Dancing the Bad Luck Away 

Earlier this month, we attended Jinku Matsuri in Esashi, a small town south of Kitakami. Jinku Matsuri is a festival featuring dances performed by people from Esashi who are celebrating their 25th or 42nd birthdays. 25 and 42 are traditionally yakudoshi years for men, but both men and women performed in the dance groups or in their accompanying music groups.

Prior to the featured dances, local children danced in a parade that passed through the main festival ground.

The 25-year-olds made a big impression with their wicked hairstyles, and later with their original music and dance. The amount of energy they created in the festival ground was amazing.

The excitement was amplified by the 42-year-olds' entry. Seriously the 25-year-olds' musicians played with a lot of drive, but when the 42-year-olds took over the parade song, they did so with a huge BOOM! of drums and more complex movements. It was wild.

They also provided a flash of style during their original dance.

[ add comment ] permalink
Chicks at the Beach 

What, you were expecting a cheesecake shot?

My new pal is the mascot for Kamome no Tamago,a treat from the Iwate coast town of Ofunato. Kamome no tamago literally means "seagull egg." The treats are little egg-shaped cakes filled with yellow bean jam and coated with white chocolate. They're quite delicious.
related link
[ 1 comment ] permalink

We've blogged about the numerous small shrines scattered throughout Kitakami City, but we haven't talked about the big one. Suwa-jinja, located in the heart of Kitakami, is approximately 1200 years old according to some sources. It was undergoing major renovation throughout much of 2007, until work was completed around late November.

The structure off to the left is a small water station. These are commonly found outside shrines. They are places where visitors can wash their hands before approaching the shrine itself.
[ 2 comments ] permalink
The Guardian 

Stone lion standing guard outside a hilltop shrine in Rikuzentakata, a town on the Iwate coast.

[ 2 comments ] permalink
On the Rocks 

Having visitors is the perfect prod to do all the things you've wanted to do, but haven't. Like going to the Iwate coast — it's so close, and yet we'd never been. So on a beautiful Tuesday morning, we prepared for a day trip to the coast, stopping at Hige-oyaji's place for breakfast. We told him our plans; he got really excited and animatedly told us to go to the Goishi Kaigan to see Kaminari-iwa, "Thunder Rock." Kaminari-iwa is a longish outcropping of rock running parallel to a cliff. Ocean water charges through the gap between them, creating a huge "BOOM!" as it does, hence the name. Because he's awesome, Hige-oyaji hooked us up with an outfit running small speedboat cruises around the sights in that area, including through the Kaminari-iwa gap.

From the shore, Kaminari-iwa looks very cool, and the movement of the water through the gap is mesmerizing.

You get way more of the "thunder rock" effect from land than on the ocean.

The turnaround part of the boat trip took us through Anatoshiiso, a rock formation rather resembling a giant, rocky set of brass knuckles. On the initial approach, it was not at all clear to us that our speedboat was going to fit through that middle hole.

It did, thanks to the careful maneuvering of the boat pilot.
[ 1 comment ] permalink

One of the main reasons our houseguests chose to visit us in the spring was the sakura o-hanami, or flower-viewing, is a big deal in Japan. The Japan Meteorological Association publishes "sakura forecasts" throughout the spring so that people can plan their o-hanami trips accordingly. Additionally, some organizations have ranked the "best sakura-viewing locations" throughout Japan; JR features Tenshochi on its posters as one of the three best places in northern Tohoku.

O-hanami is about more than just looking at the flowers. Restaurants, civic groups, or just groups of friends plan picnics with lots of food and drink in prime blossom-viewing locations. This year, the blossoms came about two weeks early, so by the time our houseguests arrived, the sakura were mostly gone from Kitakami. Nevertheless, we joined the local Okinawan joint's o-hanami party in one of the last parks to have blossoms. The day itself was not optimal for picnicking under the remaining sakura, being all cold and gray. So we made plans to go to Fukusenji, a temple in nearby Tono, with some friends the following day.

At Fukusenji, we found the trees in full bloom. So did busloads of tourists from other parts of Japan.

Many other trees were coming to life at the same time. On a small overlook, sakura and leafing yamamomiji (mountain maple) trees shared the view.

related link
[ 2 comments ] permalink
The Great Butter Shortage of '08 

Rice shortages have been in the news over the last month or so as rice-exporting countries have begun withholding supplies to feed their own people. The shortages don't appear to be affecting Japan, but the country is running low on something important: butter. For the last three weeks or so, finding butter in the stores has been hit or miss, but mostly miss. The stores kindly post signs apologizing for the lack of butter, which is cold comfort when you're contemplating dry toast for breakfast.

Japan isn't generally perceived as being a dairy-centric country, so the butter deficit seems kind of surprising. To be sure, there are Japanese dairies and the Japanese do eat things like yogurt, cheese, and, ice cream. But dairy products aren't a staple in the Japanese diet like they are in the American diet, even as bread (and consequently butter) consumption has increased. None of the other dairy products appear to be in low supply (although I did notice a dearth of imported cheese today), either. Just butter.

I did find a decent supply of butter in the second store I visited today, but refrained from frantically purchasing all of it.
related link
[ 3 comments ] permalink
Let's Vacation! 

Sorry for the lack of new postings over the past week; we've been busy with houseguests. We're going on a road trip tomorrow, so we'll be offline for about a week. See you when we get back!
[ 3 comments ] permalink
Spring in a Bowl 

I made negitoro don for dinner the other night. Negitoro don is a donburi, meaning a rice bowl. It's made by topping the rice with julienned omelet, chopped raw tuna, sliced green onions, and strips of nori.

It's not a spring specialty per se, but the colors are very beautiful and springlike.
[ 1 comment ] permalink
Sakura on the Temple Grounds 

Sakura trees blooming amidst a grove of evergreen trees on the Chusonji temple grounds in Hiraizumi.

[ 1 comment ] permalink

Back Next