Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cherry Blossoms + Spring Festivals = One Lovely Weekend (Part 1)

It truly seems like the weekends I enjoy the most are always the ones that go by the fastest. Could you imagine a world where the workweek was only 2 days long and the weekend was 5 days? Oh, all of the things we could accomplish!

On Saturday, a teacher assistant at the largest ES picked me up and took me on a cherry blossom viewing adventure. Last November, I went to the Tea Ceremony festival with her and her husband. First, we went to Kakamigahara City (yes, it’s a mouth full...ka-ka-mi-ga-ha-ra, is how you pronounce it in Japanese, except ‘mi’ sounds like “me” and ‘ra’ sounds likes “la” in English. So, “ka-ka-me-ga-ha-la” is how English speakers would pronounce it).

We went to a cherry blossom tea ceremony at the Kakamigahara Citizens Park. This was my second time at a tea ceremony since arriving in Japan last August, and it’s a new activity that I would like to learn more about. I don’t really understand why they do everything in such an exact and precise order, but it truly fascinates me. After having our tea and wandering around the park, we got back in the car and headed to lunch. We went to an udon (thick noodle) restaurant. It was unique because most udon is served in a clear/white broth, but at this restaurant, it was served in a red broth. Very tasty, but very messy (I wore a white shirt…).

After lunch we headed to the area near Inuyama Castle for the annual Spring Festival. It starts at the train station and winds its way through the small, historic looking streets all the way to the castle, probably about 1.5 miles. Street food vendors and games flanked the entire walk, it reminded me of a state fair. In Inuyama (Dog Mountain), they have these things called “da-i”, which are large towers that are exquisitely decorated. I honestly have no better way of explaining them, but hopefully after looking at the pictures you’ll get an idea. They are really tall and they only have wheels that go straight, so to turn these ancient things, the workers have to literally push/pull them to where they need to go. At the train station, we watched 6 of these “da-i” appear. My favorite part of watching the large, towers-on-wheels, was the little kids inside of the towers that were playing music (drums and flutes). It was adorable, especially their kimonos.

Street Vendors

Since it was only about 4 in the afternoon, we still had plenty of time before dusk, when they would illuminate the “dai’s”. We walked around all of the shops, sampled some street fair delicacies of course. We stopped at a teahouse, where I had zenzai (red beans with mochi, it’s like a hot soup). This is a typical New Years treat, which I had back in January and February. Once dusk set in, we watched the lighting of the “dai’s”. There were 7 dai’s near Inuyama Castle, and 6 near the train station. Since we watched the lighting at the castle, we had to wander back to the train station (the car was there). Finally, we watched the fully lit “towers” as they started their trip back home. Impressive!

Green Tea, Zenzai, Umeboshi (those red things...so sour)


But, the night wasn’t finished. It was about 8pm, but we hadn’t had dinner. We went back to Kani City (right next door to Mitake), and went to a sushi restaurant. This was a new sushi restaurant for me, and I will definitely be going back (I just need to remember where it’s located). I had some tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and other assorted fish. Finally, we ordered egg and natto (those sticky beans, I’ve grown to appreciate) that were rolled up in rice and seaweed, and the sushi masters were kind enough to put a Japanese and Canadian flag on the rolls (no American flag that night).


Natto (left) and Fried Egg (right)

So there you have it. Day 1 of my Inuyama Castle Spring Festival event. The cherry blossoms are about halfway to full bloom, so I think I’ll have to head that way next weekend and see if they are fully bloomed then. I know it will be a spectacular sight.

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