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Sunday, August 31, 2008

August in Japan

"Obon or just Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors' graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars."--- by wikipedia

We went back to Japan during Obon time.
My parents should be in our house. But, they are not ghosts!

These are shadows. Not ghosts!
It was super hot when we arrived in Japan on August 11th.
I couldn't walk without a handkerchief and my parasol. We also needed Uchiwa or Sensu (Folding fans). Sweat.... sweat.... sweat!!
We couldn't survive without beer at dinner.

These are photos of Shōchū. The labels on the bottles are cool.
I love to drink it with club soda and lime and it is called "Chūhai"
in summer.
In winter with hot water and Umeboshi (Plum pickle) it is called "Shōchū Oyuwari".

Shōchū is an alcoholic beverage of Japan, most commonly distilled from barley, sweet potato or rice. Typically it is 25% alcohol by volume, making it weaker than whisky, but stronger than wine and sake.
Shōchū is produced everywhere in Japan, yet the home of shochu is Kyūshū island.
On the second day of our Japan trip we made a Takoyaki party at my house with my three best friends and two Americans (my son & my boyfriend). My son can't speak Japanese, so I consider him to be an American! In addition, he has half Caucasian blood.
My son wanted to bring a Takoyaki cooking plate back to our US home.

Let's get it at a professional chef's store!
Takoyaki is Osaka's food. It is a kind of snack food prepared with cooked octopus. We see them everywhere in Osaka.
Okonomiyaki is another delicious food from Osaka!
This tower is called "Tsūtenkaku"
According to my friend - It was built 50' to be the symbol of the Osaka Expo although the Expo never took place at that time. This area never developed well and many homeless people have been living in that area.
Well, this is the first time I visited the area and it is starting to develop into a new exciting spot now!
Obon took place from August 13-17. It was still super hot everyday during our long walks.
Ummmmm, I wasn't in a good mood. Help!!!

We were going to Kanazawa August 16-18 to meet my friend. We had not seen each other for 15 years.
How exciting!!!!
I decided to get a rental car to go there. It took three and one half hours from Osaka to Kanazawa by car. Finally I got a rest from the heat while in the car. It also finally rained which brought the temperature down outside.
"It will cool down after Obon." One of my friends mentioned that. He was right.
We could go outside without sweating too much in Kanazawa. Thank God!
We went to Ninja-dera, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and the Higashi-no-kuruwa area.

Higashi-no-Kuruwa (the Eastern Pleasure Quarter), once a high-class entertainment area in the Edo period, is now an interesting area for viewing the old geisha houses. Many of them have been turned into restaurants and tearooms.Morning glories and Kakigori sign.
One of Ochaya kept old style as a museum.
This is the kitchen area. I found the old style of post stand for mail and a milk box.
I smiled and took pictures. They should be about my age!
To go to the Kanazawa Bay was requested by two Americans.
We found Karakuri museum. ( by bay area.

Pull string and change her face.

My son said,

"It is you, Mom!"

I said, "Let's take pictures"

We saw many fishing boats at Kanazawa Bay.
Two Americans were learning Japanese fishing.
Japan is fishing country. Our country is surrounded by sea and many rivers and lakes.
We can catch many varieties of fish and love to eat very fresh fish.
We can get even better fish in winter time.
We went back to Osaka and stayed 4 days to recharge ourselves and then we started
our travel to Nagano by trains.

Here is Bento.
We enjoy to eat Bento box in the train. Each district has special menu of Bento.
There is my parents grave in Shinsyu, Nagano.
They are sleeping in most beautiful view.
When I was a little girl, I came here with my cousin and captured cicada at summer time.
The main reason for my trip to Japan........
To take care of my parents stuff.
Unfortunately, I'm the only child. No one else can do it!
Japanese people take care of dead people very well.
1st year memorial, 3rd year memorial, 7th year memorial, 13th year memorial, Obon.......
It was the 17th memorial for my father.
I wish I could take care of my parents when they lived.

Second reason of my trip in Japan.......
To meet my friends. Oldest friend is since I was 0 years old.
I have kept so many close friends in my country. They are more than friends. They are my family!
We didn't travel place to place. We traveled from friend to friend.
I want to meet with them as much as I can. We are very, very happy to be together.
Last place was Tokyo! Two friends were waiting me to come!
"Where do you want to go in Tokyo? "my friends asked me.
I don't know which area I should pick for the three of us.
My desires were dismissed by my son's opinion at each location.
I wanted to go to "Onsen" (Hot spring) at Kobe, Kanazawa, Nagano as all of those places are great Onsen areas!
My friend mentioned to go to a Spa in Tokyo as well.
A 13 year old boy doesn't want to go to an Onsen or Spa!
It was very, very sorry for me!

Here is Tokyo Tower! I believe I came here when I was my son's age.
It's shaped like a small version of the Eiffel tower.We could view all of Tokyo!
We went to Ginza (like 5th Ave. in NY) after visiting the Tokyo Tower.
We walked to the Shinbashi area and finally we found an interesting restaurant for four of us.
It wasn't easy to make four of us happy everywhere we go. We drove to Kanda - myojin (Shrine) on the way to go back to my friend's Apt.I asked my friends in Tokyo and also in Osaka, "Where is the "hot" place in the city?"
It was the down town area where it wasn't developed for a long time.
The streets were not changing for many years.
Now, new generations are moving into these areas and changing the inside of buildings and houses and turning them into Galleries, Cafe, and shops. They are carrying original goods, crafts and vintage things. Young people are enjoying to wear kimono (Yukata for summer) in new ways.
Japanese are creating their own culture in a new wave. The old stores also remain and are selling their own tastes as well.
I needed to taste them!!!
I bought Tokoroten -- it was delicious!
This old looking bus is called "Megurin" in Taito-ku. You can use it as your tour bus!
Tokyo is a big city like NY. We couldn't visit all the major areas, such as Harajuku, Shibuya, Aoyama, Roppongi, Omotesanndo...etc...
We started our days very late and get tired easily everyday. It was impossible to go many places.
It is OK. We will be back again!
Last night dinner was Chanko-nabe at Ryogoku!
There were many many Chanko-nabe restaurant around Kokugikan (Sumo arena).
I chose a restaurant that was built 65 years ago and it has not changed much.
What is NEW in Japan --- Beloved old culture that I grew up with!

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