Sunday, 26 October 2008

Aboshi Cho-chin (lantern) Smashing Festival!

21st October

The Aboshi cho-chin (lantern) smashing festival was one festival I missed last year that I really wanted to see. So I am very happy that I got to see it this year! We went to the shrine in Aboshi - about 10mins by train from Himeji and walked along the street lined with all sorts of yum festival foods! Taube and I then got very close to the action as portable shrines began to come down the street and then also be shaken up and down! It was amazing to see them up close though and you could see the beads of sweat on the guys carrying them! We then went into the shrine and that is when the real fun began! Many men with lanterns came into the area and were chanting and all was calm and then it was on! Lanterns were being smashed everywhere! And even once they were smashed they still kept going until someone blew a whistle to call it off! This happened a few times! The meaning behind this festival is a little unsure but my teacher thinks that the more lanterns that are smashed or how quickly they are smashed relates to how much good health and luck the people in the community will have for the coming year and harvest. It was an amazing night and I would definitely go again!

The torii leading to the shrine and all the yum food!

The portable shrines were carried past us so close!

Up close the portable shrines look so good- especially when they are lit up at night - once again so so close!

The lanterns so calm and peaceful

Then it is all on!

And still they keep going!

Even Medama Oyaji (animae character) gets beaten!

And his eye/head is destroyed!

I met many of my students from last year here as the junior high school is nearby - they were so excited!

Yum sweets and so pretty!

Yum okonomiyaki on a stick (chopsticks)

Beautiful lanterns outside a house - not for smashing!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Shinzaike Matsuri! Autumn festival!

12th October

Our local community had its annual Autumn festival and we were lucky to be invited to it. We all wore happi coats and pink headbands as it is our community colour! It all started at 8am when we met at the shrine near our apartments and had sake! We then walked around the streets chanting yo-yasa! We stopped for a few snack, beer, icecream and sake breaks along the way! Then it was lunch at the park near our apartments and we had a yum bento and beer and more sake! We then watched some dancing including lion dancing. It was a long but exciting day and we were also invited to a community dinner where there was more great food and beer! I feel very lucky to be a part of this community and to be welcomed by all the people that live here.

The shrine where it all started

Julian, Taube and I drinking sake at 8am!

The portable shrine going past Shirasagi Residence!

Close up of the cool carvings on the portable shrine

Me in front of the portable shrine on one of the breaks!

Another close up of the portable shrine

The yum lunch and beer of course!

Our shrine plus others jostling together

Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory aka Maishima Incineration Plant!

11th October

Today Taube, Julian, Richard and I went on a tour of the Maishima Incineration plant with Yumi (our Japanese teacher) as our translator! It sounds like a strange thing to do but the design of this factory is really different and amazingly good for the environment considering it burns rubbish. It was designed by an Austrian designer, Hundertwasser and there is a similar plant in Austria. It looks like it should be Willy Wonka's chocolate factory! But inside it definitely is a rubbish processing plant without any smells at all! The most interesting thing is the plant is built on a man made island and the ash from the burning of the rubbish is layered with dirt to make a new island nearby! It was a very interesting tour, thanks to Yumi for translating! We then caught a boat to a different part of Osaka for dinner and drinks before heading home.

The view of the incineration plant from the bus

Close up of the incineration plant

Taube, Julian, Yumi and I outside the factory

About 16000 trees are planted within the factory as the designer was concerned about nature and wanted to keep any of the existing trees and also add more

The big golden balls that are part of the design are coated in gold!

This claw would pick up 7 tonnes of rubbish each time to put in the incinerator

44m deep rubbish bin!

Where we caught the boat to Tempozan

Kobe with Kyosuke!

4th October

Today I went to Kobe for some sight seeing and then met Kyosuke for shopping and good Chinese food! I went to the Ikuta Shrine and walked along the river before meeting up with Kyosuke. We went shopping and then went to China town! It was a great day and night and I hope to visit Kobe more often as it is a really interesting city.

The entrance to Ikuta Shrine

Ikuta shrine

Hanshin Tigers (local baseball team) sake barrels at the shrine

Plaques and paper cranes for wishes at the shrine

Ikuta river

The entrance to China town

China town

Me eating whole fried crab! Yum!

Kyosuke also attempting the crab!

The other entrance gate to China town

The manhole covers in Kobe

Arima Onsen with Marie!

30th September

Marie and I went to Arima Onsen which is a small town in the mountains about half an hour from Kobe. It was a cold, rainy day so it seemed perfect weather for an onsen. Arima Onsen town has many onsen and they are some of the oldest in Japan. We visited Kin no Yu which has reddish brown water that is meant to make your skin soft and keep your body warm for a long time after. Since it was a weekday there were only a few older Japanese ladies in the onsen but as always it is a little strange and somehow funny until you get used to being naked! Once we had washed ourselves we entered the bath which was 42 degrees - no wonder it keeps you warm for a long time! And there was another one that was 44 degrees! We didn't venture into that one! It was really relaxing but Marie and I couldn't stay in there too long as it was just too hot! We then wandered around the town, did some souvenir shopping and ate an amazing curry udon for lunch. It was a great day!

Heading to the town of Arima Onsen

The town had many old/traditional style buildings

This looked like a river but also had pool sort of things - apparently it is used during festivals and cherry blossom viewing

Beautiful scenery

Marie on the bridge

Marie in front of Kin No Yu

Outside the women's onsen

We bought steamed cakes that were steamed with onsen water. There were many places selling these cakes.

I am trying to take a photo of manhole covers in every town as each one is specific to the town.

Marie's back - well for a short time anyway!

29th and 30th September

Marie came back to Japan for a holiday and was able to spend a short time in Himeji with me. On the first night we went to Marie's favourite okonomiyaki place for dinner with a group of people which was yum! On the second night we went to Marie's friends house and she cooked us a very nice meal. But after Marie unfortunately had to leave for Tokyo to meet up with Shinya. Although it was a short time it was great to see her again!

Everyone at dinner

Marie and I - yay together again!

Marie, Kyosuke and I

Hiromi, Marie, Fumiyo and I

At Noriko's for dinner

The yum dinner

Noriko's cute boys - Hiro and Toshi at their own little dinner table!