Photos by Caroline Rock, (University of Texas at Austin) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Summer 2018 Last weekend was our only 3-day-weekend of the summer semester. I wanted to take full advantage by packing each day with fun things to do. First was a joint birthday party on Friday night for two of our classmates. Saturday afternoon a group of students headed to Kyoto, which is famous for their matcha desserts! My classmates got matcha cakes and parfaits, but I couldn’t resist this delicious strawberry shaved ice. Afterwards, we planned to stay in the city for Gion Matsuri, one of the most famous festivals in Japan. However, the heat and the amount of people was a little too much for us, so instead we took the train to Arashiyama for a little nature. There’s a quaint little town with lots of traditional shops and places to eat. We found some strange snacks, including cucumbers-on-a-stick! There were lots of foreigners, and for good reason, because there is so much beautiful nature to be found in Arashiyama. Arashiyama is most known for its bamboo forest! Strolling along the winding path through the forest was mesmerizing. We went around sunset, and the coverage from the trees, along with sounds from birds and insects high in the bamboo, made the experience almost a little chilling! Within the forest, there are many shrines, gardens, and ponds to be found. Arashiyama is also known for their monkey park, but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to go in! Sunday was beach day! CET students and our roommates headed to Suma for a day in the sun! Floating along in a watermelon floatie with one of my best friends Erina! Just like in America, watermelons (or suika) are a popular summer motif in Japan, but for a slightly different reason! There’s a popular summer game in Japan that involves breaking open a watermelon on the beach like a pinata, with a blindfold and a stick! After a full afternoon of sun and sand, we boarded the train back! Afterwards a group of us met for an Indo-curry dinner and to watch a horror movie. Watching scary movies in the summer is another popular Japanese custom, because the “chills” from the scary movie are supposed to cool you down from the sweltering summer heat. I managed to snap this picture of the beach before heading out. The sea against the backdrop of the mountains was truly a Japanese sight! Our day off on Monday was dedicated to a huge item that I’ve had on my Japan Bucket List for years – Universal Studios Japan! Or, as the locals call it, USJ! Full disclosure – I am a huge Harry Potter fan! I raced to the Harry Potter part of the park as soon as we got through the main gates. Drinking butterbeer, eating chocolate frogs, and performing magic were just a few of the fun things we got to do! The rides were worth the wait, and we even came back one more time before the park closed to ride them one more time. I felt like a kid again! The biggest attraction right now is the Jurassic Park area, where you can take a ride that puts you through a waterfall, and a roller coaster that lets you fly like a dinosaur!