Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obon in Tokachi

Japanese believe that their ancestors’ spirits come back to earth during the Obon period. People welcome these spirits on August 13th and then they peacefully send the spirits back on August 16th. During this time many people visit their hometowns and families and visit the graves and pay respect by cleaning the tombstones and offering flowers and some food.

I was invited to visit Ikuya's family in the Tokachi area of Hokkaido for the long weekend.

We spent most of our time sitting and chatting with his Obaachan (great grandmother.) She is 97 years old - and despite being blind and hard of hearing she was so lively and inquisitive ;-) I asked her what her secret was of living such a long and happy life... and she replied: "go to bed really early, wake up really early and eat lots of fish, seaweed and rice."

She was really excited to meet me and we asked each other a lot of questions... but she kept saying it was a shame she couldn't see me... So I told her she could use her hands to feel me. She was so excited!!!
















Meeting the cousins...














































We then took a drive with all the cousins over to Naitai Kogen Ranch to see the tree houses, cows, horses and DEEEEELISH ice cream!































































We went for yakiniku in Obihiro one night with Ikuya's parents.... it was sooooo good!!! I even tried the cow tongue (bottom left)... and gutz which were REALLY hard to keep on the grill cuz they kept slippin through the holes onto the coal. ewww... (tongue actually wasn't too shabby but i've given up gutz for good... brought back bad memories of kenyan goats)








On the streets we bumped into Muneo - a famous Japanese politician.... but I was clueless of course!












We also went to Ikeda Wine Castle...

































After drinkin some grape juice and wine we headed over to Obihiro for a day of festivals...




















We stopped for dinner and a drink along a cool outdoor cafe/bar street... Although our appetizer was GUTZ soup. ewwwww....
















At night was the HUGE fireworks festival!!! It's the 2nd largest show in Japan and by far the most impressive I've ever seen... They had fireworks synchronized to rock songs, fire blazing up behind the taiko drummers, huge crazy laser beams, a children's show of animal fireworks with music, an Edo period fireworks show and more!





















On the way back to Sapporo we stopped off to ride the crazy bike train at Kamishihoro Station...



































There's also a bunch of gorgeous old bridges you can hike to along the lakes and rivers around Kamishihoro...

















It was soooo nice to get out of the city and into the countryside...

















Our last stop on the way home was conveyor belt sushi and a sake museum/brewery in Asahikawa...


















It was sad to say goodbye to great Granny and the rest of Ikuya's family... but hopefully I'll have the opportunity to go back again soon ;-)

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