The first two weeks were full of experiences and in order to not get bored (haha) I made the spontaneous decision to go on a trip to Mount Fuji (Japan’s highest mountain, rising to 3776 m above sea level). Since neither my mobile internet nor the online booking of a Shinkansen worked as I had planned, Mr. Okamoto supported me with great commitment. With 8 printed train tickets and a mobile flip phone, I set off at 5am on the next day. 4 transfers later, I arrived in Fujinomya and was welcomed by a very nice Japanese mountain guide. Together we climbed Mount Fuji to the station of Mount Hoei (due to the time of year, we were unfortunately not allowed to go all the way to the top of Mount Fuji). Here, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the summit of Mount Fuji. Such experiences are unique and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. Special thanks go to the Japanese: in the first days I was asked from many sides what plans and goals I would have for my stay. I mentioned climbing Mount Fuji, immediately I was connected to a mountain guide through Mr. Sumiya, who tried everything, so that I was able to climb Mount Fuji very spontaneously with my own mountain guide. The attention and dedication of the Japanese are very special and honest. I like that a lot.
In the coming days, I was invited to play golf again and met more friends and Rotary colleagues of Mr. Okamoto. In addition, Okamoto, Toshi, Amy and I had a nice and relaxing round of golf in Ikeda Country, which I really enjoyed.
I also had time to get to know Osaka city a little better. With a Japanese friend, for example, I went to the Dotonbori District in Osaka – the Times Square of Osaka. The streets are full of towering neon signs, clubs, bars and Japan restaurants serving local specialities. We had takoyaki (tako – octopus and yaki – grilled), a sort of dough ball with octopus, spring onions and a mayonnaise and soy sauce, and then went to a yakiniku restaurant (yaki – grilled, niku – meat). Lastly, we had a photo shoot with the Glico Man, a billboard featuring a running man who towers over the Ebisubashi Bridge and is a famous Osaka landmark. The billboard was first erected in 1935 as an advertisement for Glico, a Japanese food company that makes the famous Japanese sweets Pocky and Pretz.
And of course, a bit of Heimat is never a mistake. Therefor, I visited the Oktoberfest in Osaka. We enjoyed Paulaner beer and danced to Bavarian folk music played and sung by Japanese in dirndls and lederhosen. It was a very funny evening, because the Japanese seem to love the Oktoberfest a lot: Everyone knows and sings “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” and as a German, I of course also stood out and scored points with my confidence in the lyrics to one or two songs haha.
By chance I found out that there is also a Dallmayr in Osaka (the only Dallmayr café outside Germany) and since some of my friends like to eat Apfelstrudel and enjoy Dallmayr coffee, we decided to have a trip there. The Dallmayr is located in Osaka city near Nakanoshima, an island between Aji River and Tosahori River. There is also the National Museum of Art and, you can walk all the way to the front of the island, past the Osaka City Public Hall (where there are often exhibitions etc.) to the Nakanoshima Rose Park – a piece of nature surrounded by the modern skyscrapers of the city – very nice. There are also many nice and very modern coffee shops in the area with vegan dishes, smoothies, Poke Bowls etc.
But the area around Osaka is also very interesting. So, I went on a trip to Joyo with Mr. Aochi and students from Kyoto Prefecture University to visit Japanese temples and harvest sweet potatoes. The students (German literature studies) were very nice and interested and they spoke German proficiently. Many of them have the ambition to come to Germany for a longer period of time one day. Hopefully we will meet there again.
I also visited the city of Kobe for the first time (and definitely not for the last time). After meeting Ms Nobuko Ikawa at my welcome party, we planned to meet again in Kobe and I also joined her at Hyogo Prefectural Nihinomiya High School to provide German lessons to 16-17 year old students. The students were very interested about me, we took photos together and I now have about 50 new followers on Instagram – unforgettable.
After the lessons at school, Nobuko and I enjoyed a tour of the city of Kobe. First we went to Chinatown (entrance via Choanmon Gate) – we ate Chinese dim-sum and wan-tan as well as prawns in sweet and sour sauce at a Chinese restaurant.
We then proceeded towards the harbour to take a bay cruise. I really like the beautiful view of the city and the Rokko Mountains, all the way past the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. We also went to Kobe Harborland and headed to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens gondola station.
We took the gondola up the mountain (Rokko Mountains) to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, they were having a German wine and beer festival, so we enjoyed a Riesling together (Burgener Kirchberg Riesling).
After I was being photographed by several Japanese, we headed towards Kitano Ijinkan Gai (the area where the former expats lived, it is built with old, traditional European houses). We visited the Rhine House (fromer Drewell House, a French woman) – here a Japanese artist (Mayumi Kuwayama) exhibits her artwork. I also saw the Kazamidori (weathercock) that sits on top of the Former Thomas House.
Along Kitanozaka street in this area, there are many izakaya (Japanese pubs) and jazz clubs are also very popular in this area (e.g. Sone Jazz). In general, you can sense a historical, European influence in Kobe. After all, the port of Kobe was the first to open for international trade!
The first month of my stay passed very quickly, thanks to the friendliness of the Japanese and the diversity of the country, I was able to settle in very well and am looking forward to the coming weeks.