It’s not every day you get to meet a fifth-generation soya sauce master, try vanilla ice cream topped with soya sauce, and be serenaded by the cutest group of Japanese schoolchildren. Today held all these treasures and more!

Our day began with a photography presentation from National Geographic photo expert James Whitlow Delano entitled, “Ryuku: Sub Tropical Japan.” He shared a breathtaking collection of images made in the Ryukyu (Okinawa) Islands as an introduction to the beauty we will soon experience. After a delicious lunch, we disembarked on Shodoshima, the second largest island in the Seto Inland Sea, known for olives, soy sauce, and the fact that it is shaped like a cow.

We were welcomed to the island by the cutest group of Japanese kindergarten students. For the past three months, they have practiced playing songs on various musical instruments for our arrival. I’ve seen few things in my life that rival the preciousness of their proud faces.

On this island, we broke into two groups. Some of us took a strenuous hike to the top of the Kankakei Gorge, and others enjoyed a leisurely gondola ride to the top. Both options ended with a spectacular view of the valley and port below. After these explorations, we visited a Soya Sauce Brewery to learn about soya sauce production from a fifth-generation soya sauce master. He offered us a taste of a famous dessert...vanilla ice cream topped with a special soya sauce! It was delightfully harmonious. We enjoyed an evening of cocktails and our first recap, a colorful plate of sushi and a delicious dessert, and time spent making origami cranes with our local guides to bring with us to Hiroshima tomorrow. Every day has been so full of wonder and awe.

Text written by Giulia Ciampini