Mitaki Temple and Tokasan Yukata Festival!

Although it has only been about a week since my last post, I cannot even describe how much more at home I feel now than I did then. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I have started spending a lot more time in the lab, and with all the laughing over failed experiments and celebration over newly discovered crystal structures, we have gotten ever so much closer. To my excitement, I finally got to start my research project which involves creating novel carbenes and complexing them to study their properties. There are three doctoral level students in the lab who are also working on carbenes and already they have taught me so much about the chemistry behind my project! The lab group I am in has somewhere around twenty-two graduate students over all, and I must say that I really enjoy having such a large community with whom I get to work and bounce off ideas. It’s like a big family and there are so many cool, interconnected projects all going on at the same time!
Another highlight of my week was getting to meet the international students. I had heard from someone in my lab that a girl named Fanny from France was interning at a neighboring lab just down the hall, and on Tuesday I finally got to meet her. We had banana smoothies at a wonderful little place called Mermaid Cafe and, after getting to know each other for a bit, she invited me to a party that night at a lake very near to my dormitory. There, sitting under the trees and playing songs on the ukulele, I got to meet some wonderful people from Finland, Germany, Austria, Mozambique, Colombia, and Italy. Throughout the week, I was introduced to even more international students, and I am now excited to say that, in addition to the aforementioned countries, I have gotten to meet people from China, Honduras, Peru, and Paraguay too! Everyone I have met has been absolutely delightful.
And now, onto my weekend adventures!
Although I don’t know if this technically counts as an adventure, on Friday night, two of my friends from the lab invited me to go to McDonald’s with them. It was a blast! I tried one of the specialty Japanese burgers and we ended up sitting around talking for an hour and a half.

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On Saturday, though, things got really exciting. At the Tuesday night party, my Austrian friend Beppino invited me to go with him and some others to the Tokasan Yukata festival Saturday. Because the festival didn’t really start until seven in the evening, I suggested that a group of us ride the train out to Mitaki Temple and take a hike up Mt. Mitaki in the afternoon. This was received well and so, Saturday at 11:15, Beppino came along with two bikes to pick me up and ride together to Saijo Station. Having not ridden a bike for the past five or six years, my first bike-riding attempts were rather amusing, but after I got the hang of it, the twenty minute bike ride to the station was incredibly fun! On the way to the station, however, one of our friends announced that he was stuck in a meeting and would be late, so we decided to take a little side trip to a second-hand entertainment store.

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So much manga!!!! Basically a little taste of heaven on earth…

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After that little excursion, we finally got on the train and were able to meet up with everyone at Hiroshima Station! Taking another train to Mitaki Station, we got out and began our hike up to the temple. Due to our inability to follow directions, however, we got a little sidetracked and ended up lost in a Buddhist cemetery for about fifteen minutes.

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We did eventually make it to Mitaki Temple, though! We rang the bell as we entered,

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perused the many Buddhist shrines dotting the entrance,

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and enjoyed the architecture.

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The hike itself was exhausting but well worth it. It took about an hour to ascend the mountain, and although I was out of breath the majority of the time, I was still able to appreciate the surrounding natural beauty.

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At the top of the mountain, we were able to see all of Hiroshima city from above and had a lot of fun trying to pick out the places we had already visited.

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The way down the mountain was tricky, although much faster than the way up, and my hiking team and I reached the bottom sweaty, but in good spirits.

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After getting a quick bite to eat, we met up with the rest of the crew to enjoy the Tokasan Yukata Festival! This is the first time during the year that the Japanese people can wear their traditional summer dresses, so people young and old had donned their yukata, as the dresses are called, and were wearing them all throughout the festival.

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The streets were lined with vendors selling interesting and tasty treats,

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people dancing to classical Japanese music, and exciting street performances including the taiko drums! We ended our night by walking down Chuo-Dori, the main street on which the Yukata part of the festival is celebrated, and going to the temple where the Tokasan part of the festival is held.

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I actually bought a yukata for myself

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and am hoping to wear it to a special Yukata Festival being held on campus in a few weeks!
Even though I got to do a lot of fun things this Saturday, the best part of my weekend, honestly, has been getting to converse with the Japanese people I work with and the international students I have met. Many of these conversations have been incredibly profound, especially for having so recently become friends, and I hope to get to know everyone even better. Japan is a wonderful place and, slowly, I feel it becoming a second home.

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