This past weekend was all about “mono no aware.” This idea is a very important part of Japanese culture, and the aspect that I respect the most. It literally translates to “a pathos of things.” Basically, appreciate the things in life that are fleeting or impermanent. The best example I can give is cherry blossoms. They bloom once a year and only last about a week. That is why hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is so popular here. The Japanese have a festival for nearly everything that is notoriously short-lived.They have plum festivals, peach festival, cherry blossom festivals, and even snow festivals. It’s always about taking the time to enjoy life, because it is truly, very brief. So, I invite you to try “mono no aware.” This weekend, gather a group of friends an family, take out a picnic blanket, and go celebrate the most beautiful, yet brief, part of spring in your town. This idea stretches beyond physical things, but you get the jest of it. Saturday, Yoko-san and her husband came to visit me in Koga. As my mother away from home, she went ahead spoiled me by bringing cake and food. I feel like a college student once more, as I am overly appreciative of any offerings of food that can get me through to my first paycheck. Anyways, I met them at the station, along with my roommate from training Becky (the banana). The plan was to meet up with Carolyn and spend the day seeing the blossoming peach trees at the Momo Matsuri on the final day of the festival. Koga park was an unbelievable sight. Not only were the peach trees in bloom, but so were the cherry blossoms, and a few other varieties. Incredible! I finally got some great pictures of the peach blossoms. We enjoyed more momo manju and visited the very old house that is like a mini museum within the park.
After an extensive amount of relaxing, eating, and taking pictures, we moved the party to Neneya, a family-style Japanese restaurant. We were seated in a traditional Japanese dinning room (no shoes). Of course, it was designed with foreigners in mind, and it had a hidden place to hang your legs under the table. Our lunch was pretty yummy, consisting of traditional dishes like sashimi, tempura, and french fries. Yea, french fries. Super authentic! But seriously, all very delicious, and an excellent lunch set, in my opinion. Of course, lunch wouldn’t have been complete without dessert. I chose matcha mousse! We had such a great time. Yoko-san, if you’re reading this, ありがとうございました！ That night, Becky, Carolyn and I had a slumber party and prepared for our trip to Tokyo early the next day. By early, I mean 7am. That’s incredible on a Sunday! We barely caught our train, but at around 9am, we waltzed into Yoyogi park, in Shibuya, ready to party. Of course, that early in the morning, it was pretty quiet, and we got a prime spot. The park was covered in blue tarps from the day before. In contrast with the canopy of white, it made for quite the view. There were many asleep on their tarps (staying in Yoyogi overnight isn’t allowed, so I don’t know when they arrived) and there were others who were carting in spirits for the day ahead. We plopped down on our tiny table cloth, broke out some bread we bought at a panya in the station, and practiced some “mono no aware.” As we waited, things got busier. Yoyogi park is already the place to show off if you live in Tokyo, so you can imagine what hanami brings in. There were lots of hanami performers (doing a whole range of strange things) and the park rapidly became very crowded. I’m thankful we scored a place on the main stretch. Others were not as lucky. I heard that the line to use the bathroom was 45 minutes long! Slowly, we met up with friends from all around Tokyo, and the party started. We had quite the spread of beer, sake, chocolates, onigiri (rice ball), and much more.
One fellow friend (Yoshiko) decided to pretend that she was from Korea, and make contact with the giant party next to us. This, of course, led to shots of tequila. In typical hanami fashion, we enjoyed lots of food, drinking, and friendship. It was such a fantastic end to an already amazing weekend. After hanami, we went for some shopping at Forever 21 and H&M in Shibuya, typical girls. I love Shibuya, it’s a bit crazy on weekends, but it’s the best place to go for shopping. After a long day, we finally returned home to quiet Koga. I’m really enjoying school, especially now that English classes are actually taking place. Today, I participated in the 2-year-students’ dodgeball tournament. My team (2-2) got second place! Of course, no help from me, but they did amazing! I’ve been introducing myself to the 2-year-students in English class. At the end of my introduction, I always talk about alligators because they are all over Florida. So, the Japanese Teacher of English taught them “see you later alligator!” Now, it follows me all around the school! Anytime I pass a 2-year, I hear it, haha. Got to love it. See you later alligator!