Tsuruoka Monitor Tour 2017 (24-25 June)

During my semester at Showa Women’s University as an exchange student, I had the great pleasure to be chosen for this amazing experience focused on discovering the beauty and touristic appeal of the City of Tsuruoka and its surroundings.

My name is Lavinia Scarpinella , and I am a Japanese Language and Culture student at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

Before the tour, I knew little to nothing about the destination of our trip, except it being located somewhere in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan. Later I would discover that getting to know more about Tsuruoka and its Prefecture of Yamagata was definitely worth the trouble! This tour was an amazing opportunity to leave behind the so well-known and talked about aspects of urban Japan and explore its more rural, and in a way, more genuinely authentic side.

Early in the morning on the first day we went cherry picking, and we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted for 40 minutes. Those lustrous red cherries were absolutely delicious!

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Then we proceeded to produce jam from those fresh cherries under the guidance of a local producer. I was much fun and quite educational!

We each got our own Jam souvenir and were also offered a great variety of drink and food samples of the local production. I had the best apple juice of my life!

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Then we went to have lunch in a traditional and very suggestive Japanese inn with Japanese style tasteful interiors. The food was all local produce kaiseki ryouri with small yet satisfying amounts and  varieties of traditionally cooked and served vegetables, fish and non-stop rice. Everything was delicious!

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Afterwards we went to the neighboring small town of Matsugaoka to see its silkworms and enjoy a handcrafting event featuring the silkworm cocoons. It was a very valuable and fun experience to get in touch with the local crafts and the city’s connection to silk production.

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After a tasty kaiseki ryori dinner rich in local fish produce and a good night’s sleep at a nice and comfortable inn in the sea town of Yura, we woke up at sunrise to embark on a fishing boat were the local fishermen heaved the huge fishing nets aboard unloading the night’s catch in special storage boxes inside the boat. It was an exciting experience to help pulling the nets, holding and examining the fish, being explained what the various fish sorts were, feeding the seagulls and interacting with the local population. On land we the helped sorting out the various catches. There were Fugu (puffer fish), Aji (horse mackerel), Tobiuo (flying fish) and many more!

We also learned to cook some of them ourselves preparing lunch!

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I had an amazing time and would warmly recommend anyone to come and discover the hidden beauty and charm of Tsuruoka and it’s surroundings!