Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Sakura-Filled Easter Weekend

Since this is our last spring in Japan, I wanted to really enjoy the Sakura (cherry blossom) season.  This time of year is so beautiful in Japan, but it only lasts for about 10 days, so you have to enjoy every minute of it!  It's fun because even the Japanese celebrate this beautiful season. You might would think that because they see the cherry blossoms every year it isn't a big deal, but it very much is!  The coffee shops sell cherry blossom lattes and scones, and the weekends are packed with "hanami" picnics. "Hanami" means to "enjoy the beauty of the flowers."

This spring time was extra special because Chris is here. Usually, the ship is out every spring. But because of a schedule change, he was able to enjoy sakura season, too! You have to understand, it's great getting to see and experience fun things in Japan throughout the year, but I'm always a little sad because I feel like Chris is missing out.  So, I really appreciate the times when he is here to experience Japan with me! 

Our first outing was to the Ogi Cherry Blossom Lantern Festival.  This event has literally been on my calendar for a year.  The festival is only for one weekend in the spring and last year I didn't hear about the festival until a day after the event.  I have been waiting for it and I was thrilled when I found out Chris would be here, too! The town of Ogi is about an hour and a half away. The festival is in a park with hundreds of cherry blossom trees, but  the amazing part happens at night.  They light up  hollowed-out bamboo with candles and the whole place glows.  We wanted to get there in the early evening to see the park before the lights went out and then experience the park at night, too. This festival was definitely worth the wait. It was an amazing sight to see! Here are a few pictures from the festival...

At the park before all the sun went down...

The lake at the park lined with lanterns and cherry blossoms.

As the sun was going down, the candles were being lit.

All of the displays lit up

This is what the bamboo displays looked like... they were cut out, and then the openings were covered in rice paper and lit from the inside with candles. Amazing!

Another view of the lake and lanterns at night.
The following day was Easter.  After our church service we had a picnic at the park with our church and a Japanese congregation.  Everybody brought something to share so our plate was filled with traditional American picnic food and Japanese food... too fun! (I, of course, brought "angel eggs." This is what my family called deviled eggs when I was growing up. My mom didn't like the name, so she changed it, and it stuck!) As we sat and ate with the Japanese, Chris and I were reminiscing about our previous Easters.  We have enjoyed sunrise service on the beach in Hawaii,  two years ago we watched local Hawaiians perform a Easter hula during our worship service and this year we celebrated with our church and Japanese friends under the cherry blossom trees.  We have been so blessed to celebrate the joy of Easter in many different ways!

At our Hanami Picnic on Easter Sunday

With our wonderful friends,  John and Jessica
After the picnic, we went with John and Jessica and their three children (Molly, Jack, and Sadie) to an amazing park.  This park had so many fun things to play on and enjoy and Chris was right there in the middle of the kids.  He had a fun time, even though afterwards he did admit that he was extremely sore!  I just sat back and watched him have a blast with our friends... he is going to be a great dad!!

Getting ready to go down the "roller slide"

A view of the long roller slide... it is made up of many rods that spin you down the slide.

A huge grassy hill you could slide down with a sled... here he goes!

And he made it to the bottom!  This hill was slick!

A slide that literally goes straight down!

And finally the zip line... we couldn't leave until John and Chris had a race!

And I know I posted a ton of cherry blossom pictures last year, but I just can't help myself! Here are a few of the amazing blossoms (and other flowers) from this year!! 

I just love the parks that hang lanterns among the cherry blossoms!

The bright pink blossoms are my favorite!

More lanterns...

I don't know what these flowers are, but they looked like delicate little bells.

Happy Spring, everyone!!