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18 December 2014 @ 03:54 pm
A Tour of Chiyoda! Part V  
Mibu no Hanadaue Field
壬生の花田植 (Mibu no Hanadaue, "The rice-field-planting of Mibu," like it says in that link) is held every year in Chiyoda, and has been for over five hundred years. I wrote about it the first time we went, when a student in our English class at the community center invited us to go. There's an account of the festival and what I thought at the time in that other link, but I didn't write about a lesson that we got in Japanese indirectness, so I'll mention that now.

It was extremely hot--probably at least 35ºC--and very sunny, and Kaminaka-san asked us a couple times if we wanted to leave. Initially, we thought that he thought we were bored, so to show him that we were definitely interested (which we were), we said that we would like to move to a different place to get a better view. On the second time he, it was very hot and we were sweaty and tired, so we agreed that it was time to go.

Later, we realized what was really going on. He was tired of standing out in the sun, but having invited us to the festival and knowing that we hadn't seen it before, he didn't want to be the first one to say that he was done watching. Therefore, he asked us if we wanted to stay, since us saying no would give him an easy out.

We went in both 2010 and 2011, and while 2010 was hot again, 2011 was cloudy and cool, and we managed to stay for the entirety of the festival. Somewhat sadly, it turns out there was no special ending, and people just drifted away after the dancing and the planting was done. Still, I'm glad we had good weather for festival-attending, and I am glad we stayed, because we left early in both 2009 and 2010 and staying the whole time was a resolution for us in 2011.

Mibu no Hanadaue Oxen Path
As might be expected of a festival that's been going on for five centuries, the planting done during Mibu no Hanadaue is done in the traditional fashion. None of those straight rows and neatly-placed rice plants that you get from mechanically-planted fields. Instead, the field is turned by hand, using plows pulled by oxen who are done up in elaborate headdresses and wrappings. Before the actual planting starts, there's a parade down this street, where a lot of community and school groups accompany the women who sing and do the planting, the men who beat out the timing of the planting on their drums, and the oxen and their drivers.

One event that changed softlykarou's and my culinary landscape is that in 2011, we were wandering around the street looking for lunch and we found a couple selling Japanese curry out of their garage. I'm not sure if the husband was Japanese and the wife was Indonesian, it was the other way around, they were both Indonesian, or if they were both Japanese and had just had traveled to Indonesia before, but they had tumeric rice to go on the side with the curry, and it was the best カレーライス I had in my time in Japan. We haven't had it with curry rice anymore, but we make it a lot to go with chicken.

There was also a lovely tea house with a garden out back that we'd go to once a year, during Mibu no Hanadaue. We'd get the matcha, and the sweet along with it, and drink it while looking over the garden and listening to the parade outside.

Tondo Field
That's not actually the name of the field, but that's the main memory I have of it. On the right is the Yae-nishi Meeting Center, and on the left is the field where the Tondo Festival was held every year. Apparently it was a relatively new custom for the area (that link is to the festival held in Onomichi), but it got increasingly elaborate as we attended. The first year it was just zenzai and sake and pickles, and by the third year we had wild boar shot by one of the farmers for getting into his fields, and fish, and onigiri, and it was basically a feast. I wrote about that Tondo Festival here.

That wasn't the only event we attended there, though. The Meeting Center had spring and fall talent competitions, and we participated twice. The first time, I had a cold and couldn't actually perform, so softlykarou played a guitar and sang, though I don't remember what the piece she did was. The second time, we did "Scarborough Fair" together, and then I sang "Skibbereen" a cappella. We never got any comments on them, and I still wonder what our neighbors thought of me singing what's essentially a dirge at a talent competition.

During one summer, we went to a 皆で手作り遊び大会, which translate as "Let's Everyone Hand-Make Toys Together Gathering!" That was where I learned that I'm hopeless at origami--I tried to make a frog, and while I got halfway done I couldn't get the legs to come together--and where a little girl seemed incensed that I had long hair and kept demanding to know whether I was a man or not. I assured her that I was, and she gave me a very suspicious look. I wonder what became of her?

Lake Yachiyo
In Japanese, 八千代湖. We drove by this place many times, but we went here once, the last year that we lived in Japan. During the spring, when the cherryblossoms were in full bloom, we packed a lunch and took it to Lake Yachiyo, and we ate lunch by the waters and then walked on the paths under the cherry trees, just softlykarou and I. I did like the other ohanami parties we went to--I especially liked the one in Shobara where we rented a rowboat--but that walk by Lake Yachiyo is one of my favorite ohanami memories.

And that's it! If people liked that, I can do another series for places in Hiroshima, or even other cities like Tokyo or Kyoto. I certainly have plenty to say if people want to hear it.  photo emot-c00l.gif
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