Monday, February 23, 2009

Tokamachi Snow Festival

This is the Tokamachi Snow Festival. It is not the same as the Sapporo Snow Festival.

The in the foreground of this photo are as close as the general public could get to the snow castle. The people up at the castle must have been part of a show later on. They had lights shining on the snow to turn it different colors. Later that that night, they shot off fireworks from the top of the castle.
A giant snow dragon.


They had several igloos set up. Some of them had little shrines in them. This one seemed to be set up just for kids to play in.
This is a tea ceremony. A very cold tea ceremony.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Toshiba Science Museum

Welcome to the Toshiba Science Museum in Kawasaki!
This corporate run museum is a fun, and free, way to spend a few hours. Stop off at the reception desk when you first enter the museum and arrange for a free tour in English. Your tour guide will take you on a 30 - 45 minute tour of the exhibits that require an operator. There is also plenty to do on your own after the tour.
Your tour guide will take you to the Van de Graaf Generator where your hair will stand on end.
This room is the History of Lighting room. Come for the gigantic light bulb and stay for the show. Your tour guide will start the light show in this room. Watch out for the shark!
That little boy is part of a video game. This particular exhibit wasn't on our tour, but our tour guide explained it to us. The boy and the audience are watching his actions as a character in a video game. This is called the Markerless Motion exhibit.

This is a corporate museum, so take a tour of Toshiba through the years. It may make you feel old when you see how long ago some of the products were out that you had in your family room as a child.
The above photo is in the chroma key room... it's the same thing the tv weathermen use in America. Wherever you are wearing blue, including blue jeans, that part will be invisible. A boy who was in there with us was wearing blue jeans and a blue hooded sweatshirt. It looked like he had only a face and hands. He thought it was hilarious!

To get to the Toshiba Science Museum:

Take a train to JR Kawasaki or Keikyu Kawasaki Station. They are right next to each other. Make your way to the JR Kawasaki West Exit and board Tokyu bus No.82 and get off at Toshiba Kagakukan-Mae bus stop(10 minutes ride).

You can walk to the museum too. It took us about 30 minutes to walk. We took a bus back. The return bus leaves from the Book Off across the street. Catch the bus bound for Kawasaki Station. I believe it was 200-yen for the return bus.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Women buy chocolate for men in Japan. We were in the Saitama area yesterday and there was a lot of chocolate for sale!






Men buy chocolate for women on White day which is March 14th.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mochi pounding!

We attended a mochi pounding party today.
They put rice in that wooden barrel thing and, using a well-choreographed rhythm, they pounded the rice into the gelatinous form that is mochi.
These women would take the freshly pounded mochi and drag it through one of five toppings.
They ran out of nori (seaweed) while I was waiting, so I didn't get the grilled mochi. That is very good though! Starting at the bottom of the photo above are black sesame, anko (kidney bean paste), kinako (soybean flour), and chopped daikon. The black sesame was my favorite.
They put the hot rice in the wooden barrel and then walked around it poking it with these wooden sticks before pounding it with the mallet.
They had a tea ceremony at the celebration as well.Playing the koto.
Music sheets for the Shakuhachi performers.
The Shakuhachi is the flute the gentlemen are playing below.

video

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Setsubun... or competitive bean catching.

Setsubun. Roughly translated it means, "Put a whole bunch of people in the largest area you can find, and throw beans at them." I love Setsubun!
You are supposed to shout, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" "Ogres out, happiness in!"
I didn't hear that shout during the throwing of the beans, just a lot of laughing and yelling. It was all in good fun.

My son's Japanese kid's group did it a couple of years ago and the kids threw balled up newspaper at a cardboard cutout of Oni. This year he wanted to wear an Oni mask. Oni is one bad dude who carries around a big bar.
I took all these pictures at Kenchoji in Kamakura.
The staff at the temple had a special area roped off for children and seniors. The bean throwing happened during the middle of the day, so there weren't many school-aged children in attendance. For the really little kids, the came around after the big bean toss with boxes of beans and let the kids pull some out. You are supposed to eat a bean for every year of your age.

These kids had a pile of bean in that hat in the middle that they were eating from.
These lion-dogs were part of the ceremony before the bean tossing. The dogs come around and "eat" people for good luck. Those costumes made a chomping sound.
Above is a picture of my Eho-maki you're supposed to eat it while facing East North East, the direction of good fortune this year. I had to pre-order it before the end of January and pick it up on the 2nd or 3rd of February. This roll is supposed to symbolize the bar that Oni carries. I guess you eat it so you're eating away the bad.
These kids were dressed up for part of the festival, but they never looked to happy about it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Volcano!

I was trying to figure out what had left the ashy spots all over my car today... now I know.


Naughty vending machine.

I'm not going to translate much of this, but I think you get the picture.

Baiogura... It's a little blue pill, and it's by OPizer. Wonder if it's copyright infringement.
In case you need underwear while you are walking down the street?
This machine was out on a regular city street in Kawasaki. This isn't the same thing as a vending machine that sells porn. From what I understand, the porn vending machines are covered during the day.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Horikawacho Park

Not much of a park, but if you have toddlers that need to blow off steam for a few minutes when visiting JR Kawasaki Station, it's worth a look-see.
There is a lot of shopping at the there.

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