August 29, 2014

The Fireworks in Ichikawa

Did you go to a firework festival this summer?

The annual fireworks at Edo River (江戸川, edo-gawa) is always on the first weekend of August. This firework festival is one of the biggest ones in the greater Tokyo area. 

It's a little bit confusing because it has two names. Edogawa ward in Tokyo began this annual firework festival along the river in 1976 and they call it the Edogawa-ku Firework Festival (江戸川区花火大会). But then in 1985, Ichikawa city in Chiba, which is right across the river from Edogawa ward, joined in on hosting the firework festival, calling it the Ichikawa Shimin Noryo Firework Festival (市川市民納涼花火大会). So technically it's the same firework festival with a different name, depending on where you watch it from.  

I know Dru was on the other side but I like watching from the Ichikawa side of the river because you don't have to save your place during the middle of the night to get a decent spot. Last year, there were approximately 490 thousand people on the Ichikawa side and a whopping 900 thousand people on the Edogawa side.

A lot of people take pride in which side they watch from. I was told by my coworker, who defines himself as a true Edokko (江戸っ子), that someone who was born and raised in Tokyo would never cross over to Chiba to watch the fireworks. But me? I was born in Okinawa and I could really care less about which side I watch it from, so naturally I choose the side that has less people and a larger space.

Like last year, we had a little picnic in the evening before the fireworks. I love festival food, it's so good! We ate and talked while watching the sun go down, which was beautiful in itself. And when the fireworks finally started with a huge bang, we were ready to be entertained!

Here are some photos:

The festival stalls selling everything from yaki-soba to shaved ice!
A photo in between buying food from the stalls.
It was a beautiful sunny day!
You can never have too much festival food! 
We celebrated my bestie's birthday with a candle in the jyaga-bata! :D
Happy 30th birthday to D!
The beautiful sun setting across the river (that's the Edogawa side of the river).
The festival starts with the traditional 1,000 fireworks in the first 5 seconds!
These are my favorite fireworks, with just one color...simple but stunning!
What a night. Hoping to be here next year, too!

August 26, 2014

The Blueberry Picking in Koigakubo

Some days I desperately crave fresh blueberries.

This was one of those days and I headed to the local supermarket. But all they had were the small teeny tiny plastic packets of 20 or so blueberries that cost 400 yen. Growing up in Michigan, it's nearly impossible for me to pay so much for so little. I should be used to it by now, but I can't. So I decided that I might as well go pick some myself.

I couldn't go all the way to Saitama like last summer, so I hopped on a train for Kokubunji. 

Blueberries were first introduced to Japan in 1951 and the first blueberry farm opened in Tokyo's Kodaira-shi (小平市) in 1968. In the 90s, blueberries became popular in Japan due to their richness in anthocyanin and more and more farms began to produce blueberries. Even in Tokyo, several of the cities and wards have started promoting blueberry farms. So I just went through the list and randomly chose one near Koigakubo Station on the Seibu Kokubunji Line.

Matsumoto Engei (松本園芸) had a corner of their land dedicated to blueberries, but as it was still early in the season, I actually had the whole area to myself! I was handed a basket, which I learned you wrap around your waist, to pick blueberries. I felt like a professional.

It was a hot day but it felt good standing outside, stepping from bush to bush in search of blueberries. So much so that I definitely picked more than I had planned on. But it didn't take long to come to the conclusion that there can be not such thing as too many blueberries, so I picked a little more (I really couldn't stop) and then headed to the checkout.

The lady at the checkout who weighed my blueberries was so nice and friendly. We got to talking and I realized that their specialty is in producing poinsettias for Christmas. She showed me around their greenhouse which was already growing poinsettias in rows and rows of planters. It was all very interesting and she made my day by giving me a beautiful hibiscus plant as a gift on my way out!

It always amazes me how farmers can be so generous. I know that they give things away because they aren't able to sell them. But still, vegetables and flowers are quite expensive at times for me and the gesture always brightens my day. Especially because the hibiscus reminds me of Okinawa!

 So, did you go blueberry picking this summer? (FYI: there's still time to go!) x

Here are some photos:

I cannot get over how beautiful the shades of gradation are on blueberries!
This is my pretty hibiscus plant!
I made blueberry lemon cheese tart when I got home...then promptly fell asleep :D

2-39-6 Higashi-tokura, Kokubunji-shi, Tokyo JAPAN
TEL: 042 321 7865
Blueberry Picking: 200 yen / 100g

August 13, 2014

The Wedding in Nasu

It was a glorious day in Nasu!

The perfect day for an outdoor wedding ceremony, which is quite rare in Japan. The outdoor weddings, not the perfect day (we have plenty of those!). June brides always run the risk of being rained (or even typhoon-ed) out on their wedding, so you know the gods must have been smiling down on this betrothal.

My friends and I sat on stone benches while we watched the ceremony take place in front of the beautiful green backdrop. The bride and groom looked a little nervous during the ceremony but once we all made our way inside for the reception, the newlyweds looked like they were having a great time! This celebration of love was the perfect way to end our weekend in Nasu!

Here are some photos:

Waiting for the ceremony to start outside...full of komorebi (木洩れ日)!
Pretty excited for the wedding to start :D
Even the birds were chirping to celebrate their happiness!
Miffy and her man wearing the traditional Japanese kimono welcomed us at the reception.
We had a very enthusiastic speech right before the kampai!
It was almost too pretty to eat...almost.
The cutting of their delicious cake!
During the reception, they changed into different outfits...I loved the blue dress on her!
I didn't get the bouquet draw...but I did get waffers! :D
We sneaked into their wedding photos shoot. hehe.
One of the perks of attending a reception is you get to take home flowers when it's over! Yay!
Heading back to Tokyo!

1859 Takaku-otsu, Nasu-machi Nasu-gun, Tochigi JAPAN
TEL: 028 778 7577