Hiram College

Written by Mark Sobnosky ’19

This blog post is written in response to Mark’s spring 2019 3-week trip to Japan with Professors Kirsten Parkinson and Erin Lamb.

Having survived about a week of travel in Japan, the jet lag had been overcome and because of this, I awoke to a familiar sound, my alarm clock. As I dressed myself for our day in Takayama, I ate my breakfast: convenience store sandwiches and a small breakfast pastry that I had purchased the night before on the walk home. Many of my days in Japan began in a similar fashion, and as the light slowly pervaded the room the rest of my roommates started to stir and ready themselves for the day ahead. 

We began our day with a walk down to a morning market that was open only until noon. Located right along the bank of a river cutting through the town, the market seemed busy for such a dull, cloudy morning. The sound of the river flowing next to the market battled with the sounds of food frying and people chatting. The sounds of foreigners trying to pick up some exquisite souvenirs traveled on the wind through the leaves of the cherry trees that lined the river.  As I strolled down the market, I picked up a few trinkets and treated myself to some chocolate filled pastries on the way to our next destination for the day. I paused outside of a small restaurant and saw many of my friends through the glass seated at a table so I made a pit stop and ate a more substantial meal to get me through the day. 

We met up as a group and had the opportunity to see a museum filled with festival floats and then a museum that housed puppets and a collection of over 300 lion masks from throughout the ages. We were all astounded by the intricacies of the puppets and the skills of the puppeteers that manipulated the puppets from out of view. After our museum trips, we were free to do as we pleased until the next morning. I grabbed some beef on a stick and headed back to the hotel for a brief nap before heading back out on the town. 

My nap recharged me and I left the hotel seeking some sake breweries in the town. The sake breweries were easy to spot because they sported large balls made of cedar outside, over the doorway. I had some samples of sake with a few of my friends and then we left that part of town because in Takayama, most places seemed to close around 5:00pm. Before we called it a night, three of us stopped into a restaurant called “Bull” to eat some steak. We happened to walk past right as it was about to open and after a brief wait, ended up being the first people in the restaurant. For most of the trip, we had been simply surviving on convenience store sushi and sandwiches, but for this meal, we went all out. We each tried some of the famous “Hida” beef that was known regionally for its exceptional flavor and had some sake that was served in a wooden box. I am sure my friends will agree with me when I call it some of the best beef we have ever had. 

From the restaurant we returned to the hotel, bathed, and hung out with some of our other group members to catch up on what they had done with their free evenings. After a long day, there is nothing like talking with friends over some snacks. As we talked and laughed into the night, I thought about how lucky I was to not only be WHERE I was, but with WHOM as well. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done if you have no one to share your experiences with.