In grade 10, our three options for field studies were Iya, Okinawa and Hiroshima. I choose to visit Iya. Iya, a hidden gem among other great treasures in Japan, is a valley located in the centre of Shikoku. Iya is not that known among tourists but its natural beauty never fails to attract a handful of adventure seekers. Our trip to Iya was divided in two parts; hiking and learning about the culture and traditions of Iya. My experience with hiking prior to that trip was not much countable, and with hiking mountains there was no experience at all. Therefore, before the trip I had no idea of what hiking for more than 6 hours straight would be like, but, I decided to use that excuse for a better purpose that being thinking of every moment whether it was the best or at that time felt like the worst as the most memorable memories I could create at that place.
Our first day in Iya felt like we were in heaven. Everything in Iya was so breathtaking and unique, and I couldn’t help but try to capture every moment. I did appreciate everything around me by taking photos. In Iya, we had to prepare our own dinner, so for the first day, I choose to be in the group who would cook the very first meal. I took on the task of peeling potatoes and cutting them which I was able to do very well and that made me thankful for my cooking sessions at home. I was proud that I could use and share my skills even ones like peeling potatoes with others. I personally would not count it as skill, however, at the time the feeling of contributing to larger group made me feel skillful.
On our second day in Iya we hiked two mountains. The first hike approximately took 2 hours in total. It wasn’t until I was cold, but then warm at the same time, I realized that hiking was definitely not most comfortable activity I have taken part in. Unfortunately, that was just the warm up. I had no know idea about how many stumbles were coming in my way, which made me appreciate my group of friends who would always lend me their hands when I found it difficult to keep my balance. The hike to the top of Tsurugi-san, where we stayed for the night, felt like it was never going to end. On our way up, I was eternally mad at myself for not hiking frequently or even once in awhile when my calves, and feet felt like they could not carry my weight anymore. But when we did make it to the top, the breathtaking view and whilst looking down at the trail we travelled I felt confident and glad to have taken part in the journey.
The hike down the mountain, on the third day, was even more longer which lasted between around 6-7 hours. Many people might think that hiking down is easy but in our final hike down to the road, we first had to hike down and hike upwards once more and then we finally started hiking down through irregular pathways and followed the barely there trail. Our little hike up lasted shortly, but, the rocky and much slanter pathway was immensely tense to climb up. The path was narrow and on our both sides there was just open space that went down to nothing which made it dangerous and even more harder to bear. My technique to overcome the pain in my knees, and ankles was to bend down and pull myself up by one rock at a time, although, I couldn’t help but stop for moment to just breath. The rest of the hike was steadily done and I was most encouraged by the thought that each step meant one less step away from our aimed destination. After, we were done with all the hiking, It was comforting to think that I could hike for such long period without giving up an because of that I still feel confident in my physical and emotional strength that was developed throughout the trip.
On our fourth day in Iya, we had a culture day, which we spent by making soba and rope. Before that day, I had never had soba, so I was aware that the task of making the soba from scratch will be something I always remember. First, we had to churn the soba seeds into powder form, when there was enough powder we would then make dough out it. Once Again, I was able to use some of my prior knowledge from kitchen and input it to something else. I think that one of the lady at the place was quite pleased by how I had softened my dough. After, the dough was fairly softened, we were supposed to cut in long strands. Finally, those noodle like strands would be boiled by the ladies and cooked and would be served as our lunch. By making our own food, I was grateful to gain such experience because I think in today’s society a lot of people rely on ready made fast food, therefore, they never get the chance to know how healthy and fulfilling self-made food can be. Second half of the day was spent rope making. Even though my rope was somewhat small, it was still used to make the rope made by other people longer which we later used for skipping.
The trip to Iya was great opportunity for me to explore nature, Iya, and my own abilities. After the whole trip, I was not only confident in my physical abilities but also felt more open to unfamiliar experiences and felt less hesitant of getting out of my comfort zone.