Maiko traditional Japanese dancing in Omuta

Cutting bamboo to the sound of shamisen

Towa Sofia and Krysta making bamboo chopsticks in Omuta
Towa Sofia and Krysta making bamboo chopsticks in Omuta

Our day today consisted of muddy work, enjoyable crafting, and most importantly, lots of bamboo! It was time to visit the mysteriously beautiful bamboo forest. After some minutes of intense spraying-each-other-with-mosquito-repellant we were good to go. When we reached the top of the mossy staircase we were met by a tranquil forest shrine and a lovely view.

During the day we got to try out different activities together with the locals who instructed us. Some of us did grass cutting in order to clear an overgrown slope, and some learned how to cut down large bamboo trunks. It was both fun and challenging, and it felt good to do something useful. Everyone got to show off their creative side when we learned how to make our own chopsticks out of bamboo! We used a carving knife to carve them out of raw pieces of bamboo. Those chopsticks we then used when eating the delicious lunch including soumen noodles, onigiri rice balls and fresh corn. During the afternoon we got to learn about bamboo and the preservation of the bamboo forest. We also had the honor to meet the priestess of the shrine, and to see a beautiful and thrilling performance of Japanese traditional music and dance.

The day was concluded with a visit to a big shopping mall. Trying some Japanese-style crêpes was first on the list and we gathered in the small crêpe store watching the store attendants throwing together things like strawberries, banana, chocolate and cream. After this delightful little snack we spent the rest of the time looking for souvenirs to bring home, and playing games in the arcade.

I, like several of us, happily returned home to my host family tonight carrying bags filled with souvenirs. But somehow, as I prepare to go to sleep, what fills my head is not the thought of all the cool Japanese stuff I bought, but the swaying sound of a shamisen and the image of a pair of crooked bamboo chopsticks.

Sofia Larborn, Sweden

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