Yes, we know! It’s been too long since our last blog 😓 but we have a good excuse! We spent our summer holidays doing amazing things all over Japan, and this post is about the first part of our endeavours: a three-week ‘workaway’ in the wonderful city of Hiroshima.
Six months have passed since we arrived in Japan with nervously beating hearts, entering our universities in Kobe and Nara, (not quite) ready to study there for a whole year. During those early months we had the chance to do some exploring in the Kansai region during the weekends, but we had the opportunity to go out and explore any further. Our home university back in Belgium required us to do either an internship or to do volunteering while getting our master’s degrees. It was tough to squeeze that into our tight schedules, so we thought, why not work while seeing a bit more of Japan?
And so we ended up in a charming little hostel in Hiroshima, called The Evergreen Hostel. For three weeks, we worked for Hazuki who is the equally charming owner of the hostel, and we helped her deal with the many guests who kept coming all throughout August, which also happens to be the busiest month of the tourist season in Japan. Meanwhile, we were able to meet new people, try new food and do lots of fun things.
While we were split up between the mixed and female dorms, we spent our nights right among the guests. The bunk beds at The Evergreen are designed like little cabins with curtains for privacy, and each has their own little bed lamp. It all feels very woody and cosy. After Hazuki gave us a short training and checked our check-in skills (hehe), we were left to the hands of Ruru, a very friendly Taiwanese girl who was already volunteering at the hostel for some weeks when we arrived. We became friends during our trip and hope to visit her some day in Taiwan. This is one of the more awesome aspects of volunteering (at a hostel or other) while also just traveling: you automatically meet and interact with people with diverse backgrounds.
Our first check-ins were more stressful than we had anticipated. There are a lot of things to take into account (quite literally when checking the finances). However, after a few days of doing both day and night shifts – alternately of course, Hazuki did not exploit us 😉 – we became used to it. Since there were quite some Japanese guests, we had many opportunities to practice our Japanese in a different way than usual. My half-Mexican boyfriend could use his Spanish skills as well. At one occasion, he had the chance to help a Mexican damsel in distress who had problems paying with her credit card, by interpreting between Japanese and Spanish.
At the hostel, we met many interesting people from all over the world: Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, Mexico, the USA, Australia, China, Taiwan, Austria, Germany, Argentina, … Wait, no Belgians?! Either way, among them, we met two real world travellers for the first time, two people who were keen to set foot on every continent. While meeting these people, we heard a lot of interesting and funny stories as well.
One guy we met was planning to climb Japan’s tallest mountain, Mount Fuji, but his plans turned out quite differently. Because a typhoon had suddenly decided to pay the world-famous mountain a visit itself, the man’s plans had to be canceled. Having lost Mount Fuji as an option, he decided to go to the other extreme — to climb Japan’s smallest mountain, instead. Mount Tenpō is an astonishingly low 4.35 meters above sea level and is conveniently located within the boundaries of the city of Osaka!
No luck with the Japanese mountains this summer, since on another occasion, an American girl suffered a heat stroke while climbing a mountain on the Miyajima Island. She even had to be taken to the hospital with an ambulance boat! After getting out of the hospital, she rushed to Hiroshima station to catch the bullet train to her next destination, but she missed it, and because of the effort she became ill yet again. The positive side to it is that Hazuki could provide her and her friend with beds for an extra night at the hostel.
There was one stable factor throughout our Hiroshima experience: Yasu-san. This extremely friendly Japanese man in his sixties was our greatest help and a nice person to talk to. He even cooked us lunch twice, and since he was once a restaurant owner, it was really great. Just thinking about it, makes our mouths water.
Stay tuned for our next post, in which we tell you more about the things we saw and visited during summer!