We had a chaotic start. It is hard enough to navigate through the train stations and even harder with a large group. You can bet we were quite the sight. The locals were surrounded by loud boisterous American girls. After getting on and off I would say two too many trains- we arrived at Kurokowa. I must mention that my train map shown below is like my Bible for navigating my way through this crazy tangled web of train lines. Now I just need a map for every train station so I can find the way to right train line when I need to transfer. That is wishful thinking of course.
I never leave home without my train map
Our Girl Guides met us outside the train station and they led the way to the farm where we would dig for sweet potatoes. Tokyo really is a concrete jungle- you would think you would have to travel out to the country to find any agriculture. One simple turn around the corner we see up ahead green hills, small green hills. When we get to the top we find a good size field, or I should say fields. It reminds me of the berry farms in Washington where you pick your own fruit. Here they had peanuts and sweet potatoes. There were other fields- but I am not sure what was growing there. I wouldn't have know about the peanuts- but Sister saw a group pulling big green plants out of the ground. Dangling underneath them were peanuts- very cool. So our girls all got to pick a root and start digging.
Sister dug up three very large sweet potatoes. I actually think they are more like yams- they are longer than sweet potatoes I think. We are going to attempt making sweet potato pie with it. After a group picture we all said thank you to the farmers- "Arigato Gozaimasu!" The farmers bowed in return and gave us big smiles- I just love that.
The Girl Guides are in blue with the cute blue hats.
After another uphill hike- we arrived at a community center where we would eat lunch. They served us something called nagashi soumen- "floating noodles". The girls loved this. What they do is take bamboo (cut in half to make a spout) up on a stand and run water through it. At the end is a bowl with a strainer in it. Then they take the soumen noodles and drop them in the water. The object of the "game" is to catch the noodles with your chopcticks before they float away (hence the bowl at the end to catch them.) Then you put them in your bowl that has a sort of soy sauce broth in it along with thinly sliced onions. It is quite tasty. Sister became a pro at it. In fact she went back for more and came back with a huge bowl full of noodles- much to my chagrin. When my turn came up the ladies also dropped cherry tomatoes in with the noodles- making it more challenging. I am proud to say I use my chopsticks very well.
After lunch the girls exchanged "swaps" (little cards the girls decorated) and then did a craft together.
Demonstrating the craft
When it was time to go- the Girl Guides made a tunnel for our girls to walk through- saying "goodbye!". Once we were assembled on the other side we sang to them- "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold." It is a Girl Scout song I remember from when I was a Girl Scout myself. The Girl Guides surprised us by singing the same song back to us- but in Japanese. There are no words for how that made me feel. It was so heartfelt and genuine. I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I hope Sister remembers what a special moment that was- if not I will have to remind her.
the "tunnel" they made for us to walk through
I am falling in love with this country. It makes me sad to think we will have to leave eventually. Maybe I will be ready to go once that times comes- but for now I am going to enjoy it all I can.