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Cultural trip to Shiga

Beatrice kindly wrote a report about the cultural trip to Shiga with Monash students. All photos taken by Prof. Lam and Prof. Cavaliere.

 

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Cultural trip review

 

On 18 January, a group of us went to Kanou Shoujuan Sunai no Sato for a cultural trip. The trip took about an hour, meaning that we had to leave fairly early to make it there in good time.

 

Once we got there, we were taken to a café where we were presented with tea and traditional Japanese snacks made from azuki and yuzu. The hot tea warmed us up after the chilly walk to the café, and the snacks were a sweet way to start to trip; sweet enough, in fact, that I ate all the extra pieces and bought more at the gift shop later on. Following that, we were given a short tour of the buildings in the premises, with the guide explaining various traditional aspects of the buildings as well as the meaning of some of the New Year decorations still in place. In one of the buildings, there was also an interactive display of Japanese children’s toys, ranging from the familiar (a kendama toy) to the unfamiliar (a small wooden board with sumo wrestlers) to the creative (a gun designed for shooting rubber bands).

 

Before we went on to the main events, we had a traditional Japanese lunch. Because it was osechi ryori and utilized local ingredients, the result was a unique meal that a foreigner may not usually get in Japan, with some ingredients prepared in ways I have never seen before. While delicious, it was also very filling, to the point that some of us could not finish the food.

 

Because our group was fairly big, we had to split up to do the tea ceremony and the paper-making workshops. For my part, I chose to go with the group that did the tea ceremony first. Having seen a couple of tea ceremonies before, this one felt a little different—perhaps it was because it was a small group, or because of the language barrier, I felt this portion was over fairly fast. The tea was good, as was the snack they offered us to take with the tea; however, because we just ate lunch many of us could not completely finish the snack either. Following this was the paper-making workshop. While in theory I did vaguely know how paper is made, it’s another thing entirely to experience it for yourself, from getting the pulp onto the tray to repeatedly pressing a towel over the pulp to dry it. It was a tiring process, but I’m glad I got to try it out for myself. Being first-timers, there were a few mistakes made along the way, and though it would have been nice to have done it perfectly I think in a way it was good that we did make some mistakes, so that we could see how the instructor would fix them.

 

While these were the major events during the trip, there were also other small experiences along the way, such as walking through their gardens and visiting a potter’s studio. However, due to it being winter, we were unable to see the garden in its full splendor, and due to the language barrier (as the fluent speaker had gone with the other group) it was hard to be able to interact well with the staff. These minor issues can easily be avoided though, and had little impact on us enjoying the trip.