Well, it’s finally the end of cherry blossom season! Last week we did hanami – flower viewing – which is an annual tradition in Japan and basically consists of eating a picnic near blossoming cherry trees. It turned out to be a miserably cold, showery day, which put a damper on our viewing enjoyment. But at least I can say I got my hanami experience in for the year!
This week, the cherry blossoms have been slowly fluttering off the trees. We’ve had some windy and rainy days, which have contributed to the denuding of the trees. Earlier this week, there were so many cherry blossoms that there was actually a stream of them floating down the river. I thought it was pretty cool, so I took a video of it!
Yesterday I had another adventure, as one of our Japanese friends invited me to go walking with her in the nearby town of Segawa. Apparently, the town was having their second annual walking event, which consisted of paying a small fee, walking a 3-km or 5-km course, and then being served lunch at the community center. In addition to the walking, there was to be a koinobori (carp flag) raising beforehand, so we decided to participate in that as well.
The day turned out to be gorgeous, with summer-like temperatures. We arrived in plenty of time for the flag raising. Koinobori are flags in the shape of carp, which are traditionally flown this time of year in honor of Children’s Day on May 5th. You can read more about that holiday here: http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/may/children.html.
The flags that were to be raised at this event were quite long. We helped tie them to a wire, which was attached to a pole at one end, and to the top of a tall tree at the other!
The flags waiting to be hung:
The flag raising:
After the lifting of the fish, we prepared for our walk. In true Japanese fashion, we spent time stretching first, moving our bodies in time to the “Radio Taisou,” a music track with stretching instructions which apparently is well known as a warm-up song here (you can watch a version of it that I found on YouTube at this link). After a proper amount of stretching, we set out for some strolling. My friend and I had chosen the 5-km course, so away we went, over country roads and through the woods and hills filled with fresh spring foliage (or, as my friend taught me to say in Japanese, shinryoku, which can be translated as “new green”).
It was a gorgeous day for a walk! This was one of the hilltop houses that we found tucked away in the woods as we walked:
The walk took about an hour, and the route we were on circled back to the community center. As we were passing under the koinobori again, we were subjected to the rather jarring intrusion of a political campaigner. This time of year, according to my understanding, the candidates who are running for office have promotional vehicles that troll around town, with white-gloved passengers who wave at bystanders and self-advertising messages projected over a loudspeaker. I’m not sure if the person hoping to win the people’s favor is actually in the car or not. I just know that hearing these loud proclamations can get a little old after awhile!
When we arrived at the community center again, we were served the promised onigiri (rice balls) and tonjiru (pork soup) on low tables in a traditional tatami room. After satisfying our hunger, we said the proper farewells and thank yous and made our way back to the main parking lot. We finished off our day by stopping at the farmer’s market in town and buying gelato cones. We were hoping to try their specialty, green pepper gelato, but they haven’t started serving it yet this year. Instead, I chose milk tea flavor (milk tea, a sweet and creamy tea, is a popular drink over here). Since one of my food goals this year is to try some of the unique flavors of ice cream that are in Japan, I was happy to have an opportunity to work toward that goal. So far this year, I’ve had sakura ice cream and now the milk tea ice cream, so I’d say I’m off to a good start!
See you all again next week!