Sunday, September 17, 2017

The End of Summer... Bon Odori (Summer Festival)!

Konnichiwa, Tyson, Audrey, Charlotte, and Christine!

So, a while ago, we talked a bit about obon holidays. In relation to that, many communities hold bon odori (summer festivals) during summer.

They put up many lanterns...

And they set up a stage.

On the stage, several people dance bon odori in circle. Anyone can join in and dance bon odori around the stage. Even if you don't know how to dance, you can just watch people up on the stage and copy them! It's not hard at all!

Also, as you can see in photos, many people wear yukata to bon odori, which is a casual version of kimono, a traditional Japanese dress. Many people dress up in yukata during summer and go to festivals. It is pretty.. but there is a certain way to put it on, and it is not easy wearing it!

They have many stalls at the festival for food and games, too!

For this game, you scoop out little bouncy balls with a special scooper. The scooper has a round plastic frame, and there is a very thin paper in the middle. This thin paper will break when it gets wet with water, so you need to be very careful and try to scoop out bouncy balls.

For this game, you pick water balloons with a hook. A hook is tied to a string made of tissue paper. You hold this string and try to catch the rubber band tied to each water balloon with the hook. It's hard, because the string made of tissue paper will break when it gets wet with water and the hook will fall off.

For this game, you pick a string and pull it. Then, you get a prize tied in the end of the string. There are so many strings that it's hard to guess which prize you might get!

Yuki wanted to scoop some fish...

It is much like scooping bouncy balls. Only that you are scooping gold fish instead of bouncy balls... Does it sound mean? Yuki's grandma never allowed Yuki's mom to do this when she was little, but Yuki... He likes animals, including fish, and he likes to raise gold fish, so we do this only sometimes. This is a very common game at summer festivals in Japan. We've read that people started doing this as a a game in Japan in 1810!

Yuki actually did not catch any.. but they gave him 5 fish to take home!

We have taken home gold fish that we got from summer festivals in the past, and some of them lived for a couple of years. We were hoping some of them would survive this year, too, but sadly, none of them did... :'( Yuki decided after that that he will not do gold fish scooping anymore, because he realized it is not good for gold fish. We will see if he still feels that way at the festival next year.

In our neighborhood, we always have this summer festival on the last Saturday of August, right before kids go back to school. It was very bitter sweet that we finally had our local summer festival. Summer is over now...!

A Day in Kobe

Konnichiwa, Tyson, Audrey, Charlotte, and Christine!

We decided to have a relaxed outing in Kobe one weekend.

Then, we came across yosakoi festival in the city!

Yosakoi is a mixture of traditional Japanese dance and modern dance. Their costumes are also traditional Japanese with a taste of modernity in it. Yosakoi is very popular and there are many schools and groups that perform yosakoi.

There are many yosakoi festivals, events, and competitions throughout Japan.

After enjoying some yosakoi performances, we headed to China Town. Yuki thought maybe you guys have China Town in Virginia, too?

To many people in the world, we, Asians, might seem the same, but each country in Asia actually has its own unique culture. We are not sure how, but just from people's appearance (or maybe the atmosphere), we, Asians, can tell which country they are from as well.

Can you see Pekin Duck!? We have never tried it yet..

It is in Japan, but stepping inside this neighborhood, you can experience totally different atmosphere!

Everything in China Town is so colorful and pretty! We believe those are lucky charms.

After going to China Town, we headed up north. This photo is of along the railway. Can you see someone wrote "No Curry, No Life" on the wall?

We found a little shrine in the corner of a neighborhood.

There was another shrine in the middle of big buildings...

It's just very interesting to see all those shrines in the middle of cities in Japan, especially considering how Japanese people are not religious at all. Shinto religion is deeply rooted in and is a part of Japanese culture and everyday life!

This is where we wanted to go! Soraku Garden. We think this could be the only (famous) Japanese garden in Kobe!? This was a part of residence of the former mayor of Kobe.

We wanted to check out the lantern festival they had. Especially during summer, there are so many lantern festivals throughout Japan!

It was actually a very pretty Japanese garden! It got dark soon after we got there, so we couldn't fully enjoy the garden. We definitely want to go back there again during the day!

They made lanterns with traditional Japanese umbrellas.

We then went to downtown Kobe to have dinner. We usually don't go out at night, so whenever we come out to the city at night, it kind of takes us by surprise how bright it is with all the lights from stores and neon signs and how many people are out!

In Japan, people ride bicycles a lot. They sometimes park their bicycles on the side of the street, because there are not enough bicycle parking lots (or maybe because it's just more convenient that way), and it is a big problem for some cities.

We did not eat Kobe beef for dinner, but we wanted to share with you that Kobe is famous for this special beef called Kobe beef. Have you heard of it...?

The basketball player, Kobe Bryant, was named after this Kobe beef! His parents came to Japan and tried Kobe beef, and they loved it so much that they named their son after it!

Also, when President Obama visited Japan in 2009, he made a request that he wanted to try Kobe beef (and tuna)!

We have tried Kobe beef before, and we did not find anything special about it, haha...

We did not spend much time in Kobe this summer, so we were glad we got to explore a bit around Kobe that weekend with Tag!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Summer Stuff

During the summer there are lots of things we do frequently, and they're just part of our summer routine, so I thought I'd give you a little sampling and tell you about them in one post (rather than doing a bunch of little posts). 

One of our weekly activities is going to the library. We all love to read, so it's something we always look forward to. We are very fortunate to have several libraries close by, so we have great access to lots of books, movies, and music! The libraries also put on fun educational programs for the kids. We attended one on bats (but my phone erased all the photos from it) and we even got to see a live bat. 

In America, libraries work together as systems within the counties of each state. We live in Chesterfield County, which has TEN libraries, and since we have Chesterfield County library cards, we can check out books from any of those ten libraries and return them to any of the libraries in the county. And you can check out up to 30 items at one time! But because we aren't always great at remembering where we put our books, I usually only let the kids check out 5 books at a time. That's usually all they need for 1 week anyway. :-)

Do you have a library system in Japan?

Here is Christine reading a book to Moppy. Some of our family's favorite picture books are Berenstain Bear and Curious George books. My older kids like to read Junie B. Jones, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter. What kinds of books do you like to read in Japan?

Another thing we've done a few times this summer is to go to the pool at Pocahontas State Park. This pool is really fun because it has a great water play area. It's kind of like having a playground IN the water! There are slides and water cannons and it's not too deep, so even little ones can play.

Charlotte loves to play there.

Here's Christine relaxing on a lounger by the pool. We usually pack a picnic lunch with sandwiches, chips, and fruit, and eat there at the pool.

Here's a better view of the play area. We're planning on visiting this pool one more time before summer ends!

Another thing we've done a lot of this summer is volunteering at our local food bank. In America, people who don't have enough money can get assistance from the government, but sometimes they still need more help, so we have food banks.

 We helped with a special program to provide food to schoolchildren over the summer. During the school year, many children can get free lunches at school if their family doesn't have enough money to pay for lunch. But during the summer, many of those children can go hungry unless their family gets some extra help. People and businesses donate food to the food bank, and we helped to divide it up and put it into bags for the food bank to distribute to the children. It was actually really fun for us to work together with the other volunteers (just ignore Audrey's blah face- she had a great time!) and it made us feel good to know we were helping children in need!

On the day I took these photos, we were actually at the food bank with some members of Tyson's robotics team (they're wearing the blue shirts in the background). When they're not in competition season with their robot, they try to find ways to get involved and help the community.

Moppy loved helping us "give the gift of food!"
We hope you enjoyed seeing some of our more fun summer routines. Is there anything you do on a regular basis in the summer?

Charlotte Gets Baptized!

Saturday, September 2nd, was a very exciting day in our family, because it was Charlotte's 8th birthday AND she got baptized! 

Here are all the kids together. We also had a lot of extended family members come- grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins!

Here is Charlotte with her dad, who baptized her. We are so grateful that he holds the priesthood.

This was a little display we put up with Charlotte's blessing dress from when she was a baby, and some photos of her growing up.

After the baptism, we had some treats. These are some special sugar cookies made by Charlotte's Aunt Kiley. Aunt Kiley works at a bakery, so she's very good at making fancy cookies! She knew that Charlotte loves mermaids, so she made her cookies mermaid and ocean themed. They were delicious!

I also made some yummy cupcakes. Charlotte is trying to keep Moppy from eating them all!

Here are Charlotte and Moppy in the church's Relief Society room. This is where we had the program for Charlotte's baptism. 

Here is Moppy in the Primary room- maybe she wants to give a talk?

We are so glad that Moppy was able to share this fun and special day with us!