Making Deco Sushi for the First Time

It’s that time of the year again — the Golden Week holiday! This year, we have Showa Day on Sunday and its replacement holiday on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday are regular work days but people will take them off if they can. Then Constitution Day is on Thursday, Greenery Day on Friday and Children’s Day on Saturday. Continue reading “Making Deco Sushi for the First Time”

Photo Story: The not-so-great Sumidagawa Fireworks

Well, what can I say. One of the biggest fireworks festivals in the country, certainly the most popular in Tokyo, took an unexpected turn. Here’s what went down…

Ryogoku Station
We arrived at a bustling Ryogoku Station at 5pm.
Blue skies
The skies were blue and promising.
Ready with our tarp
Ready with our sheet!
Zip Morning Television
Zip Morning Television interviewing some spectators.
Police
Plenty of police for crowd and traffic control.
Ready to secure our spot
Getting ready to secure our spot on the road. The police closed off one lane at a time.
Talking tactics
Talking tactics. Who will take which corner of the sheet? Which direction will we run? We even discussed it over with our neighbours so we wouldn’t be stepping over each other! This is how it’s done in Japan.
The wait
The street has been closed off. Just waiting for 6pm sharp when the rope will be taken down! Everyone is on this side of the road as the other side is kept open as an emergency lane.
The result
As soon as the rope was removed, everyone dashed out onto the road. 10 seconds later, this was the result.
The result
Everyone wanted the centre of the road for the best view.
All settled
All settled. People as far as the eye can see, in both directions!
Happy and Excited
Happy and excited
Good times
Good times
So lucky to have this special feed
We were so lucky to have been invited to join another party with this special feed!!
Strawberry Chou Ice
Also got this Strawberry Chou Ice for free!

The first fireworks event started further up the river at 7:20pm.
The second fireworks event (that we were going to see), was due to start 10 minutes later.

At about 7:25pm, we started feeling sprinkles of rain.
About 1 minute later, the heavens opened!
The loudest thunder, the brightest lightning, and SO MUCH rain!

Everyone dashed for cover. Amazingly, the 7:30pm fireworks began on the dot, and everyone ran back out onto the street.

The Heavens opened
Everyone was quick to pack up their party, and take out the umbrellas (I guess some people were prepared!)
Sumidagawa Fireworks
It was awesome to see the fireworks lighting up one part of the sky – and lightning lighting up the rest!! Spectacular!
Braving the Rain
Braving the rain. Sheets turned into covers!
Taking Cover
It just got heavier and heavier. After a couple of minutes, everyone gave up and dashed under buildings, taking cover.

At about 7:40pm, there was an announcement… “The Sumidagawa Fireworks have been CANCELLED”. 

The rain was so heavy we decided to stay under cover and wait it out. About 40 minutes later, the storm finally calmed down and we went on our way.  

We will be back with a vengeance next year!

Children’s Day: Flying Fish!

In the blink of an eye, Golden Week came and went. Holidays always fly by way too quickly! I packed as much as I could into my four days off,  venturing to new places, eating new food and meeting new people. By the end of it, I was left with lots of good memories… and about 500 photographs to sort through and edit!

Children’s Day, こどもの日, was one of the holidays celebrated during GW. Although no one knows exactly when this holiday started (anything up to 1000 years ago), it used to be a day to honour boys only. It officially became “Children’s Day” in the late 40’s.  

For this festival, families with sons hang up carp streamers outside their house and display warrior dolls inside their house. It’s also common for there to be ‘koinobori festivals’ in public places where you can go and see hundreds of carp flying high in the sky. It’s quite spectacular to walk underneath these huge 5 metre long streamers. They really do look like fish flying in the sky!  

A little bit about the background of koinobori… the carp, called koi in Japanese, are a symbol of good luck. They are a type of fish able to swim upstream by jumping up out of the water. These carp are said to have qualities of strength, courage and success. So, they represent the type of men that parents wish their sons will grow into.

Koinobori souvenirs

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~ Koinobori along the Tama River in Noborito, Kanagawa ~

Koinobori at Noborito 2

Koinobori at Noborito 4

Koinobori at Miura

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~ Koinobori in Miura, Kanagawa ~

This family shows a black carp which represents the father, a red carp for the mother, then one blue carp which represents their son.

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Koinobori in Miura 2

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~ Koinobori in Kawagoe, Saitama ~

Koinobori in Kawagoe

Koinobori in Kawagoe 2

Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls) in a private house in Kawagoe

Gogatsu ningyo 1

Gogatsu ningyo 2

The sakura have arrived!

One of the most magical things you can see on this planet is the blooming of the cherry blossoms, called sakura in Japanese. They are the national flower and symbol of Japan. Each year, at the end of winter, the pink buds emerge from the dark tree trunks. It is literally like warm, colourful spring pushing through from cold, gloomy winter. It doesn’t take long before the buds open into magnificent, attention-grabbing flowers. The soft, delicate petals are usually pink, white or yellow. Some trees droop down, creating spectacular passage ways. Others stand tall, reaching for the skies. And others burst outwards in all directions making giant sakura mushrooms. But, they are fragile, fleeting things. Within a couple of weeks, the winds blow the petals away making room for the new green leaves.  Some years, their lives are shortened even more by rain or snow.

The Japanese people have celebrated the sakura for years. They know a good thing when they see it! It’s tradition to get together with family or friends or colleagues and ‘picnic’ under the flowers. By picnic, I mean spread out a tarp, be merry and get drunk! They call this ohanami which translates as flower-viewing. There are plenty of family-friendly parks where kids can run around kicking soccer balls or flying kites. The park I went to the other day was a family park just like that. It wasn’t too far from my place, and I went there specifically because I’d read that it had 500 sakura trees. It sounded like it had potential to be amazing. And it definitely did not disappoint!!

I feel pretty stupid, but I can’t help smiling every time I see sakura trees. They just take my breath away. And, it’s not just because they are beautiful, but they also have a special meaning for me. Back in March 2011, the earthquake, tsunami and power plant disaster made my life come to a grinding halt. I had to relocate to Nagoya where I ended up staying temporarily for about 5-6 weeks. It was a stressful period, but as time went on things got easier. April came, as did spring… and the sakura. Seeing these gorgeous trees for the first time was like a symbol of new beginnings. It was literally a life metaphor… like the sakura that emerge from winter, we had emerged from a disaster. I knew that things were going to work out fine, possibly even great! And, this spring, my life changed again. I moved to Tokyo for a new job, a new home, a new life.  Life couldn’t be sweeter.

So, here are some snaps from my neighbourhood…

from bud to flower

 see-through petals

sakura stars

drooping sakura

streets of setagaya

streets of setagaya 2

sakura corridor

sakura closeup

tall sakura

enjoying hanami

sakura 5 petals

sakura park

sakura park 2

snowing sakura

park bench surrounded by sakrua

fallen petals