Monday, April 10, 2006

Fantabulous day, and another Photo Story

Woke up this morning at the crack of 8:30 and since it was my third time waking up in the previous hour, I decided to get out of bed at this ungodly hour and see what kind of trouble I could stir up. While tyring to be productive and failing miserably (putting a load in the washing machine isn't exactly considered productive in my books) I procrastinated by making up the the first of the 4-5 retrospectives on my year in Japan that I plan to make. Essentially, I went through all the pictures I've taken thus far and selected about 250 or so of the best and will be making a couple of video stories as the last month before my one year anniversary rolls on by. The first one ecompasses pictures from My arrival in Omiya on May 13th to a day trip in Tokyo on August 10th with stops in Nasu, Oyama, Mashiko, Tochigishi, Ueno, Shinjuku, Ginza and of course right here in Utsunomiya.

I did manage to clean up a tad before meeting up with Scott down the street for our weekly cherry blossom inspection, with plans for lunch at Al Noor later. Unfortunately the skies were overcast and threatening to pour on us, so the colours aren't quite so bright in the pictures I took today, but we saw some lovely things nonetheless. We started by heading to Sho'un ji temple, where the 400 year old hanging sakura tree had past it's prime blooming time and green shoots could be seen, quite a large tree. Here's a picture Matt took of said tree while it was at 100% bloom.

After checking that out, we headed on up the stairs to Hachimanyama park and were quite surprised to see that the trees which were absolutely barren last week are now in full bloom. This unfortunately means that the Hanami party for next weekend will be more of a picnic in the park than a cherry blossom viewing party since there won't be many blossoms left, unless the rain and winds can hold off for a bit and give us a chance. Here is the mega tower of Utsunomiya, ranked right up these with Tokyo Tower in the "Big ugly orange towers" book.

There were few people in the park today compared with those that were there yesterday enjoying the sunshine according to Scott. Hachimanyama park has over 700 trees of different varieties... interesting that this was once a private garden in the early 1900s.

These yatai were setup all over the place, no doubt not quite happy about the lack of sunshine and people for the day.

These gentlemen were sprawled out under the blossoms enjoying the view and engaging in conversation while keeping the spot for a hanami later in the day. Funny to see the same thing happening as we saw last week in Ueno, guess Hachiman is a busy place for parties this time of year.

Of course, any day of blossom viewing isn't complete without a zoom in picture.

Scott and I then headed out to a different temple to check that out, you may recognize this tree and building from previous excursions. This is the oldest wooden building in Utsunomiya, dating back to the days of Utsunomiya castle. It was moved from the castle grounds and has survived to this day.

While it was overcast and a tad chilly, it was nice weather for walking.

Here is what has become a trademark photo that anyone walking with Scott has likely taken. As we line up for pictures while conversing and walking, Scott will often continue walking and talking, not noticing that we've stopped to frame up a shot. As you can see here, I am not the only one who has encountered this phenomenon, and it has become somewhat of an inside joke between Matt and I.

Shortly after the last picture was taken, we got in touch with dear Matt who said he'd meet us at the curry place for some lunch. We continued walking a bit and ended up back at Futarayama shrine, which was just as gorgeous as it has been all week.

This beauty is certainly accentuated by the lack of beauty in the surrounding buildings. It gets quite depressing sometimes looking at how this city was built, just look at the crappy building rising above this centuries old place of worship... disgraceful really.

When we got to Al Noor, the place was packed and the chef was gone. He's vacationing back home in Pakistan for a while and he's left his assistant in charge while he's out. What is quite funny about that is that on the first day the temporary chef was to be alone, he called in some reinforcements in the form of the 2 Pakistani guys who sell Silver jewelry and stuff on Orion dori. It was quite the shock to see these 2 behind the counter, and once the place cleared out we ended up having a great discussion with them about the state of world affairs, particularly terrorism in their homeland, as well as cooking.... of course. After lunch, we headed back to Ji Ko Ji temple where the early blooming cherry tree was also starting to fade, had a nice walk through the graveyard though, which offers a view over the city.

Afterwards, when making a quick pit stop at Daily Yamazaki, we noticed these evil cigarette promo packs, no doubt capitalizing on the hanami parties happening just up the street. For just a few yen over regular price, you can get yourself a whole carton of cigarettes, along with a can of beer or a bag of snacks... just what the enterprising young salaryman needs for an afternoon of cherry blossom viewing and fresh air. It really is sick how the tobacco laws and just the general feelings about smoking are at the levels that they were in North American in the 50s and 60s.

Scott left us at this point and I took Matt out for his first look at Hachimanyama. On the way up there, we took a detour up some stairs I'd never been up and discovered a tomb dating back to the 6th century! Quite intriguing. I guess people were shorter back then than they are now...

After a couple of rounds around Hachiman and another visit to Sho'un ji temple, we headed back into the concrete wonderland that is Utsunomiya, and were provided with this bit of Engrish. It's nice that they have Ken Tucky's Bourbon, I know old Ken and he'd be pissed if they didn't. Not even gonna venture a guess as to what the ItalianGermanSpanish line is doing separated from the French... some kind of wine segregation? France is above the common wines of the other nations? Who knows....

So tomorrow is lesson number 3 at TIC, wish me luck... though now that I know to expect Hiragana, I'm sure I'll do better.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that while you are shopping and preparing to visit Canada you should also buy souvenirs for yourself, take them back with you, and store them there. That way when it comes time to move back you wont have so much to pack. It also gives you a year to think about and buy any other things you might like for yourself. Its better then getting back and thinking oh I wish I had bought that for myself, or I would have only bought that if I had room in my luggage. So take this chance to take home some big things for yourself.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are great ideas...

Psst, turn up the exposure or my monitor is screwed :(

8:15 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

That is a good point, I'll definately try and do that!

8:38 PM  

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