Hi guys! It’s been awhile since we updated again. As many of you know, we’re in the middle of packing up our things and moving back home, but as for our our blog we have much to catch up on before that.
As we mentioned in our last entry, after our friends left the country and we had finished our trip to Sapporo, we began to anticipate the arrival of late spring / summer in Japan. Lots of things change in the summer for Japan, but one of the first noticable changes is just our eating habits. Gone now were the cozy nights of eating hot pot or yaki niku. Summer is a season of noodle: soba and ramen! But also, of course, deserts change, too. No more hot chocolates or special coffees. Time for parfaits and ice cream! Mochi are always a given, though.
So let’s see. First, a friend of ours, JT, returned to the US. Before he left, we had an interesting hang out with him and his friends in an art AirBnB. The art work was rather… uhh… interesting.
In July, we saw our first Fireworks of the year at the nearby Omiya Park. It was really crowded, unfortunately, so we had to camp out on a concrete corner along with alot of other people. I went to grab some snacks from the nearby stands, but most people had the same idea, so the roads and lines were extremely congested. Still, I made away with some flavored popcorn and baby castellas, both very common as festival foods. Overall, the fireworks were ok, but hard to watch with the crowds. Fortunately, there was a lot more festivals ahead of us to make up for it.
Our second festival of the year was a Firefly festival not to far from the Setagaya night markets we had visited in the winter. To be honest, although we saw some fireflies, this one, too, was rather crowded, and pretty hot, too. We shared some pork buns that were pretty rich and fatty, and watched some traditional dancing, so it was overall still enjoyable, but it wasn’t really the caliber of festival we had been hoping, yet.
At last there was the Omiya summer festival, featuring much more space and more of the satisfying elements of summer festivals. There were floats, dancing, and street food! Our favorite was a surprisingly delicious salted pork sausage skewer, which we ended up stopping by a second time for more. The shop keeper kind of did a double take when he realized it was us again lol.
Not long after, we took a trip to see the Uchiwa Matsuri, a much, much bigger festival that joins together 4 different towns. Aside from just a mass of fun stands, treats, and activities, the final event included a parade of floats, each with a band of musicians playing traditional drums and flutes, facing each other from 4 angles, having a sort of “jam off”, each trying to drum up more excitement on their side amidst the crowds of cheering people waving their fans. There was a surprisingly amount of intensity. Although, we were kind of stuck next to a fried chicken stand that was clearly overcooking their grease, leaving a waft of awful burnt oil smell about us. ://
Our last major festival of the year was, of course, the Nisshin Tanabata festival in our own home town. We had two, TWO nights to enjoy, but clearly the first was the best. We walked about in our Yukata, I bought a plastic sword, we snacked, talked, and eventually I was blessed by a dragon who bit at my head for the number of years of my age. The second night we went out, things got rained out, so it wasn’t as exciting, but we did find some more Taiwanese pineapple beer! Stuff is surprisingly good.
We did also go out to see a proper fire works display one night, a bit further from where we lived. There was alot of walking, but the final park that we arrived had much more space, so it was possible to see the show without being too uncomfortable. These fireworks were really intense! It felt like many of them were much lower to the ground and fired in much tight clusters than ones we saw elsewhere. You could really feel the bursts in your chest. At first I had presumed some kind of accident had fired several off prematurely, but we soon realized it was part of the show when they continued to fire more off in this way.
Aside from festivals, we also made another couple of fun trips into the city.
For one, we visited the Sky Tree aquarium for a special exhibit on Japanese goldfish, not realizing the huge variety and attractiveness of the types of specially bred goldfish that have come up since the Edo period. There was one type of goldfish that was actually just pure black across its whole body; the depth of the color was enough to make the fish look like a floating piece of charcoal.
Our second adventure involved visiting a gorgeous, historic luxury hotel in downtown, the Gajoen. We didn’t stay in the hotel proper (rooms started at about $600 per person per night on a week night), but we did visit the historical wing that remained from its original construction in the 19th century. This part of the hotel is wooden and made in traditional style, but it’s more famous element is the 99 steps that lead up through the various banquet floors. This famous steps have been featured in ghost stories and horror anime before, in not small part due to the many creep, small wooden dolls of children that line the wall and crevices along the way up. Aside from this creep facture, each banquet room was being used as a small exhibit on traditional Japanese “lights”, and the type of art derived from interesting usage of light. This included things like lamps, glass artwork design to refract light in interesting ways, etc. The banquet rooms themselves, however, were pieces of art themselves, and I spent some amount of time just looking over the ceilings and roofs.
After the hotel, we also ended up picking up a very unusual desert; a matcha parfait plate patterned after a little stone garden lol. It’s hard to explain other than to see it, but it was delicious and refreshing respite from the summer heat.
Lastly, towards the end of Summer, I took a short weekend trip back to the states to visit my friends in Atlanta for the yearly Draconcon event. I was really happy to see people I hadn’t in over a couple of years, and I was glad to meet some new friends, too. Unfortunately, I completely underestimated how bad I am at adjusting through jet lag, and I literally ended up completing the entire 5 day trip sleeping less than 10 hours total. The good news was merely that upon returning, I hadn’t really adjusted off Japan time, so it was easy to fall asleep once I was back in the comfort of my own bed, at my own time.
Ok, I’m going to pass things off to Libby now, as I’ve covered most of our summer adventures.
After looking through pictures for this post, it was obvious we went to a lot of little summer festivals! We went to a lot of them with Zach’s friend who we helped move into town from Nagaoka, so it was three times the fun for most of these events.
It was as Zach said: eating, floats, fireworks in humid hot weather. Sweating was involved again, especially for me and my moist shirts. We traveled to a lot of obscure places for fireworks, where we were even walking through rice fields to get to the area. As we were watching floats and people go by at the Uchiwa Festival, I thought maybe this was the country’s way of tricking people into not using AC. Obviously it worked for us :p Since these festivals will probably be our last at least for a while, I was trying to really up my camera game. To be frank, I’m still a little clueless about the features of my camera. I suppose I’ll just have to keep taking pictures and keep learning slowly.
Meanwhile! While Zach was out of town, I got to do my own exploring around town. Normally it’s just the two of us doing lunch and looking at stuff, so it was kind of strange to be by myself. My schedule definitely gets weird, like eating dinners at like 6pm.
I got to do my Sailor Moon related activities. I went to Azabu Juban, where Sailor Moon is based. Juban is also the name of the high school the girls went to, aaand you’ve been subscribed to Sailor Moon facts! The neighborhood is definitely not what I expected! I can’t really explain it. I guess it feels less teenager friendly. It’s a place where posh adults would hang out, which there were a lot of. Along the cobbled stoned road, there was a lot of nice bakeries and cafes, a fancy makeup store, and a legit smelling bagel sandwich shop. There were also a lot of foreigners there, surprisingly. And they would hail taxis, which was even more strange! I visited the local Hikawa Shrine, which is of the shrines that the anime based on, and I plan to go to the other ones in a later trip! Luckily Tokyo Metro was also hosting a Sailor Moon stamp rally, so I got to get all my geeking out!
Another thing I went to do myself is the annual Pikachu festival held in Yokohama. This year’s event was even bigger with involvement from the Pokemon game app. Like last year there was a lot of blow up Pikachus around and there were lots of people playing Pokemon Go on their phone! The event seemed more crowded than last year.
Non- animation related, I also got to see the Gotokuji temple, which has a portion devoted to the Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat you see at a lot of Asian restaurants. The temple was rather small and other than a tall pagoda with some cat designs, it was mostly cemetery.
‘Til next time! We are winding down!