Last weekend under the stars

Bon Odori Festival, Warabi - July 29, 2006

Despite having to work both days last weekend (will get a 4-day weekend this week in exchange), because it was the early shift I was able to come home early enough to enjoy some local events with the family.

On Saturday night we went to our local neighborhood 盆踊り(bon odori, or bon dance festival) which we go to every year. After moving to a slightly bigger park last year it has lost a bit of its appeal to me since I went to my first a few years ago. Nevertheless I would still trade in all the festivals in Japan as long as I was allowed to keep this one. I’ve often been curious to go to Tokyo and see other bigger ones, but I’m always afraid they won’t have the atmosphere of the local one (as Dirk noted too). There’s just something magical about those lanterns hanging in the darkness, and the glow of the central structure (what’s this called? called 櫓 (yagura)) around which the participants dance. Perhaps one of these days I’ll slough off my shyness and join in, but I enjoy the periphery all the same.

Kaika with sparkler, Ukima, July 30, 2006

The next evening we went over the Arakawa river to Ukima Park to hook up with friends and do a little late-night fireworks in the park. Nothing like the Chinese firecrackers I used to do as a kid in Hawaii, mainly sparklers and such for the kids. Not surprisingly, they all, including Kaika, got a kick out of holding the sparklers, while the adults got to enjoy the 懐かしい (natsukashii, nostalgic) smell of the fireworks. The kids as well got the added thrill of staying up way past their bedtimes. Eventually someone complained and a police officer on a bike came by to tell us to quit, but he was friendly and all and there were no incidents.

(Click on each photo above to go to the respective galleries.)

五月人形

Emperor Jimmu doll

A couple of months ago I visited the house of one of my students, in part to see her collection of Hina dolls. Yesterday, I visited her house again, this time to see her collection of 五月人形 (gogatsu ningyou, or samurai dolls). I’ve uploaded an album of them, taking care this time to better annotate the dolls (see the captions above each photo).

Serenading the end of hanami

Enka performers at Omiya Park, April 9, 2006: click for larger

Two performers of a sort, unrelated to each other, except that they were both at Omiya Park yesterday for what should no doubt be the last of 花見 (hanami, cherry blossom viewing), both performing.

In the woman’s case, she was in her own カラオケ (karaoke) space, with a tape player and plenty of 演歌 (enka) tapes. Somehow you would expect her to be a bit of a nutter, but she was surprisingly grounded when I talked with her, apologizing for having no Baishou Chieko with her. (Curiously, an elderly man who could’ve been her husband except that later he was nowhere to be found was videotaping her for over an hour).

The man on the right was more one-man mariachi band, walking around the park with his guitar, a microphone/amp setup, and what looked like a handmade karaoke phone book of songs. I’m assuming he was collecting money for his efforts though I saw no money changing hands. His customers when I took this were sufficiently plastered to have no inhibitions about singing their lungs out in public.

Though I pass through Omiya station everyday, I had never been to Omiya Park before, and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. It was the perfect place to close out this years’ hanami “season” as it were.

Omiya Park, April 9, 2006: click for larger

UPDATE (April 17, 2006): I have uploaded photos taken from both hanami parties we were invited to this year.