Friday, September 26, 2014

Spending time with my sister-in-law and her daughters

My hubby often goes on business trips abroad. Sometimes, during those days, I go and stay at our home in Ichinomiya City. He made an overseas travel in mid-September, and I stayed for a few days in Ichinomiya. On the night of 8th September, while preparing for his trip, we casually looked out of the window of our home in Yurihonjo City and saw a superb bright full moon in the sky. Later I realized that it was Tsukimi moon viewing day in Japan. It is also called the autumn harvest moon. According to Japanese mythology, the dark parts on the surface of the harvest moon resemble a rabbit pounding Mochi rice cakes. I have not been able to trace the rabbit yet. Probably with some help, I might.
Moon as seen from the window of our home

Hubby’s overseas travel was postponed by a couple of days. He left for business trip on 15th September, and I accompanied him up to Narita Airport. After seeing him off, I took a Shinkansen bullet from Tokyo Railway Station and reached Nagoya at about 6 pm. From there I took a local train and reached our home in Ichinomiya at 6.30 pm. I was rather tired due to all the travel that day but I searched for a pair of elderly couple dolls that we had purchased about five years ago. This is because 15th September was the ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ in Japan.
Hubby and I waiting at Narita Airport

Hubby at Narita Airport

Elderly couple dolls

On 16th September, I tended to our small garden located at the back of our home. We usually do not stay in Ichinomiya, so some of the plants we had planted a couple of months ago had dried up. But the plants of corn, eggplant, Shiso, and a few flowers were growing well. I removed two cherry tomato plants as they grew very rapidly and took up a lot of space. I worked in the garden for almost two hours, which was very relaxing.
Two corn plants

Shiso plant

An eggplant


The garden after removing two cherry tomato plants

On 17th September, hubby’s sister and her two daughters visited my home in the evening. Nowadays I really look forward to meet my sister-in-law whenever I am in Ichinomiya. This is because I have only had Japanese acquaintances but no real friends in Japan. Being a foreigner, it is really hard for me to make Japanese real friends. This is probably due to the mistrust of foreigners prevalent in the Japanese society. Also Japanese people are busy and are unlikely to invest time for foreigners. My sister-in-law is the only real friend I have in Japan. Now she has become very close to me with whom I can talk about my real feelings in Honne without worrying about the norms and expectations of the Japanese society. Another reason of my liking her a lot is that she has absolutely no trace of Burikko behavior in her. The word Burikko literally translates to ‘pretend like a child’. I have never heard my sister-in-law speak with baby like high-pitched voice and behave in a certain manner which is supposed to be cute and attractive. I think Burikko is a part of Japanese culture, although I am not sure about it. In the past 17 years in Japan, I have come across a remarkably large number of adult women in their 20s to 60s who talk and behave to a certain degree in an infantile manner. It is supposed to be feminine and Kawaii and is apparently attractive to a large number of men. Although I can understand such type of behavior but find it very difficult to appreciate it and make friendship. So I feel extremely fortunate that my sister-in-law is not at all the Burikko type. Love you, Nori-chan. Also, my sister-in-law’s two daughters are really fun to be with. Both the girls are so well behaved and have impeccable manners. Full credit goes to my sister-in-law.
My sister-in-law

My sister-in-law and her family live nearby in Ichinomiya City itself. She visited my home with her daughters at about 5 pm. Sister-in-law presented me an interior photo frame that she made herself. It is so beautiful and gorgeous. 17th September was a school day, so the older daughter of my sister-in-law did some homework assigned to her by her school teacher that day. Afterwards she read a Manga storybook. The younger daughter played a chemistry related card game with me. It was actually fun to play the game. Sister-in-law and I chatted and gossiped about many things.
My sister-in-law presented me an interior photo frame

Younger niece playing with a globe and trying to locate the place where my hubby had gone for the business trip abroad

Younger niece playing a card game with me

Older niece doing her homework assignment

A little help from mother in doing the homework

Homework finished and now it is time to read a Manga storybook

We had dinner at about 7 pm. I made Japanese style curry-rice for dinner. As far as I remember, it was the first time I had cooked for children in my life. So I was a bit worried but my nieces told me that the curry tasted good and they seemed to enjoy the food. I was really relieved and so happy.
Curry-rice and salad for dinner

Nieces praying before having dinner

Younger niece trying some cheese over curry-rice

Almost finished dinner; happy girls

Sister-in-law having dinner

After dinner, my sister-in-law and I chatted for some more time. Later we all had watermelon, played a few more card games, and watched some television program. At 8.30 pm, both the nieces took bath at my home, and looked very relaxed afterwards. But after about half an hour or so, nieces became very sleepy due to a very hectic day. Soon it was time for my sister-in-law and nieces to leave. We all really had a nice time that evening.
My nieces and I having watermelon

Older niece having a slice of watermelon and reading a Manga storybook

Younger niece had five slices of watermelon and was very happy after successfully piling the rinds

Nieces relaxed and sleepy after having bath

On 18th September, I just relaxed at home and tended to the garden. On 19th September, hubby was to return to Japan. So that day I left my Ichinomiya home at about 12 noon, and took a Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo. I saw Mount Fuji while passing through Shizuoka prefecture. It was the first time I saw Mount Fuji without any snow covering the top of the mountain. From Tokyo Railway Station I took another train and reached Narita Airport. I was in time to meet hubby at the arrival area of the airport. The same day we returned to Akita, and now we both are back to our usual routine. Our routine often involves watching movies on weekends at a theater in Akita City. On 21st September, hubby and I saw an English action movie named Non-Stop, which was nice.
Mount Fuji as seen from inside the Shinkansen train

Hubby (left) and his colleague at the arrival area in Narita Airport

Hubby having popcorn before the start of the movie at a theater in Akita City

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Omagari Fireworks Festival

On 23rd August, hubby and I went to see Omagari Fireworks Festival in Daisen City of Akita prefecture. It is one of the major fireworks festivals in Japan that has been held since 1910 on the dry bed of Omonogawa River. This year was the 88th edition of Omagari Fireworks Festival. The festival attracted about 720000 spectators from entire Japan to Daisen City, and about 18000 fireworks were displayed. The festival is an annual national fireworks competition that is divided into three categories, namely, the daytime fireworks called Hiru Hanabi, 30 centimeters round-shell fireworks, and creative fireworks called Sozo Hanabi. Sozo Hanabi is an annual competition where fireworks artists from all over Japan compete to show off their latest fireworks products and techniques. This year was the 50th year of Sozo Hanabi. For those who are interested, the details about the shapes and sizes of Japanese fireworks can be found at this website.

Hubby and I go every year to see Omagari Fireworks Festival, and viewing the fireworks has become an annual ritual for us. On 23rd August, we started from our home at about 9 am and took two picnic chairs and a picnic sheet with us. It took us about 1.5 hours of car ride to reach Daisen City. We had to park our car at a parking area that was very far from the fireworks display venue. So we had to walk for about an hour to reach the venue. On reaching the festival site, we realized that this year the organizers had drastically changed the seating arrangement and we had to walk for another 45 minutes to reach the ‘unreserved area’. We searched for an open area for seating and were lucky to get a nice place to sit. We spread the picnic sheet and reserved the area for us to sit and view the fireworks later in the evening. At about 12.30 pm, we left the venue and went to Daisen City Hall, which was open to the public on that particular weekend day. We could spend the next few of hours in the comfort of an air-conditioned room there.
From the car parking area, I am walking towards the fireworks display venue in Daisen City

Hubby walking towards the venue

The festival site in the morning

Yet another view of the site

Hubby relaxing inside Daisen City Hall

Hubby got suntanned due to walking for about 2 hours on a bright sunny day

The display of daytime fireworks started at 5.30 pm but we skipped seeing it as we were not much interested. At about 6 pm, we left Daisen City Hall and walked back to the fireworks display venue. We had some difficulty in finding the seating area that we had reserved earlier in the day as the crowd at the festival site had increased tremendously. Eventually we found our seating area and sat down. Many people around us were busy eating and drinking with friends and relatives.
Hubby sitting at our seating area

At 6.50 pm the nighttime fireworks display started with an ‘opening event’. Next, the nighttime national fireworks competition started at 7.05 pm. For the 30 centimeters round-shell fireworks and creative fireworks categories of the competition, this year 28 fireworks artists and manufacturers from all over Japan competed and showed off their techniques. There were spectacular displays of fireworks that used latest fireworks technology and intricate techniques. We enjoyed viewing various kinds of colorful shapes and patterns formed in the night sky. In between the creative fireworks competition, there were four grand fireworks displays called ‘sponsored special event’. These fireworks displays were sponsored by many companies and local organizations but were not included in the competition. These fireworks displays were choreographed to exciting popular music. The fireworks rose into the sky one after another and then exploded into spectacular colorful patterns. There was an additional fireworks display called ‘special program’ where a few companies and organizations collaborated to give a wonderful display of colors and lights. The theme of the ‘special program’ was ‘Odoru - Sky Magic’. The display was really amazing. In addition, at about 8.45 pm there was a fireworks display called the ‘main event’ where different fireworks artists and manufacturers collaborated to give an exquisite display of colors, lights, patterns, and sound. The theme of this year’s main event was ‘Bolero’. About 1800 fireworks were launched in six minutes and 37 seconds. The fireworks were deployed synchronously from several locations spread out across a large area of 550 meters. The passion of the fireworks craftsmen was on grand display and it made a great impression on us. Finally at about 9.30 pm, there was a ‘final event’ where a fantastic display of mostly round-shell fireworks was carried out. Since every year we take lots of photos and also compile many videos of all the programs, this year we just enjoyed the show and clicked photos randomly. Here are some of the photos.

Many photos of Omagari Fireworks Festival

We left our seating area at the fireworks venue at about 9.45 pm. But we had to walk a lot this year due to drastic changes in the seating arrangements at the festival site. Police staffs helped in keeping a smooth flow of the people leaving the venue. It took us almost 2 hours to walk back to 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 loved the exquisite and spectacular display of fireworks at Omagari Fireworks Festival.
People leaving the fireworks venue

Police staffs helping in keeping a smooth flow of the people leaving the venue