Japanese (日本語)


Japan Experience! Photo Journal - Kanto Region

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Climbing Mt. Fuji

In the summer of 2010 on a month long backpacking trip through the Kanto region, I set out to climb Mt. Fuji with 3 of my close friends. Climbing Mt. Fuji turned out to be one of my fondest memories of that summer. It really became a unique bonding experience with not just my friends, but with both the foreign and Japanese people who surrounded us as we climbed.

Reaching the summit at the perfect time to watch sunrise was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I felt an indescribable feeling of serenity and peace as we watched the sun creep out from the bending horizon amongst a sea of clouds while the crowd of people sang the Japanese anthem.

For me, this experience capped off a summer of backpacking and enjoying time with friends at different festivals and sights around Japan. Climbing Mt. Fuji is an experience that isn’t too challenging for almost anyone to make it to the summit, but it is a great physical activity that will test your will and determination to make it all the way. Learning about the history of the trail and tradition of climbing the dormant volcano is another great experience as you talk to a variety of people from around the world, or with the shop keepers who live on the mountain during the climbing season.

My walking stick emblazoned with the burned in seals from each of the stations all the way to the summit is one of my fondest keepsakes from my time in Japan. At the summit, when I threw in my 5 yen coin in the shrine to make my wish for good fortune, I realized at that point I had little more to wish for as the summer came to an almost dreamlike conclusion.

Japan 2009-2010; 2013-Present


Jesse 2009 – 2013 ALT in Chiba

For many people entering Japan, the first place they’ll visit is Narita.  Unfortunately, many depart for their final destinations without giving Narita much of a second thought.  While many people are familiar with the international airport, the city of Narita has many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  At the highest point of Narita, you can see Mt. Narita temple, which overlooks the entire city, and is the staging ground for many of Narita’s festivals.

 Narita was always on my list of destinations to hit during the matsuri season.   I would kick off the season with my personal favorite, the Taiko matsuri.  Despite its name, the Taiko matsuri isn’t just a celebration of taiko, but a celebration of drumming.  Artists from around the world gather in Narita to share their passion for percussion.  To this day, taiko enraptures me with its cascading, energetic beats.

Another must see was the Gion Matsuri, the biggest and best festival Narita had to offer.  The temple grounds would be packed with tourists and revelers alike.  The festival was much more traditional than what you would get in the big cities, but livelier than you would find in the inaka. Despite my proximity to Tokyo, Narita became my go to weekend excursion locale.  It offered you a taste of urban life in Japan without overwhelming you.  And the best part was if you wanted to jet off to another location, the airport is always there.

JET 2009 - 2013


Numata Festival - Numata City, Gunma Prefecture

I was a teacher on the JET Programme for three years, from 2009-2012, and lived in a rural farming village called Kawaba Village, teaching English at the local Junior High and Elementary Schools.

The nearby city of Numata is famous for its annual summer festival, called Numata Matsuri, a 3-day event with all the treats, music and mikoshi you would expect at a Japanese festival. However, the highlight of Numata Matsuri is the huge Tengu Mikoshi that is carried through the streets on the first and third nights of the festival -- it is the largest Tengu mask in Japan and is said to bring good luck in fertility for women. The Tengu Mikoshi is carried only by women, and people from across the Kanto region make the trek to Numata to watch the giant red masks bounce up and down the streets to the sounds of chanting and drums.

For the rest of the year, the Tengu masks live at a temple at the top of a local mountain call Kashouzan, and is worth a visit if you can't make it for the festival.

Numata Matsuri has an energy like nothing else I've experienced in my travels through Japan, and transforms the city into a bustling party with a welcoming small-town atmosphere. Set against the backdrop of the mountains, Numata and close-by Kawaba Village are some of the most scenic places I have been, and will always be my second home.

JET 2009-2012

Jessie Zanutig