Sakura and wagashi in the land of rising sun

Tarja Airaksinen from Omnia Adult Education Centre was in Yamanashi in 2016.

Who would have thought that it would take me almost ten years to get to the land that I have always dreamed about. The knowledge that I was really going hit me while I was sitting wating for them to start bording the plane on Thursday the 8th of April from Helsinki-Vantaa to Narita.

There were six of us going to Yamanashi-prefecture. Some of us knew someone or other, but others knew no one. I was one of the later. Sitting waiting for the plane I decided to look for lost looking students and quite soon I found three of the five. The other two we found once we landed in Japan. The two important things we had in common were that we all were going to study in the Yamanashi-prefecture and None of us had been to Japan before.

The fight over was the longest flight I have ever been on and it only took 9 and a half hours. None of us slept much during that flight.

We landed in Japan at 8.55 on Friday morning. Landing was really exciting. We could see the sakura (cherry blossoms) out of the window and oooh how beautiful it was. I must have looked like a child at Christmas as the person next to me asked “Is it your first time in Japan?”

The bus trip from Narita-airport took about two hours. during that time we saw lots. One of the most beautiful sights was a park full of sakura.


Sadly the truck was quicker than I was….

I felt so small when we arrived in Shinjuku Tokyo. All the buildings towered over us. Looking for the hotel took some time but we made it! No one felt tired so we did what anyone would do: we went exploring! We went to Shibuya and saw the Hachiko statue. We ate Takoyaki ❤

The entire day was amazing. We walked around until around 22.30 local time and then decided to head back to the hotel to sleep. As I told you before we had hardly slept and we had an early start the next day: The train trip to Kofu, Yamanashi and new adventures.

When we finaly came to a stop at Kofu we were all starting to feel nerveus again. We would soon be saying goodbye to one another. It’s funny how close you can get after such a small time.

There was a warm welcome waiting for us. Our host families had come to meet us and there was food and drinks for us too. After a round of introductions, food, drink and small chat it was time to say goodbye, go our seperate ways and start our own adventures.

I went off with my host mother and Kinseiken boss Kira-san. It took us about an hour to drive to the town of Hokuto which is a very small town that is surrounded by mountains. Amazing!!!!

The first thing that I did when getting to Hokutoshi was go and see my new work place with Kira-san and try this anko paste I have heard so much about.

Here I was given a dorayaki. It’s pancake like wagashi with azukibean paste, know as anko, in it. And it was GOOD. So good. Kira- san was so happy and relieved when I told him that. They all were afraid that I wouldn’t like it. The previous student that they had had hadn’t liked it.

Kira-san then showed me around. There was no one making anything as it was a Saturday. It was a big place with many rooms. Once he had shown me around, we walked to the shop from where I could buy my lunch after which we walked back to the Tsuruya Ryokan. There I said goodbye to Kira-san and I was showed to my room.

The place that I am staying at is a Japanese styled hotel; the Tsuruya Ryokan. My room is had a tatami mat and I sleep on a futon on the foor. Yay!

In the evening I met one of my new host brothers and we went out and had some really good sushi. I was really tired when we got back, but I couldn’t help being excited about Monday, my first day at work. But first I got to try the futon out.

I don’t think I have ever been so nervous as I was when I went to work this morning. But I was also so excited. My host mother and brother watched me leave and wished me good luck. I quickly popped over to the shop to buy my lunch; a traditional onigiri (riceball). Walking towards work I could see my host mother on the roof waving goodbye. Seeing her made me relax a bit.

Kira-san was waiting for me at the door. Wishing each other good morning I headed to the changing room to change my clothes. A white cooks jacket and a white hat to cover all my hair. Once changed he showed me where my time card was and then introduced me to my other co-workers. We didn’t stay there for long. My first day was a orientation day so we jumped into the car and headed to Kinseikens second base for a meeting. During the car trip we played a word game in Japanese where you have to start your word with the previous words ending. That was a lot if fun and I learned some new words.

The second base looked more like a factory and according to Kira-san it only packaged the products from other bases. Here I once again introduced myself to everyone before continuing the orientation.

The next place where we went only made one product; shingen mochi.

We quickly stopped by at the main Kinseiken branch where I would come to work. There I watched them make kasutera what looks a little like a sponge cake. Once Kira-san had what we needed we were off again. This time we went to a park with some stalls. We went to the Jindai Sakura the oldest and biggest living sakura. I must say, it was amazing.

After walking around for a bit we returned and the orientation was over. I was then allowed to help with kasutera. As we came so late it was mostly getting the kasutera ready for packing. You had to be really gentle with them and pick all black bits off. I quickly got the hang of it. After lunch I was allowed to help with making Dorayaki which is pancake like and filled with anko paste. It has egg, brown sugar, sake, honey, water and flour. The egg and sugar are beaten together. You then add the honey and the sake and mix it again after which you add the flour. This you mix until there are no lumps of flour left. Then you let it rest overnight.

Then it was back to the kasutera. After all were packed it was time to clean the place up.

The day ended up going really fast and I had lots of fun. Everyone were really kind and helpful. They tried their best with English and I tried my best in Japanese, and somehow we understood each other. I couldn’t wait for the next day.

I was really tired when I got home. Luckily there was a nice hot bath waiting for me after which we went out to eat Ramen with my host family.

Please read more about her experiences: