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.)

Minakami onsen trip

Group at Minakami, Gunma: click for gallery

Photo by Dirk.

Last weekend we went up to Minakami, an onsen, or hot spring, town nestled in the mountains of northern Gunma, with three other families, all friends.

The town itself, with the Tone River running through it and snow-capped mountains rising up in the background, was probably quite picturesque in its day, but not surprisingly some rather large and ugly hotels and mansion apartment buildings, and the almost de rigueur “ruins” of abandoned hotels and what-not (see here), have taken the shine off the place.

But no matter, this wasn’t about the town or the hot spring baths at the hotel (call me a philistine but I just don’t find hot springs all that therapeutic, or even relaxing for that matter) so much as it was about getting everyone together in a relaxed setting. It was only after we got back home that it occurred to me that, while we all share a common general life situation (each couple an “international” marriage, each family with one young child), if it weren’t for this blog and for Gary sending me a “can you link to my blog?” email about three years ago, it’s safe to say that Naoko, Kaika and I wouldn’t have been there.

(Click on the above photo for an album of photos from the trip).