Mandarin orange juice from a faucet?!?<Travel Diary of an American Exchange Student: Part 2>

Mandarin orange juice from a faucet?!?<Travel Diary of an American Exchange Student: Part 2>
As an international student on a one year study abroad exchange program, I had been fortunate enough to visit Nikko, Nara, Hakone, and other areas of Japan that would appear on a travel book’s list of “top ten places to visit in Japan.” I was looking for something different, something that would wipe away the stresses of everyday life in the big city; I was looking for adventure. I found that in Ehime Prefecture.

Ehime is one of the four prefectures that make up the island of Shikoku. Matsuyama, one of largest cities in Shikoku, is located in Ehime. My foray into Ehime and the island of Shikoku began here.

Matsuyama can be accessed by shinkansen (bullet train), but the fastest way to get there from Tokyo is by airplane. It is a short flight, less than two hours. Recently, due to the emergence of low cost carriers (LCCs) air travel in Japan has become increasingly affordable. I choose to take a flight with one of these LCCs, Jetstar, for the first time. The fare was quite reasonable, being around 7,000 yen one way, much, much cheaper than taking a train from Tokyo. Most flights originate from Narita airport, which has been shifting more focus to LCCs. When people hear the phrase “low cost,” they tend to think “bad service,” but I did not feel any feel any difference in service quality compared to a legacy carrier. In fact the ground staff behind the check-in counter were actually All Nippon Air employees!

After a quick flight, the plane touched down at Matsuyama Airport. I already had something in mind that I wanted to do as soon I entered the terminal. In Japan, many prefectures have local products that are known nationwide. In Ehime, one of these products is the mikan (mandarin orange). I had read before departing that inside Matsuyama Airport, there was a dedicated faucet that dispensed fresh, sweet mikan juice (similar to orange juice) at no cost! Somehow the idea of being able to sample a local specialty immediately (and for free!) after disembarking the airplane was irresistible. Alas, unbeknown to me, the faucet only operates on select days each month, and the day I arrived was not one of them. But don’t be dismayed! I was able to have my juice, and drink it too, later on.

The first place on my list to visit was Ishite-ji Temple, one of 88 temples dotted over the island of Shikoku which make up the Shikoku Henro, or the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Here at Ishite-ji Temple, I had one of my most spiritual experiences during my three years here in Japan.

The temple’s history goes back 1,200 years. The story of why it is called Ishite-ji Temple is rich in meaning. One day, a greedy farmer named Saburo Eimon had a visit from a poor monk. The monk begged for room and board for the night, as he had little food and no place to stay. But Saburo chased the monk away with a broom, and in doing so broke the monk’s bowl into eight pieces. Thereafter, the farmer’s eight children passed away one after another. Realizing he had made a mistake in chasing away the monk in his time of need, Saburo sold his home and possessions and travelled all around Shikoku to find the monk. He eventually found himself without food or shelter, without a place to stay. On his deathbed, Saburo heard a voice proclaim “By this your crime is expunged. Do you have a final request?” At his side stood none other than the monk! With his last breathe, he vowed “I will be reborn as the son of a daimyo (feudal lord), and do good works for the people.” As he expired, a small stone inscribed with the phrase “Saburo Eimon is reborn” was found in his hand. When next a son was born to the local daimyo (feudal lord), he clutched in his little hand a stone inscribed with the very same phrase. The temple is said to house the stone, and is named “Ishite-ji” because the word “Ishite” is a combination of the characters for “stone” and “hand”.

The impact of this story still stays with me today.

・Zachary Lazbasan (Zack)
・Time in Japan: 3 Years
A 24-year-old from California in the United States, Zachary has spent three years as an Japanese exchange student. It was during his studies of international relations that he decided to attend university in Japan, realizing that overseas he would have more contact with different cultures and social values.

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