Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nakizumo, the Crying Sumo Festival

I'm not sure what it is about the Japanese and their need to scare small children, but it sure can be entertaining!Nakizumo is a festival that happens all over the country. The one we attended happened to be at the Sensoji Temple at Asakusa in Tokyo.Many babies were all smiles before the competition, but they put their game face on as soon as they stepped into the ring.Some of the babies were crying the second they left their mom's arms.This little guy is seen here warming up before his turn in the ring.The judge on the stage was yelling, "Nake! Nake!" or "Cry! Cry!" at the babies.
Two babies are pitted against each other in the massive arms of Sumo wrestlers. The winner is the baby who cries the loudest.
We arrived an hour before the festival was set to begin and were able to get place right up at the front.
They would get the occasional baby who would laugh or even sleep. In those instances, a guy would come in from the corner wearing an Oni mask to make the baby cry. This little boy slept through the whole thing, no matter what they did to try and wake him.
The festival takes place on the fourth Sunday of April at Asakusa.
On a side note, I first heard about this festival several years ago. I was afraid I had built it up too much in my head, but I loved every minute of it! If you go, make sure you get there very early!!!

If you want more information on this festival, check out Katie's blog. She also has a lot of photos.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rice planting in Chiba

We went to plant rice today in Chiba. Chiba is beautiful farm country. They took you to an area that worked best with your group size.

This is what the rice plants look like before they are planted. The guys working there would rip off a section and hurl it into the water. The people planting would grab one of those chunks and break of a piece of about 5 and push it into the clay and mud at the bottom.

There is a string with little beads that stretches from one side to the other. That is the spacing for the plants. The rows are about 20 centimeters apart.
This elderly woman was working twice as hard as anyone planting rice. She was working a small farm next to where we were.
This is what the rice plants look like planted.
There were salamanders and frogs all over the place. This is a display of Biwa fruit candies. I had never heard of Biwa before and I didn't see the actual fruit. They even had Biwa flavored ice cream.
I liked this road sign, but we saw it at the last minute.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Azaleas in Hayama at Hananokiyama Park (花の木山公園)

Azaleas are in bloom now in Japan! This particular park is in Hayama adjacent to the Hayama Town Hall.
From the little I could understand, there are about 1,000 Azalea bushes planted on this hillside. There are 50 different types.
A bee doing it's job.

Pudding anyone?

Tateishi (立石)the standing stone in Hayama. I was surprised to see Fuji this morning! I saw it as I was leaving the area with the Azaleas, so I drove down to see it at Tateishi. By the time I got down there, it wasn't as visible, but still beautiful.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Higashi-Zushi Festival

Load up the dogs, we're going to a festival!
I volunteered at this little festival near our house on Sunday. It was very similar to most other festivals here in Japan, minus the giant... umm things, at other festivals. This was just a small neighborhood thing.
This poor little guy was made to perform at the festival. Can you see him way up there in the air?
Games to keep the kids busy. We came home with a a paper yo-yo.
Mochi pounding! The line to buy the fresh mochi in kinako powder was very long, but I wish I had had time to stand in that line. Kinako coated mochi is one of my favorite!
A band getting ready to perform. I don't know if they were a big deal... I can't imagine they were since the festival was so small, but there was a television crew there taping the band's performance.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yabusame in Kamakura

We went to Kamakura to see their Yabusame, or horseback archery, today. I believe I posted about Yabusame once before. Today was beautiful! That means, lots and lots of people! We were 45 minutes early, but we were still way back.
That competitor had just passed the last target. We were near the end of the line.
This was the parade of targets before the competition.
More of the parade before hand.
This guy was posing for pictures... so I took some. He seemed to enjoy the attention.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dinosaurs invade Ueno!

We took a trip up to Ueno today specifically to see dinosaurs. There is a special Dinosaurs of Gondwana exhibit next to the National Museum of Nature and Science there.
The exhibit was entirely in Japanese, of course, but they did have the dinosaur names displayed in Romanji. I have a young dinosaur fan in my house, and I thought myself an authority on dinosaurs. I apparently have a long way to go. I didn't recognize any of those dinosaur names.
They had some touch and feel exhibits at the end of the exhibit.

There was a video playing behind the dinosaur bones.
These kids were standing next to a leg bone. Okay, I have no idea what bone this was, but everyone was taking photos next to it, so they did too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bamboo Barbecue

We went with a group of locals for a hillside hike and a barbecue. We (by we I mean, they) hunted down bamboo shoots to grill.
This is what a freshly liberated bamboo shoot looks like. To find them, the men and women would hike around where the bamboo was growing and feel for those little shoots with their feet. Most of what he is holding he had to dig out of the ground.They cut off the outer layers of the bamboo, wrapped them up in tin foil, and put them over the hot coals. It seems like it took a long time to cook, but it was worth it!
When it was finally done, they unwrapped it and sprinkled it with soy sauce. Someone compared the taste to somewhere between asparagus and water chestnuts. I would agree. To me it was a little closer to water chestnuts than asparagus.
They grilled a lot of different foods. These sea snails were another food they had. I didn't try them, they're not my cup of tea. My husband had one and said they were edible, but not great and he likes most food.
Plucking the meat from the shell.
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