Yukata and Hanebi

Originally published on 16 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first ever trip abroad, living and working in Japan!

It’s been a good day! Yesterday’s festival and fireworks were fun to watch. It was my little 4th of July on the 15th of July! I talked to Mom and Dad online yesterday morning, then rode around on the bike a while and got a little sun-kissed (sunburned). I ate at a place like Sushi Lo, but it wasn’t as good and didn’t have as much variety. I’ll stick with Sushi Lo for the rest of my time here, I think.

After lunch I showered (boy did I need it!) and did some odds and ends things around the apartment until time to meet Mrs. Koda at 4:00. Anna and I were both down at the parking lot to meet her on time, but she didn’t arrive until 4:30. No big deal. Anna and I kind of bonded and talked while we waited. We’ve gotten to talk like that a few times over the last 2 1/2 months. I don’t think we’d be friends in any other situation, as we have almost nothing else in common, and I know we get on each other’s nerves now and then, but I have to say I’m glad to have someone to talk to. We decided we’re “war buddies.”

So we went to the Kodas’ house and Yuri did our hair, then she and Mrs. Koda helped us put on our yukata. I love Japanese dress up! I’m built like a normal Japanese person, so the clothes actually fit me well–unlike American clothes! Mr. Koda said I looked “charming,” which made me kind of giggle. He’s so funny.

Me, Yuri, Anna
Side view of my yukata

We piled into a van with some of the Kodas’ friends and made our way to the Miyagawa River for the Hanebi festival. Hanebi means “fire flower” or “fireworks.” The Kodas bought us really good seats! They’d brought a boxed supper from Mrs. Koda’s cousin’s restaurant in Futami, which consisted of tuna sashimi, beef, egg “omelette,” rice, vegetables tempura, a tofu “meat”ball, and cucumbers. It was all oishi , which means “delicious!”

After we ate, Anna, Yuri, and I took the Kodas’ grandson Yo and looked at the county fair-style booths. People were selling glow sticks and light sabers, and there were games to win stuffed animals and other trinkets. Instead of corn, fried twinkies, Polish sausage, and funnel cakes you’d expect to find at an American fair, they had a variety of interesting things! I wish I’d gotten some pictures. Sorry, guys! There was noodle and egg stir-fry, takoyaki (octopus balls, like meatballs), whole potatoes with as much butter as you can scoop out of a huge bucket, crepes, grilled squid on a stick, beef on a stick, interesting pizza-type things made from a sunny-side up egg and mayonaise on a big shrimp flavored cracker, shaved ice, pineapple on a stick, chocolate covered and other flavor coated bananas on a stick, candied plums and strawberries, other various Japanese junk food stuff, and guess what else… candied apples! That made me smile. It must be the universal fair food!

We went back to our seats just as the fireworks started. They were beautiful and lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes. That’s the longest fireworks show I’ve ever seen! My camera takes a long time to take and process pictures, though, Anna sent me some she took with her camera. Unfortunately in the transition to me the quality suffered!

After the show, we went (in very heavy traffic) back to the Kodas’ house. I got most of the details about the next 2 weeks straightened out, I think. We were there until after 11:00pm, which is WAY past my bed time, but it was lots of fun to talk into the evening. Mr. Koda was drunk, so he repeated himself a lot. But that’s ok because I like to hear that they’re glad I came, which is one of the things he kept repeating.

Today (Sunday) I did my church stuff and organized a few things around the apartment, then biked the scenic route to Naiku. On the way there, I found a park. It’s really big with a stadium, running track, discus-throw, and other sports-type things. There’s also a wooded, grassy area with slides and kids stuff. There was an oddly shaped tree that I got a picture with (and successfully sat on ants and cut my leg in the process!), a bridge over a pond, and benches all around. Very peaceful. There were a few other people there, but there was lots of privacy. It was a cute little place to relax and reflect on my experiences.

I was sitting on ants here
Small bridge
Sports park

After I spent some time there, I biked over to Naiku to look around at the traditional town and see the Great Shrine one more time. I was going to go to a traditional green tea ceremony, but we had communication problems (and it was going to cost quite a lot of money), so I skipped it. There were lots of other things to do and see. I went to a place for lunch that serves Takone zushi, my favorite!

Takonezushi, or Bonito Fish over seasoned rice

During lunch, I was reminded that God answers prayers with impecable timing and in the best ways. There was a waitress there who spoke English very well. We talked a lot, and I found out she just got back from spending 5 years in America where she worked at Disney World then lived in Seattle for awhile! I told her I’m here teaching at LA Times (Language Academy Times, the name of the school), and she seemed very interested when I said it’s in Ise. I told her they’re looking for naive-speaking and Japanese English teachers, and she got REALLY excited.

I wrote down the name of the school and gave her Yuri and Mrs. Koda’s names. Yuri was just saying yesterday that they need more Japanese English teachers, so hopefully she’ll be glad I told someone about it and she won’t be ticked for any reason. You just never know! This girl (Aki) speaks better English than any Japanese person I’ve met while I’ve been here, and she seemed to want to use her skills in her job.

So that’s it so far. I biked back to the apartment after lunch and I’ve been organizing and packing things to get them out of the way. I don’t know how I’m going to get all this stuff back! I’m a pretty good packer, though. I’ll figure something out! For the moment, here’s a riverside scene for you from Naiku:


Tomorrow I’m off to Toba with Yuri. She can get us into Pearl Island free for the Mikimoto Memorial Hall we missed last Sunday, and her boyfriend got us free tickets to the Aquarium. It’s supposed to be really impressive. Thanks for the prayers. Keep ’em comin’, if you don’t mind. Yuri and I are not each others’ favorite person. I love y’all.

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