Monday, February 29, 2016

Silver Week Holidays 2015

There were many consecutive holidays in the month of September 2015 in Japan. The holidays from September 19 to September 23 have been dubbed as Silver Week Holidays, and refer to the incorporation of a weekend followed by three Japanese public holidays which are Respect for the Aged Day (September 21), Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23), and the day in between these two holidays known as Kokumin no Kyujitsu (citizen’s holiday, September 22). Such unusual silver week holidays will next occur in September 2026. Silver week refers to the second rank after the more famous Golden Week Holidays.

During the Silver Week Holidays of 2015, hubby and I went to our home in Ichinomiya City of Aichi prefecture. We usually use flight for the travel as Akita and Aichi prefectures are very far apart and such long distance travel can be a bit tiring. However, we had decided at the end moment to visit Ichinomiya and could not reserve flight tickets. Therefore we traveled by train and it was so much fun. Although hubby and I went to Ichinomiya by train, we returned to Akita by flight after the holidays. So on the morning of 19th September 2015, we left our home in Yurihonjo City at about 7 am and after about 50 minutes of car ride, we reached Akita Airport where we parked our car at a parking lot for five days. Afterwards we took a bus and reached Akita Railway Station in Akita City. We used Akita Shinkansen Komachi train to travel from Akita to Tokyo. The train started at about 9.30 am and it took us about 4 hours to reach Tokyo Railway Station. The interior of the train was very nice and the journey was comfortable. I enjoyed the outside view of rice fields ready to be harvested. The passing landscapes really appealed to me. We had our breakfast of Ekiben boxed meals that we had purchased earlier at Akita Station. It was really nice to have the delicious meal of rice and octopus while enjoying the outside view from the train. After about an hour of travel, our train made an unscheduled stop at a small railway station in Akita prefecture itself and I was very amazed to see a freight train with black hopper cars used for carrying coal, crushed stone, and cement. I have never seen such trains in Japan and so it was very exciting for me. We were again a bit hungry after another hour or so, and we bought some snacks from a trolley cart that was regularly wheeled around by the train-staff. Such trolley carts selling various food items, snacks, cold drinks, hot coffee, and alcohol are really so convenient for the travelers. We had the snacks and hot coffee in the relaxed atmosphere inside the train. Soon hubby dozed off while I enjoyed the passing views of the fields, villages, towns, cities, and many small railway stations. We reached Tokyo Railway Station at about 1.30 pm. Four hours of Akita Shinkansen Komachi train travel seemed to have passed very fast for me, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Next we travelled up to Nagoya by Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi train but we had to wait for about two hours at Tokyo Railway Station. Tokyo Station was extremely crowded due to the holidays and we had to literally sit on the floor near the waiting area. It was too funny to see hubby sitting down on the floor and it reminded me of the crowded train travels back in India about two decades ago. We reached Nagoya Railway Station at about 5 pm and took a local train that reached Ichinomiya Railway Station at about 5.30 pm. My father-in-law and his wife were waiting for us at the station and we directly went to a nearby Sushi restaurant and had dinner. We reached our home in Ichinomiya at about 8 pm. Soon afterwards hubby and I went to a public golf practice driving range located in the city itself. Public driving ranges are very popular in Japan where golf lovers can practice their swing without worrying about the extraordinarily high golf membership fees for usual golf courses. Hubby purchased golf balls at a dispenser machine and practiced golf shots using clubs like wedges and drivers. It was fun to watch him practice golf shots and I clicked a few photos of him in action. It was almost 11 pm when we returned to our home in Ichinomiya and soon retired to bed.
Hubby standing at the car parking area of Akita Airport where we parked our car for the Silver Week Holidays

Hubby and I inside Akita Shinkansen train

Ekiben breakfast we purchased at Akita Railway Station

Delicious Ekiben of rice and octopus

Hubby having Ekiben for breakfast inside the train

Two black hopper cars of a freight train we saw at a small railway station in Akita prefecture

The hopper cars were very amazing

Hubby having snacks inside Akita Shinkansen train

Hubby having hot coffee

Rice fields ready to be harvested as viewed from inside the train

Hubby sitting on the floor next to a waiting area of crowded Tokyo Railway Station

Hubby having dinner with relatives at a Sushi restaurant in Ichinomiya City

Hubby practicing golf shots at a public driving range in Ichinomiya City

Another photo of hubby practicing golf shots

Yet another photo of hubby practicing his shots

On 20th September 2015, father-in-law, his wife, hubby, and a few other relatives went to play golf at Springfield Golf Club in Tajimi City of Gifu prefecture. They left home at about 6 am. I am not much interested in the sport, so I went with hubby’s sister and her family to a nearby sightseeing spot named Meiji Mura Museum which is an open air museum located in Inuyama City. It was very interesting to spend the entire day at the museum and see many historic architectural buildings. I will write about the visit to Meiji Mura Museum in the next post. After enjoying visiting the museum, we all returned to Ichinomiya home at about 4.30 pm. However, sister-in-law left immediately after dropping off her two daughters who stayed overnight with hubby and I. Hubby had already returned home after playing golf at about 4 pm. Both the nieces were very happy to see their uncle and played some card game for a while. At about 5.30 pm we went to a nearby bookstore and bought a few storybooks and funny toys for the nieces. Afterwards we had dinner at a family restaurant named Gusto. Father-in-law and his wife also accompanied us for dinner. On returning home, both the girls were very excited to see the new toys and storybooks and played with the toys for almost an hour or so. Younger niece was very happy trying to play with a toy named Kendama that I had purchased for her earlier in the day at the museum. It was getting late and at about 9.30 pm I had to almost force the girls to take bath. The girls soaked in the bathtub for quite some time and looked very relaxed afterwards. I dried their hair while they played with their new toys. At about 10.30 pm the girls went to bed and I continued with the household chores. But I kept hearing the girls talk in a hushed tone and when I went to see what the matter was I noted that the girls and their uncle were quietly playing a card game under the light of a table lamp. The girls were trying to be as quite as possible while playing at such an unearthly hour (well for the girls at least). I guess their uncle is too lenient with them. Anyway it was holiday time so I let the girls play for another hour or so. They got very tired by 11.30 pm and retired to bed finally. It was a hectic and fun filled day for all of us.
Meiji Mura Museum in Inuyama City

After returning home from the museum, the nieces playing a card game with their uncle

Nieces and hubby in the front yard of our home

We all having dinner at Gusto Restaurant

On returning home, both the nieces playing with the new toys that their uncle purchased for them

Younger niece practicing Kendama

After bath I am drying the hair of younger niece

Drying older niece’s hair

Girls and their uncle quietly playing a card game under the light of a table lamp

On the morning of 21st September 2015, I made breakfast and fed the girls. Afterwards we drove them to their home. In the afternoon, hubby and I went to see a professional baseball game at Nagoya Dome. I will write about the experience of watching the baseball game in a blog post later on.
Nieces playing with their uncle early in the morning

Hubby posing inside Nagoya Dome where we watched a baseball game

On 22nd September 2015, father-in-law, his wife, and hubby again went to play golf at Springfield Golf Club in Tajimi City. They left home at about 7 am. I stayed at home and relaxed the entire day. Hubby returned at about 4 pm and worked in the tiny garden located at the back of our home. We had started the garden in May 2014 and have occasionally planted many saplings of vegetables and flowers. But we usually do not stay in Ichinomiya, and therefore several plants had dried up, a few had grown too much, and there were a lot of weeds all around. So hubby weeded, pruned, and cleaned the garden for about two hours. However we did not plant any new saplings as the winter season was just approaching and it gets rather cold and snowy during the winter months. At about 6.30 pm, hubby and I visited my late mother-in-law’s grave located near our home in Ichinomiya. Hubby cleaned the gravestone with water, offered flowers, and lit some candles and incense sticks. We offered our prayers and it felt so peaceful. Later we had dinner at a Sushi restaurant located near our home. Father-in-law and his wife also accompanied us for dinner.
Hubby pruning and tending to our mini garden

Hubby working in the mini garden

Hubby posing in front of the tended mini garden

Hubby offering flowers at his late mother’s gravestone

Hubby standing in front of his mother’s gravestone

Having dinner with father-in-law and his wife

On 23rd September 2015, hubby and I returned to Akita. We left our home in Ichinomiya at about 5 am and took a train from Ichinomiya Railway Station to Centrair Airport. Our flight to Akita was at 7.30 am. After about an hour of very turbulent flight we reached Akita Airport and were back to our usual routine. We had a great time during the Silver Week Holidays.
Hubby and I took a train from Ichinomiya Railway Station and are on our way to Centrair Airport

Sunrise seen from the train

Air plane about to take off from Centrair Airport

Monday, February 22, 2016

Omagari Fireworks Festival 2015

This is another pending blog post from 2015. On 22nd August 2015, hubby and I went to see Omagari Fireworks Festival in Daisen City of Akita prefecture. It is one of the major fireworks festivals of Japan that has been held since 1910 on the dry bed of Omonogawa River. This year was the 89th edition of Omagari Fireworks Festival. The festival attracted about 710000 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 52nd 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 22nd August 2015, we started from our home at about 7 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 parked our car at a parking area located near Omagari Railway Station in the city. The parking area was very far from the fireworks display venue, and we had to walk for about an hour to reach the venue. It was a rainy day and we got rather wet while walking towards the venue. On reaching the festival site, we waited for about an hour in a long queue and finally reached the ‘unreserved seating area’ at about 10.30 am. We searched for an open area for seating and were lucky to get a nice place to sit though the ground was very wet due to heavy rain the previous night. We spread the picnic sheet and reserved the area for us to sit and view the fireworks later in the evening. Hubby was a bit worried about the probability of cancellation of the fireworks festival due to the bad weather, but there was nothing we could do except wait for the evening. At about 11 am, we left the fireworks venue and went to Omagari Technical College located in the city center and attended a seminar on the history of Omagari Fireworks Festival in a huge hall of the college building. The seminar was for about 45 minutes and it was quite interesting to know the details of the history of the fireworks. Later we had lunch at one of the many food stalls that were put up in the city center. After lunch we walked back to the car parking area near Omagari Railway Station. While walking we saw several artistic and beautifully designed manhole covers commemorating the fireworks festival. Such decorative manhole covers were of two kinds, namely metallic and colored ones. After reaching the car parking area, we took rest for a few of hours inside our car. In the hot and humid weather of the month of August, we could spend the next few hours in the comfort of our air-conditioned car.
From the car parking area, hubby is walking towards the fireworks display venue in Daisen City

I am walking towards the venue

Hubby posing after reserving a seating area at the fireworks display venue

Hubby a bit worried about the probability of cancellation of the fireworks festival due to the heavy rain and bad weather

Hubby and I attended a seminar on the history of Omagari Fireworks Festival in a huge hall of Omagari Technical College building

Hubby listening to the seminar attentively

I am having lunch at a food stall put up in the city center

Hubby having lunch

In the city center we saw beautifully designed metallic (left) and colored (right) manhole covers commemorating the fireworks festival

Hubby relaxing inside our car

I am relaxing and eating snacks inside our car

The display of daytime fireworks started at 5.30 pm but we skipped seeing it as we were not much interested. At about 5.40 pm, we left our car and walked back to the fireworks display venue. We had some difficulty in locating 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. The ground was wet but there was festive mood all around, and people were busy eating and drinking with friends and relatives.
Hubby and I are sitting at our seating area and waiting for the fireworks display to begin

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, 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 ‘Hikari no Kanata e’ which means ‘to beyond the light’. 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 sounds, colors, lights, and patterns. The theme of the ‘main event’ was ‘Asakiyumemishi’ which is ‘the tale of Genji’, and about 2300 fireworks were launched in 6 minutes and 25 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. We randomly clicked many photos of the fireworks display. Please enjoy seeing the photos.

Many photos of Omagari Fireworks Festival

It rained on and off throughout the fireworks display but we were happy that the fireworks was not cancelled due to the bad weather. We loved seeing the grand, exquisite, and spectacular display of the fireworks. We left our seating area at the fireworks venue at about 9.45 pm. Due to the huge crowd we had to walk for almost 2 hours to reach the car parking area where we had parked our car. It was about 1.30 am of the next day when we reached back our home.
Hubby watching the fireworks display intently

Hubby enjoying the fireworks display

I am very happy after seeing the entire fireworks display