Where to go this summer: Experience Wakayama, Japan

Being a master student in a faculty that has lots of field trip, I got a chance to experience local activity while visiting Japan's most underrated area: a  beach. Japan has not many beaches - at least a proper beach like we have here in Indonesia. Most of the Japanese beaches are covered with seawall and such, to prevent tsunami and other disasters coming to the land. It quite makes sense since Japan lies above four tectonic plate that can bring you an earthquake or tsunami anytime. Beautiful beaches of Japan are usually located in small islands. Rarely you will find a pleasant beach on the coast of the big Honshu Island.

Having said that, I managed to go to the coastal area of Wakayama as well as Shirahama beach - one of the famous leisure area in Kansai. The first place we went to was a fishermen village. Just like common fishermen in Indonesia, fishermen in Japan caught fish and some of them dried the fish under the sun. Since it was the beginning of summer, we also had the chance to taste 'kakigori' or shredded ice or es serut in Indonesia. It was my first Japanese kakigori, and it tasted really refreshing!





After we went to fishermen village, the teachers told us that we have to cook our own dinner and breakfast. Thus, we were sent to a fish market named 'Tore Tore Ichiba'. The market sells lots variety of seafood as well as local vegetables. You can even find a whale meat here! I also found a shrimp that came from Indonesia. Not only as a grocery store, Tore Tore Ichiba also provides a space for family barbecue experience in their restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to do the barbecue. We went straight to our lodging soon after we finished shopping.

We arrived late afternoon at our lodging: Shirahama House of Kyoto University. The first thing that came to my mind when entering the place: what a well-designed house! It was square, mainly constructed of wood, looks neat and comfortable. But before we got to enjoy living in the wooden house, our teacher brought us to Shirahama Aquarium of Kyoto University, the marine life research laboratory that also open for the public to visit.

Since the beach on our side was a sunrise beach instead of sunset, we skipped playing at the beach in the late afternoon and went straight to the kitchen - preparing our dinner. Since we were international students, we had a fantastic fusion of food: Japanese meet Vietnamese and Indonesian. We took a rest afterward in a classic room full of Japanese bed named futon. Even for someone who hates the complicated process of using futon, I did enjoy the experience staying like a local - as long as I don't have to do it every day :p







The next morning, the sunrise that we waited for finally came. The entire sky was turned into beautiful pinkish with a mix of orange. Unfortunately, soon after watching the sunrise and had our breakfast, we had to leave the house. Even though it was a short stay, we were still excited as we had another interesting experience coming: picking plums.

For some people, plum does not sounds familiar - even my Indonesian friends barely know what is it. Plum, or "ume" in Japanese, is a fruit that quite common to be used as a cooking ingredient in Japan.  A salty plum often placed in the middle of the rice in a Japanese bento box, or inside an onigiri. It can also be enjoyed as a sweet juice or a sweet sake "umeshu". Wakayama apparently is one of the main plum producer areas in Japan. Our teacher sent us to the field to help plum farmer taking off the plum that was ready to be picked. At first, I thought it's going to be an easy task, but then I found it quite challenging since the plum tree is planted in a sloppy area! We had to climb and slide to pick the plums while bringing a bucket with us to fill it in with the fruits. Sometimes we also had to climb a tree to reach a wider area. Challenging yet exciting!







Finished picking the plums, we went to the processing plant to see how the farmers treat the plum afterward. We also got some plums to be taken home - teacher said we will make plum juice! Then, it was a wrap for 2 days faculty field trip. Definitely a good start for my first summer in Japan. Looking forward to more adventures to come!

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