Monday, October 26, 2009

The colors of autumn

12th October
On 12th October, hubby and I went to see Hottai-no-Taki, which is a waterfall in the southern part of Yurihonjo city of Akita prefecture. Hottai waterfall is in the mountains near Mount Chokai. It is about 60 km away from our home, and more than half of the way is curvaceous mountainous road. It took us about two hours to reach there by our car as hubby had to drive rather slowly. Somewhere at the beginning of the curvaceous road, there was a viewing platform from where we got a beautiful view of Mount Chokai and its surroundings. Mount Chokai was partly hidden by clouds. On our way we noted that the forests in the mountainous area showed signs of the beginning of autumn color change of the tree leaves.
View of cloud-covered Mount Chokai from observation platform

A small spring on our way to Hottai waterfall


Hottai waterfall looked fabulous. The serenity of the waterfall along with the sound of falling water was very relaxing and peaceful. The waterfall is located at a higher altitude in the mountains. So the waterfall and the surrounding areas had some trees with colored leaves here and there, but not that significantly striking to our eyes. The area looked rather green and fresh. We stayed there and enjoyed the nature for an hour or so.
Hottai waterfall and surrounding area

A mountain range near Hottai waterfall

Hottai waterfall

Close-up view of Hottai waterfall

Me standing near the waterfall


On our way back home, we saw cows grazing in a dairy farm which was located somewhere near the viewing platform. Hubby was very happy to see so many cows!
Cows grazing at a dairy farm


24th October
On 24th October, hubby and I went to Hottai-no-Taki waterfall again, this time to specifically view autumn leaf color. This waterfall is one of the most popular spots for autumn leaf viewing in Akita. During our car ride to the waterfall, we stopped at the viewing platform along the mountainous road. From this platform, we got a beautiful and amazing view of autumn colors. The effect of color gradation was magnificent and unique, which simply took our breath away.
Stunning view from the observation platform

Another view from the observation platform


We enjoyed the spectacular view of forest trees covered with autumn colored leaves during our drive throughout the mountainous road. There was a fiery display of autumn colors on our entire way up to the waterfall. We stopped our car several times to enjoy the view, which was really grand and splendid. The vibrant colors cheered us up.
On our way towards Hottai waterfall

Autumn colors in the mountain range

Autumn colors in the mountain range

Autumn colors along the mountainous road

Autumn colors along the mountainous road

Me standing in the mountain forest

Me standing in the mountain forest


At Hottai waterfall and the surrounding areas, we saw a fabulous display of autumn colored leaves of red, orange, and yellow mixed with a bit of green. The view was amazing and I found myself utterly transfixed by the majestic beauty of the autumn leaves. We stayed near the waterfall and enjoyed the beautiful stunning view for almost an hour.
Hottai waterfall and surrounding area

A mountain range near Hottai waterfall

Hottai waterfall

Close-up view of Hottai waterfall

Me in front of the waterfall

Hubby in front of the waterfall

Hubby standing next to a bridge and a mountain range near the waterfall

Me standing next to a bridge and a mountain range near the waterfall


While returning back home, hubby stopped his car at a car-parking area located somewhere near the viewing platform. We got a wonderful view of ice-capped Mount Chokai from this place. Hubby practiced golf swings in the car-parking area. Fortunately, the car-parking was empty at that time.
Mount Chokai

Ice-capped Mount Chokai

Hubby practicing golf swing at a car-parking area


Hubby and I enjoyed every moment we spent viewing the autumn colors.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Omagari fireworks festival

On August 22, hubby and I went to see Omagari fireworks festival in Daisen city of Akita prefecture. It is an annual national fireworks competition held on the dry bed of Omonogawa River in Daisen city on the fourth Saturday of August. It is one of the major fireworks festivals in Japan that has been held since 1910. The official name of the festival is ‘Zenkoku hanabi kyogi taikai (National fireworks competition)’. In the competition, about thirty fireworks artists selected from all over Japan compete to show off their techniques. The competition is split up into three categories: ‘hiru-hanabi (day fireworks)’, ‘10-go warimono (shakudama, which are 12-inch round shell fireworks)’, and ‘sozo-hanabi (creative fireworks)’. Omagari was the first competition in Japan to incorporate ‘sozo-hanabi’ as one of the categories for its evening display in 1963. In recent years, the fireworks displays are usually orchestrated to music which offers greater enjoyment to the audience.

This year was the 83rd edition of the Omagari fireworks display. It attracted an audience of about 680,000 from entire Japan to Omagari district, which only has a population of roughly 40,000 people. The display started from 5 pm and about 15,000 fireworks were displayed. We started from our home at about 11 am and bought two foldable picnic chairs and a picnic sheet from a nearby home center store. We bought our lunch from a convenience store and had it during our car drive to Omagari city. We reached Omagari at about 1.00 pm. Hubby had to park his car at a parking area that was very far from the fireworks display venue. So we had to walk for almost an hour to reach the venue.
Me walking towards fireworks display venue

Hubby holding foldable picnic chairs and walking towards fireworks display venue


As we neared the festival venue, we started seeing many people walking towards the venue. There were people who came from faraway places in their cars and camped overnight near the site. We saw people taking rest in their cars, camping cars, and camping tents. We also saw many food as well as toy stalls put up for the purpose of the festival that sold many mouthwatering snacks and toys related to the fireworks festival.
Cars, camping cars, and camping tents of people from faraway places

Food stalls


On reaching the festival site, we saw a huge crowd of people searching for an open area for seating. There were several reserved seats for which tickets had to be purchased in advance. However, most of the people preferred to just go early and look for an open area for seating. We were lucky that we got a nice place to sit within ten minutes of our search. Police personnel were deployed to control the huge crowd and also to provide security and help to the people.
Crowd at the fireworks display venue

Crowd at the fireworks display venue

Police personnel at the festival site


After getting a seating area and making ourselves comfortable, we realized that it was just 2.30 pm and still a few hours remained for the fireworks display to begin. We saw that many people had put up tents and parasols and took rest inside. Some people were just lying and relaxing on picnic sheets in the sunny weather. Many others were enjoying various kinds of snacks. Hubby bought yakisoba (fried noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken), yaki-tomorokoshi (grilled corn), kakigori (shaved ice), cold drinks, and a can of beer form a nearby food stall, and we enjoyed eating and drinking while watching the huge crowd. We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the event.
People relaxing and having snacks in tents, parasols, and picnic sheets at festival site

Hubby eating yakisoba

Hubby enjoying non-alcohol beer

Hubby eating grilled corn


At about 5 pm, hiru-hanabi (day fireworks) started. Hiru-hanabi competition is held in daylight using enryu (smoke dragon) and warimono (round shell) fireworks. Instead of using light in the night sky, enryu (smoke dragon) fireworks form patterns with colorful smoke (red, yellow, green, purple, etc.). The colorful smoke patterns looked really beautiful. Warimono (round shell) fireworks were a little bit difficult to see in the daylight as they look the same as night fireworks. Hiru-hanabi display ended at about 5.40 pm. We loved the beautiful display of colorful smoke.
Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks


At about 6.50 pm, the night time fireworks display started, which included a grand display of 12-inch round shell fireworks and creative fireworks. About 30 fireworks artists and manufacturers from all over Japan competed and battled for the title of ‘Best in Japan’ with an amazing display of light and sound. There was a spectacular display of highly advanced fireworks that used latest fireworks technology and very intricate techniques to form various kinds of colorful shapes, patterns, and animation characters in the night sky. I compiled a video of the fireworks display of four of the fireworks manufacturers.
Display of night time fireworks

Display of night time fireworks

Hubby enjoying the fireworks display

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

video
A compiled video of four of the creative fireworks display


There was also a display called ‘main event’, where different fireworks artists and manufacturers collaborated to give a wonderful display of colors and patterns. The theme of this seven-minute event was ‘Bushido’. We were overwhelmed by this fireworks display, and became intoxicated by the sounds that rattled our bones as the colorful flames and patterns danced in the sky. The fireworks rose into the sky one after another in rhythm to the music played and then exploded into spectacular patterns. It was an exquisite display of original color, style, and light.
video
Video of the ‘main event’ of the fireworks display (original clip; please increase the sound volume)


The display of creative fireworks by various fireworks manufacturers continued after the ‘main event’. At about 9.20 pm, there was a ‘final event’ where a spectacular display of mostly round shell fireworks was carried out. The masterpieces and passion of the fireworks craftsmen were on grand display.
video
Video of the ‘final event’ of the fireworks display (original clip; please increase the sound volume)


The fireworks display came to an end at about 9.30 pm. It took us about 45 minutes just to go out of the venue due to the huge crowd. It took another 1.5 hours of walking to reach the car-parking where we had parked our car. It was about 1.30 am of the next day when we reached back our home. We were very tired due to staying outside for almost 14 hours but we thoroughly enjoyed the Omagari fireworks festival and the grand display for color, sound, and light.