This week was a tad stressful with four tests over the span of seven days, but luckily, I was able to have some fun on my trip to Gunma. Gunma is an area with many interesting shrines, gorgeous views, and relaxing onsen (hot springs). Out of the three Temple-sponsored trips I’ve been to so far, this one had by far the most interesting environment.
First, we went to Takasaki Kannon, a place filled with beautiful shrines and statues. I’m not quite sure what religion was being practiced, but the center of the area had a statue of what I assumed to be a goddess that was several stories tall. My friends and I were able to go inside the statue, where there was a museum-like display of statues representing the history of the religion. If only I knew more Japanese!
Next, we took a steam train to Ikaho Green Farm, where we saw many different animals from sheep, to dogs, to cows, to even goats. My favorite animals there were the bunnies, but I just like cute little critters. While I was looking at the bunnies, some of my friends chipped in and rented a sheep. It was hilarious to see them walking a full-grown sheep around the farm. I also got to try ramen for the first time while I was there. I was really excited since I had been meaning to try ramen for a while, and I absolutely loved it.
After the farm, we finally arrived at Onsen town, but before we went to the hotel, we stopped at a ridiculously long staircase. I like to call it the Stairway to Heaven because it had the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen at the top. I also like to call it the Stairway of Doom because it was a difficult time both climbing up and down. First, there’s 365 stairs to another temple with shops and food stands along the way. This is fine. Then, the real challenge begins. Behind the temple, there is a forestry mountain with stairs to the peak. I later found out that from the temple to the peak was roughly three miles long. Since I don’t exercise too often, I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached the top. However, the view at the peak was well worth the effort. Not everyone was able to make the climb, but I could tell that those who did were not disappointed.
That night, we finally made it to the onsen. I like dipping in the onsen, but unfortunately, I get dizzy really fast when exposed to high temperatures. The fact that there was no cold bath didn’t help. After almost falling over (twice), I had to get out. Other than that, the hotel was a nice time and gave me a chance to rest after all that climbing.
The next day, we left early to see more amazing mountain views, see a few more shrines, and visit Kawagoe Town, a town with many authentic shops that sold stuff like dolls, beans, and more. The thing that stood out to me the most though was the Daruma Doll Shop, where we were able to make our very own daruma. The shop must’ve had hundreds of darumas, some big, some small, some gigantic, and some golden. My daruma didn’t turn out exactly like the model, but I think I did a pretty decent job. While making darumas, we learned that they were used for granting wishes. One eye is painted when the wish is made, and the other is painted when the wish is granted. Sorry, but my wish is a secret!
Overall, Gunma was a very enjoyable place to visit. I saw many amazing things, bonded with friends, and brought back many souvenirs. A trip like this was just what I needed to get through my midterms. And now that those are over, I have much more free time to go on even more trips of my own. Until then, Sayōnara from Japan!