Unzen National Park was established in 1934 in Nagasaki, Japan. The park gets its name from Mount Unzen, an active volcano. For students who are studying abroad in Nagasaki, the USAC partner university, JASIN, organizes an overnight field trip to Unzen National Park as a way to introduce exchange students to freshman and other new students before classes start.
In Spring 2017, Clare Impicciche attended the field trip and shared her experience with us, which you can read below.
Visiting Unzen National Park
This past weekend we went on a field trip to Unzen National Park. It was a way to get the freshman as well as new students together before the start of classes. The JASIN students (my program) and NICS students went first, as we did a little sightseeing beforehand. We left early in the morning, around 8:50 am. We loaded onto the bus and took an hour long journey to a little area with a beautiful view of the sea where they sold fried potatoes and Castella Ice (castella cake with ice cream in the middle).
After that, we drove to the site of a volcanic natural disaster that took place in 1993. The houses that were at the location had been unearthed from the volcanic lava and are still buried today. It was really interesting to see the raw destruction, yet the houses were still pretty much intact. This is also where we enjoyed a traditional Japanese style lunch. After lunch, we went to a museum about the 1993 volcanic eruption. It had a simulation room, as well as different explanations of volcanic eruptions and a puppet show! We enjoyed the beautiful view of the sea as we explored the museum and learned more about this event in history.
Once we left there, we went to Shimabara Castle. We were only there for about 45 minutes, but it was still a memorable part of the trip. At the castle, they had samurai gear that we could try on, which was a lot of fun, and there was a samurai village, although most of it has become more modern over time. The village has a stream of water flowing down the middle that people used to be able to use. Some of the original houses are still there, or have been replicated to look like samurai houses, complete with thatched roofs! It was very cool to see!
Next, we went to the hotel, which looked like a normal hotel on the outside, but on the inside it was a ryokan, complete with hot springs. A ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868) when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways. We checked in but quickly went to a gym in town for some icebreaker games with the Japanese freshman. We participated in matching numbers, balancing balloons, and popping the balloons. Afterward, we headed back to the hotel for a traditional Japanese dinner.
After dinner, we had free time to do what we wanted. The gai dai staff had set up Karaoke and some games and we had a chance to go to the hot spring in the hotel. We also were allowed to wear the Yukata (A yukata (浴衣) is a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined) that the hotel provided. Everyone thought that the hot springs would be awkward (as it is a public bath, although it is separated by gender, being naked around a bunch of people you just met can be weird), but it was a nice experience. We all just relaxed and socialized, at least that is what the women did. I’m not sure about the men.
The next day we got up early for breakfast and then had some more free time to explore on our own. Unfortunately, it was very foggy that day so we were unable to hike to the top of this mountain we were near. Instead, my friends and I went to see a temple with a mysterious carving, which we were unable to discover who the carving was of or where it was from, but it was still interesting to see.
Then we went to some of the natural geysers, but because of all the fog, it was hard to see anything. We had lunch at the hotel, and on our way home we stopped at (no joke) Obama. It is a town with a public foot bath. The water is really really hot making it that you can only keep your feet in the water for short periods of time, like 60 seconds. Overall, it was a very memorable and enjoyable trip that I’m happy I participated in.
Clare Impicciche is a student from Marian University who studied abroad in Nagasaki, Japan during Spring 2017. You can read more about her time in Nagasaki on her personal blog.
**Photo credit to Clare Impicciche