Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Matsuri and Cake

Hey again everyone! So many updates so close together, I worry I'm spoiling you all.

Coming back to Tokyo, sad as it was, has not offered a reprieve from busy go-go-go-ness until today. On Monday I slept in until the glorious hour of noon and then had to crack down on studying for my Tuesday final. I did, however, step out for a few hours to meet up with some friends and my professor from the University of Oregon. As I said before, her name is Alisa Freedman and she has been a huge inspiration and help in making it to Japan.

We met up in Harajuku and went to an all you can eat desert buffet called Sweets Paradise.

The gang minus Professor Freedman.
 As you might imagine from the name, we had sweets. Lots of them. Especially cake. The one rule of the place is no leftovers. That's right. None. You take it, you eat it. I don't think any of us wasted a single bite.

Professor Freedman on the left.

After we all finished catching up and felt like we were going to explode from deserts we headed out and walked towards Omotesando where we took a walk. I'm not sure of the exact route we took, but we saw a bit of the backstreets and mostly stayed on the main road. Eventually we made it all the way to Shibuya on foot. Professor Freedman did take us into this one cafe called Forbidden Fruit in Omotesando though. We weren't there for coffee though. In the back of the cafe is a stairway leading down to a shop in the basement level. I avoided price tags because I was told no one would be able to afford anything there but it was a really neat hidden shop with an awesome garden wall. Also, on the wall next to the entrance was actual signatures from bands such as Aerosmith and The Who. Pretty cool place to check out if you're in the area.

The Forbidden Fruit Cafe in Omotesando.
After finally making it to Shibuya, those of us remaining in the group did purikura.


Tuesday, after taking my final and heading back to the dorms I did something for the first time. I put on a yukata all by myself! Obi and all! While I'm still not 100% sure how I did it and I watched this video in order to be able to do so, I was very proud of myself. Many Japanese girls I have run into say they cannot put on their own yukata. Granted, it's difficult. I couldn't quite get the neck to stay where it's supposed to, but most people have their mom or a friend who knows how to do it for them.

Why did I put on a yukata? I was heading to Mitama Matsuri which takes place every year at Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine it is held at lists all those who died in service of Japan from about 1867 to the end of WWII. This festival itself, started around 1947, was started in order to pray that those who lost their life in the service of Japan would find peace. I'm not sure how much of that original purpose is retained in the matsuri today, but it was definitely a lively event.

I'm messing with Flickr at the moment, so I'll see about uploading more images for you all soon. Hey look guys, I figured out Flickr! Here is the Mitama Matsuri album here - Click here for Flickr album -!

Yasukuni Shrine

Chelsea and I arrived at the festival at 5 pm, an hour before the lanterns were scheduled to be lit and we were able to wander the top half of the festival relatively easily and see what there was to be seen without crowds.

Lanterns lining one of the matsuri paths.

One thing to note about large festivals in Japan is that more often than not you're going to be wading through a sea of people. It will be slow going so be patient and go with the flow.

Not quite packed yet.

By 6 pm, as we headed to the main road of the festival it was started to get pretty busy and by 6:30 the place was packed.


Like most matsuri, there were games and booths selling children's toys.


 Of course, I did the gold fish catching game. Don't ask what I was thinking, but I caught two and decided to take them home. I tried to give them away to a family with kids, but the mom said no. 

 

Anyways, this is PewDiePie and Gilbert. 

PewDiePie and Gilbert.
Unfortunately, PewDiePie died on the way home. Vice President Gilbert however is doing swimmingly in Briana's room. 


Anyways, back to the matsuri. So these lanterns lining the road were 30 feet tall. Lining the road just under them was more food booths than I think I could have easily counted selling everything from cucumbers, to buttered potatoes to takoyaki. 


Lots of walking. Lots of people. We finally got our pictures taken together by the entrance into the main complex. Oh, we also had two separate groups of random people ask to take their pictures with us. We were very flattered, or at least I was. One lady from the Philippines asked if she could take her picture with us as an omiyage (gift) for those back home. 


Looking back down the street before re-entering the shrine complex was also awesome. And not just because we finally had room to breathe. 


We wandered around the main complex a little bit again. It was really cool to see everything we had seen earlier all lit up.


And then, for the fantastic reason of everyone else was doing it, we walked in between two rows of lanterns and took a picture. 


So there it is. My last two days in a nut shell. Today is a day off. I slept until the ungodly late hour of 2:30 pm, but I miss being able to sleep in from time to time! After dinner I have to get to work on the two short essays due by Friday and on Friday I have one last final and a "How to wear the yukata you made" class. I think, all told, this term is in the bag.

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