Mt. Takao, Kawagoe, and Chiba

Unfortunately, I’ll be heading home soon, so I’ve been trying to spend as much time with my friends as possible. The other day one of my friends invited me to go hiking at Mt. Takao. Then yesterday I went to Kawagoe with my Rikkyo buddy. He also invited me back to his hometown in Chiba to stay with his family since my flight will be leaving from Narita airport, which is only a few minutes from his hometown.

I’ve done a lot of walking and a lot of step climbing in my time in Japan, but going to Mt. Takao was one of the first times I was able to actually go hiking. We decided to take a cable car part-way up the mountain and then continued on the main path to the summit of the mountain. It took us longer to reach the top than it probably should, but only because we decided to stop and look at some of the statues and shrines along the way. When we made it to the top, we got a nice view of the city, but unfortunately there were also a decent amount of trees, so with me being so short, it kind of obstructed my view of the city.

After making it to the summit, we decided to stop and rest for a while and just enjoy the scenery. Once we were all rested, we decided to go explore some of the other lesser traveled paths. These ones weren’t paved and felt more like the trails I used to hike back home. We didn’t follow any particular trail, and instead decided just to wander. My friend only spoke a little bit of English, so we spent a majority of the time conversing in Japanese. It was a little rough for me, but great practice and an overall fun experience.

Yesterday, I went to Kawagoe with my Rikkyo buddy. Unfortunately, some of the more popular temples and such were closed because they were under construction, but it was still cool to explore the city. The city has a very old feel to it. The buildings all have the traditional Japanese architecture and you can tell by the wood that all the buildings are definitely aged. It’s a cool place if you’re looking to experience the feel of old Japan. We even stopped by Kawagoe Castle, which isn’t quite like Nagoya Castle or Osaka Castle. It looks more like a building than a castle. The inside has the traditional shoji sliding doors and wooden hallways, and in some of the rooms were old artifacts and other museum-like pieces.

Today, I made my way to Chiba. My Rikkyo buddy and his family were kind enough to let me stay with them for the weekend since I had to check out of my dorm but my flight isn’t until tomorrow. While in Chiba, they took me to do some local sightseeing since my Rikkyo buddy told them how much I like traditional Japanese shrines and temples. They were even so kind as to buy me a Yukata (the summer versions of Kimono). His mom was so excited because she only had boys. Having me there was like having a daughter, and she was so excited to get me all dressed up.

Once I was all dolled up, we were off to go exploring one last time. We started at Katori Shrine, which was built with black wood and gold trim and was surrounded by stones. The entrance gates were also red and black, which was very different from many of the other shrines and temples I had visited.

We also went to Naritasan Temple. The temple itself was absolutely huge, and the so was the surrounding area. Unfortunately, it started to rain just slightly, but we didn’t let that slow us down for too long. Once a majority of the rain had passed, we got right back to walking around. Next to the temple were stone steps that led to down to a beautiful fountain area. This was the first time I had seen such beautiful grounds around a temple.

In the evening, we picked up some small fireworks and the whole family took turns lighting them off. We got sparklers and would spell different words in the air. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay out too long because I was getting mosquito bites like crazy, but it was still nice to have one last adventure. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading home.

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