Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cherry Blossom Season

A cursory explanation of our Sakura adventures...

A Sakura Tree
A friend of mine told me that you don't know it's spring in Japan by the weather, but by the things that are happening. Students start school and there are many ceremonies, and the scattered plum blossoms give way to the prolific cherry blossoms. In Japanese the trees are called sakura, and the word is heard everywhere over 3 or 4 weeks. At first I was like, "The trees are just blooming, right?" It seems, though, that the trees are not just blooming. A lot of culture surrounds sakura, and I got a lot more excited about it because of all the hype and plan-making.  This is one of the things I love about Japan - appreciation of nature.  Even Starbucks has very pretty sakura cups and mugs for sale.  They rarely put out new designs in Japan, to my chagrin.  I have a sakura mug, white covered in the pinkish blossoms with Sakura 2011 noted in gold.  Sakura is really beautiful, and I'm glad everyone is celebrating it.  The trees explode with the sakura blossoms overnight.  It looks like the trees are covered in pink ice.  That, in conjunction with the pleasant warmth and everything else getting green, makes them stunning.  They get more full over a week, last for maybe a week more, and then the blooms blow away in the wind.  I have heard of people taking sakura vacations where they follow the warmth and the blooming trees from southern Japan to the north.  The blossoming and the falling away happens so quickly.  The brevity of sakura season makes it that much more precious and beautiful. 

Our Sakura Date started with a trip the the local Everyone

The park across from my school - no one is ever allowed on the grass.  Crazy, eh?

Our Sakura beverages.  Peter's is a special Sakura themed wine drink, I think.

When the trees bloom, people have hanami.  'Hana' means flower and 'mi' means to look.  When you have hanami, you go out and enjoy the sakura trees, and usually have a picnic.  I went to 3 hanami events last weekend.  On Saturday, our beautiful and generous friend K came over to watch Knox while Peter and I went to a local park.  We had her come for his nap so he wouldn't have to endure a babysitter for too long.  I told him that K would be there when he woke up and that Mommy and Daddy wouldn't be there.  He knows K and he understood.  We picked up snacks from the konbini and sat under the trees, taking pictures and making use of some rare time alone.  The park is pretty big and the trees are so beautiful that we sat in three different locations over a few hours to see different views.  Many other people also enjoyed the park, and we ran into some JET friends, too.  We called on our way out to see how Knox and K were doing.  She told us that he had a quiet sob when he woke up and that he wasn't talking to her, so we headed home to save the babysitter from certain discomfort.  He was acting strange and giving K sideways looks until I realised what was happening...  I assured him that K was staying the night, but that Mommy and Daddy weren't going anywhere again.  Then he was better.

On Sunday morning we went to an amusement park called Rakutenchi, in Beppu.  I had no idea where or what this place was, but we made plans to go there with our English conversation group.  Knox absolutely loved it!  I've never seen his face so amazed and excited.  It was awesome just to see his face with his big eyes and dropped jaw.  We road a cable car with a doggy face up the mountain from the parking lot.  It's VERY steep.  The view of the ocean and city was pretty awesome.  Knox kept saying, "Ride doggy bus!!!!"  We saw balloons, a duck race, lots of big plastic animals that kids can sit on, goats, monkeys, a llama, a boar, roosters, a peacock, a pony, penguins, etc.  Knox also road a kids Thomas the train and a coin operated panda.  We had hanami in the shade next to a nice open area with some of the faux animals and gorgeous tulips.  The tulips here are so pretty and perfect that they look fake.  It's so nice to be able to relax a little in a place where Knox can run free and I don't have to run on his heels to make sure he's safe.  It was some sort of costume day at Rakutenchi, so we saw lots of people dressed up as anime characters.  We brought bento boxes of food from home, and we had all kinds of cookies and crackers.  In Japan everyone brings food to share, so we tried salad, tamagoyaki, bread, chocolates, and more as everyone passed things around.  We received a shipment of organic peanut butter right before we left the apartment, so we made PB crackers for everyone.  We missed some of the park, including a huge suspension walking bridge, but I think we'll go back in 2 weekends for Knox's birthday.  It's only 1-sen ($10) to get in!  We rode the cat-faced car back down, and Knox was really excited because there is a cat bus in Totoro, one of his favorite movies.  On the way down he was yelling, "Knox ride cat bus!!!"

Kids can drive their own Panda.

Me and Knox riding Thomas the train

The view of Beppu from the Rakutenchi Cat faced cable car

Sakura on the street on our way to Kitsuki
After Rakutenchi I went to Kitsuki to attend a festival meeting.  Thanks to my awesome friend N, I get to be in a parade as a lady in waiting to the princess, wearing a kimono!!!!!!!  I am so excited to finally wear a kimono!  It's kind of an ugly kimono, but whatever.  The meeting was quick, they measured my head for the big black wig I will wear, and we headed back to Beppu for a JET hanami.  Beppu park is gorgeous and I'm so glad I know about it now.  It's sprawling, has sakura everywhere, and sits in front of the mountains.  Beppu park has a kids playground, interesting gardens and landscaping, and grass that we didn't get yelled at for playing soccer on (not that I played soccer).  Good place.  I want to go back.  It was really nice to see a good turn out of JETs, as I hadn't seen so many of them in a while.  Some sat on blankets and talked and snacked while others played soccer.  I had to keep Knox out of the socer game.  A friend donated strawberried to Knox, which is a big deal cause strawberries are like $1 each here.

Tuckered out

The weekend was great and I think we made the most of sakura.  We will try to enjoy it again next weekend, but the blossoms are already blowing away. 

I feel refreshed.

From Japan,

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