Hello y’all! Life has been busy and wifi has not been great so it has been hard to post the past few weeks, so let me catch you up here. From Izu we traveled to Kiyosato by train, where we stayed at the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project, also known as KEEP. We stayed at Keep for about two weeks where the internet was slow and life was fast. So I am now writing you all from Rikuzentakata, where we are about to do our final camp.
I’ll begin with the most exciting part first. Since I was in 6th grade, I had said, “I want to pitch in Japan.” This originally began with wanting to play professional softball here, but life of course had other plans, but still somehow made things work out. This all started my freshman year of high school where I had the opportunity to watch a game and then spend the rest of the day training with the Japanese national softball team. This was a dream come true for me. I had just completed my first year of Japanese and got to use it with them too! Fast forward to college and during my sophomore year we had a few girls from Team Hitachi (one of the professional softball teams in Japan) come out and train with us for a few weeks. I was so excited because it was an opportunity to help translate and be so close to people who were living out my dream of being pro-softballers in Japan. They left, but Japan softball had never been more on my heart. Come summer before my senior year and I get invited to pitch against one of the Japanese professional softball teams called Flying Pegasus in two exhibition games. So at this point, I had lived most of my dream except for the actual “pitching in Japan” part. But then I got selected to be a senior counselor here at Sports Camps of America, and now I can finally say, “I have pitched in Japan.”
Not long after I pitched in Izu did we head to Kiyosato, where it is absolutely beautiful and if the weather is good that day, you can have a full view of Mt. Fuji. Here at KEEP, we had both regular bunk bed style cabins, as well as tatami room cabins.
However, both cabin styles required the Japanese futons that are typically found in tatami rooms. If only I could put setting up bedding properly in a tatami room on my resume… jokes aside, it was a pretty cool cultural experience. Minus the one typical camping part…bugs.
Now let me tell you, Japan bugs are something else. They are bigger, weirder, more poisonous, and annoying here. They have this one bug here that is like a cross between a spider and
grasshopper, here is what one looks like. They like humid places, so they especially liked the cabins... I kid you not, they gave me nightmares. I mean, look at it! But the one bright side of the bugs is our first night in, we got to see a bunch of fireflies wake up along a creak, and the butterflies there were incredibly friendly.
If you ever get a chance to visit Japan, I do highly recommend visiting Kiyosato, but stay at the Seisen-Ryo Japanese resort. To begin, it is beautiful, has incredible food, and if you like the traditional public baths, this one is top notch. I had the opportunity to stay at the hotel as the head counselor of the first ever Scouts camp for first and second graders that took place at the hotel, we actually had a whole wing to ourselves, so five counselors, one translator, and 26 first and second grade Japanese children. During the camp, we were able to eat breakfast and dinner at the hotel buffet and let me tell you, the food was so good.
Furthermore on the food, Kiyosato has some of the most incredible bread, ice cream and milk that I had ever tasted. The best part is, everything was made by KEEP. The founder, Paul Rush, brought Jersey cows over to Japan after WWII to help rebuild, so all of the products come from these cows. The ice cream is absolutely to die for and I wish I could find something similar to it in America, I went every chance I possibly had to get some it was so good. The milk they served from these cows was some of the freshest you could get, served in the classic glass milk bottle daily at breakfast. The taste was thick, cool, and just had a bit of different, but better taste than your typical milk. I also have a small milk
allergy and the ice cream and milk from KEEP had no affect on me, unlike ice cream and milk in the states. They also have a bakery on the property that makes fresh bread every day to be sold at a reasonable price. My personal favorites were the melon bread and milk bread. I would have stocked up on before leaving to the US next week but because the bread is so fresh and made to be eaten on the spot, it has an early expiration date and won’t make it. But trust me when I say, I may have gained a pound or two in the two weeks from the bread alone.
Finally, I have found a new love for something here in Japan, and that is, the public bathhouses, also known as the onsen out here. Yes, I realize what you may be thinking, “How could someone actually use a public bath house?” or “I would never do that,” but it is actually one of my favorite things about Japan. They often use special mineral water that comes from the mountains and is really good for the skin. The onsens at MOA and the KEEP hotel were absolutely beautiful. Both were a beautiful stone room with a huge stone bath. One of the things that attracts me to these baths is that because I am tall, it is harder and harder to find a bath that I can stretch out in, which usually results in my not taking one. Here in Japan, because of how big the stone pools are, I have way more than enough room to stretch out and enjoy a hot soak. These baths are usually pretty quiet and peaceful as well, making it the perfect spot to relax. The Japanese culture also takes bathing incredibly serious, so you do not have to worry about the bathhouse not being clean.
Now that we are in Rikuzentakata, we are getting ready to start our last camp. Earlier, we met with a woman nicknamed “Mama,” who I will tell you more about later, but let me tell you her story is incredible. This particular camp is for tsunami victims, as Rikuzentakata was hit the hardest of Japan, but is doing an incredible job on its’ rebuilding. But more on that later, we have to get ready to start the next camp. Thanks for checking in and I will update you all as soon as I can!