!)

  3. Maricar - donning Mario suits and taking on the streets of Tokyo in go-karts!

  4. Seeing cherry blossoms by the Meguro River. How lucky are we that we visited Japan the one week of the year when these flowers are in full bloom?

  5. Day trips to Greater Tokyo destinations such as Mt. Takao and Yokohoma

Perhaps the greatest contributors to the success of the Japan trek were our 1Y Japanese trek leaders. Their indomitable spirit in handling logistics, helping us communicate with locals, and providing us more options than we could wrap our head around helped prove that the Japanese are some of the kindest and most efficient people in the world. And who can forget their stirring rendition of Freddie Mercury, complete with vests and fake moustaches!

Overall, us participants were treated to a fantastic week where we explored a bit of everything Japan had to offer: a vast history, varied natural beauty, delicious cuisine, a charming cityscape, and an unlimited choice of nighttime activities. Along the way, we built some everlasting friendships and renewed some old ones. Now that we’re back, can’t wait to test out the Chicago ramen scene!

We left Osaka the next day for Hakone – a mountainous town known for its onsen (hot springs). While many of us were fascinated at the Japanese tradition of taking dips in the springs fully nude, others preferred the privacy of individual rooms. What followed was probably the wildest night of the trip. All of us wore the yukata, a simplified kimono, and were treated to another decadent dinner plus nomihodai. In high spirits, we then ambled over to the karaoke rooms to belt out Booth renditions of ‘Complicated’ and ‘Barbie Girl’. Many of us, especially me, found it difficult to wake up the following morning.

The next few days were spent in Tokyo, where we undertook various activities including:

  1. Shopping in the starry, luxurious streets of Ginza, including the oldest stationery store in the world, Itoya

  2. Drinking at the watering holes of Golden Gai in Shinjuku, where the coziness of each bar is matched only by the sheer number of them (over 250 packed in 5 alleys!)

  3. Maricar - donning Mario suits and taking on the streets of Tokyo in go-karts!

  4. Seeing cherry blossoms by the Meguro River. How lucky are we that we visited Japan the one week of the year when these flowers are in full bloom?

  5. Day trips to Greater Tokyo destinations such as Mt. Takao and Yokohoma

Booth students in all their Maricar finery right before they zoom off in go-karts

Booth students in all their Maricar finery right before they zoom off in go-karts

Perhaps the greatest contributors to the success of the Japan trek were our 1Y Japanese trek leaders. Their indomitable spirit in handling logistics, helping us communicate with locals, and providing us more options than we could wrap our head around helped prove that the Japanese are some of the kindest and most efficient people in the world. And who can forget their stirring rendition of Freddie Mercury, complete with vests and fake moustaches!

Overall, us participants were treated to a fantastic week where we explored a bit of everything Japan had to offer: a vast history, varied natural beauty, delicious cuisine, a charming cityscape, and an unlimited choice of nighttime activities. Along the way, we built some everlasting friendships and renewed some old ones. Now that we’re back, can’t wait to test out the Chicago ramen scene!