One of the biggest holiday in Japan is Golden Week...a string of a few holidays in a row that give everyone an excuse to PAARRTAYYY! Last year, during Golden Week, I flew home for my dear friend Lexi's wedding so technically this is my first year experiencing this holiday in Japan!
MAY 3rd - 憲法記念日ーConstitution day
I had to work Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday I was off so I made plans with my good friend Mina and her mom Yoko to go see the famous Shibazakura flowers in Chichibu! Lucky for us, Mina's coworker and friend Haruka is from Chichibu and always hosts us when we visit (I went last year for the night festival). We took the Red Arrow express train from Ikebukuro station early Wednesday morning and arrived a little under 1.5hrs to the tiny cozy town of Chichibu! Haruka met us at the station and we walked over the Hitsujiyama park (literally means Sheep Mountain) to see the incredible display of flowers. I can't get over how amazing the flowers in Japan are!!! We spent all morning walking around, enjoying the fresh air, and then relaxed at Haruaks house before heading home! I definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting during this season. It's so accessible from Ikebukuro station and only 1400yen roundtrip!
MAY 4th - みどりの日ーGREENERY DAY
Here begins my fun roadtrip with the Lim family! The Lims decided to travel up north during Golden Week to avoid the crowds going down south to Kyoto or Osaka...so I took the shinkansen up to meet them on Thursday may 4th aka my brothers birthday aka my college roommate Katelyn bday aka greenery day aka the day I graduated college 4 years ago HAHA!!!
I met the Lims up by Bandai Mountain...look at that beauty!! The shinkansen ride was chill, 1.5 hours or so and then I took a local train another 40 minutes. It was straight INAKA (countryside) and SO refreshing!!!! I loved looking out the window and seeing all this nature, all these cozy little neighborhoods, and all this open space!!
So the Lims (Nathalie, Tony and their two kiddos) picked me up from the station and we drove down to Ouchi-juku, a post station from the Edo period in Fukushima prefecture. The nature leading up to the little old town was stunning!!!
Real talk: the line to get into this place was INSANE. The tiny town is located up in the mountains so there is only one road up...and the 4km to get to the parking from the base of the mountain took almost 2 hours. NOOOOOO. It was so crazy that Nathalie and I decided to walk the 1.5km we had remaining and we beat Tony and the kids there by a good 30 minutes. I guess we couldn't avoid all of the Golden Week traffic entirely.
When we got there we soon realized how magical this little place is! It's like a living time capsule with thatched roofs, farmland, traditional snacks, and ramune cooling in the water outside the houses!
This particular house jumped out at me and I immediately was like, " I want to live there!" So much character, history, and style...ahhhhh! dream.
For as many cars that were lining up to get it, the place didn't feel crowded at all. It was so nice and warm out, peaceful, scentic, and the perfect spot for an afternoon ice cream cone!
Very thankful for this fun family who let me join in their family trip haha!
One of the best parts of hanging out with the Lims is I get to be an auntie again! I miss my nieces and nephews all the time...so hanging out with kids who feel like family is so good for my soul. Little Poiema is about the age of my newphew Hunter, and I love her funny personality and curious spirit. Nathalie is Filipino so the kiddos say "tita" instead of "auntie" and all week Poiema would say funny things like, "tita amie why is mount Fuji so tall?" "tita amie why is there lava in the mountain?" "tita amie do you know poppy (from trolls)?" haha! love it!
MAY 5th- こどもの日ーChildrens day!
On Friday we all woke up and headed to Aizu Wakamatsu castle...but not before stopping by McDolands to get breakfast! haha. It was such a nice day so we all applied our sunscreen and put our sunglasses on. We had a little picnic before heading in to check out the museum inside the castle and the view from the top. May 5th is Children's Day so Nathalie gave the kids special candy and we took a bunch of photos of them and their koinobori (koi fish flags). We went to a little matsuri (festival) to eat lunch and then headed to our next spot...a Samurai house!
Aizu Wakamatsu is a famous place for Samurai so we went to this awesome Samurai house. It was legit...but also kind of sad because a lot of the stories surrounding the family that lived here were about death and the brutality of the samurai life. It had an eerie feeling to it because of that, like the story of the wife who killed her children and herself because her husband went to war and she didn't know if he would come back...yikes. But we didn't let it get us down too much and tried to appreciate the history in it! They make you exit through the gift shop (Bansky film anyone!??) and they got me on the apple flavored Horoyoi which is a popular sweet alcohol beverage. It basically tastes like juice so I can drink it...and this flavor was so amazing. Funny thing is, Horoyoi in Japanese literally means "buzzed" or "slightly drunk"
MAY 6th - Saturday!
Last day of this jam packed roadtrip...
hahaa...I think at this point I was pretending to be a worm chasing the kids or something. They are so fun to be around! I love how Khiro is standing in this photo like a little man...haha too cute.
Thank you Japan for your entertaining roadway designs.
Poiema and I happened to be matching on this day! Her facial expressions are amazing. Also, how amazing is this random area of shibazakura on the side of the road? We stumbled upon it and it made for the most epic photo spot!
Ok our last stop on our awesome golden week road trip was Yamadera in Yamagata Prefecture. Yamadera literally means "mountain temple" and it lived up to it's name.
This place was so EPIC!!! Truly truly one of the coolest spots I've seen in all of Japan. It was not even crowded...and it was this epic set of 30 temples tucked back in the forest. They say the course was built to rid people of their pride and burdens as they walk the 1,000 steps up to the top...releasing any negativity as they pass by each temple. Although this was built as a place to worship Buddha and various gods, I couldn't help but sense the presence of the Lord there! The one true King and Father of all! I knew withouth hestiation that God had created those mountain and each of those trees. It was so refreshing to be up there staring out in God's vast creation.
The kids did amazing hiking up all those stairs and we made it to this specific view point. This photo is actually crazy because there were at least 15 people in this building at all times, but for some reason, when Nathalie took this shot of me, no one was in the frame! No idea how that happened.
Phew...what a week...or rather 4 day trip..that was! I finally got back home late Saturday night and as I was walking home to my apartment, I had this moment with the Lord when I realized how many amazing things He had shown me just over the course of a few days. Being up in that mountain looking out on the rolling hills and tiny towns of the Japanese countryside, I felt the presence of God and the assurance that He will continue to take me to places greater than anything I could imagine on my own. I love the Lord for His never ceasing faithfulness, His relentless love and pursuit of us, His creativity and beauty in creation, and His undeniable, incredible way in fulfilling His promises!