Slice of Life: Obon Holiday Week
We have managed to stay busy during our first few days of our ‘staycation’ – week of vacation and no plans to go anywhere! Sorry for the bad photos but it’s hard to take a decent night photo with one hand (the other was occupied by some Strawberry Crushed ice!
This past Sunday we went for an 8-mile bike ride around town and found out there was a 3-day night-market & entertainment happening on the Takayamajinya grounds. We saw tents set up (but empty at the moment) and saw a band practicing on the stage with many benches set up. So we pedaled home and got cleaned up. At this time we also found out that basically every vacant room in Takayama was full due to the holiday week from a couch surfer from Norway who needed a last minute place to stay. So we picked her up and went off to check out the festival.
Once we arrived, we found the band from earlier playing their actual show and all the tents full of things for sale. For kids there was balloon animals and face painting, and then there were fruits, veggies, hand carved wooden ladles and hand woven wooden baskets (both being done in front of you), and tasty bites to eat. Crushed ice, the ever-famous Hida Beef, huge grilled corn-on-the-cob, rice-cakes on a stick, and of course beer was being served up also for a small fee (cheaper than usual, I think). More than half of the spectators were dressed in Yukatas (a cotton kimono worn in the summer). After the band was a Japanese beatboxer/performer who did a few songs and he was really entertaining and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Within 15 minutes of the show ending, half the tents/benches were already being cleared away! Amazing!
Last night, we took a little drive to Hida Furukawa (about 20 minutes drive from Takayama) to see fireworks with our colleague, Kuniko, in her home town. Her family house is just a few blocks from the river where everyone was gathering to watch them. Unfortunately, the mostly clear skies and dry day had ended and the rain had begun to sprinkle, turning into a real rain storm by the end of the night! Everyone still stayed to watch the display though with umbrellas and we caught some really big lightning bolts lighting up the mountain skyline during the show. By the time it ended, Joe & I had soaked canvas shoes and socks (and still do…), but Kuniko invited us to her house for a bit and her mom already had some small towels waiting in the entry for us to dry off with. We went in for a while and got treated to some fresh, tasty watermelon, peach, and even some udon noodles and Japanese tea. 😀 We enjoyed being invited into a traditional Japanese house and before we left, Kuniko showed us what she called their ‘Buddha room’ where in the closet was a sort of memorial basically to relatives that had passed away. This week is the holiday called Obon (say “Oh-bone”), where everyone who has off work generally goes to their home town to visit memorials of past relatives who are gone and place fresh flowers at the memorial site. It was very strange to see the memorial in the closet!