Sunday, April 15, 2007

Azabujuban Summer Festival Mid to Late August (8-19 and 8-20)

My neighborhood in Tokyo, Azabujuban ( ) hosts a yearly summer festival that co-incides with the Bon Festival ( ). The Azabu festival is one of the biggest in the Tokyo area, it runs for 3 or 4 days and attracts 80,000 people a day. The festival is basically a big street fair, it has tons of street vendors selling food, kids toys, clothes and random knick knacks. There’s also a lot of dances, music and other street performances as part of the festival as well. One of the main streets involved in the festival was the street right in front of my apartment so I spent a lot of time checking out the festival and I took a number of photos and some videos, to see the full set on flickr click here ( ) or just check them out below (click on the pictures to see larger versions of them):

The festival is very family oriented and has a lot of children's activities, especially around pets, as you can see below one of the popular festival stalls allows kids to catch fish and turtles which they take home as pets:

Beatles are also a very popular children's summer pet in Japan:

The festival had tons of kids toys:

This is my front door, it's normally a lot less crowded, the upside was that all I had to do was walk outside and I was right in the middle of the festival:

The neighborhood was very crowded, 10,000's of thousands of people came out each day:

The festival had a lot of traditional Japanese foods so I took photo's of a number of them to share with family and friends.

Grilled corn:

Grown by the corn people, for some reason I just loved this poster:

Tacoyaki - Or octopus balls, it's flour with chopped up octopus and a few other things baked into a ball:

Click on the photo and you can see the baking process:

This is the chopped octopus that goes into the baked balls:

This is the end result:

Lots of beer was for sale and in a very Japanese twist you could buy cucumbers on a stick to go with your beer:

This table defied explanation, I really don't know what it was they were trying to do:

Fire grilled fish like this is eaten whole including the head and the bones, the fish is salted and left by the fire to cook, it's really delicious:

Grilled octopus on a stick:

More squid and octopus on a stick:

Really big squid on a stick:

I can't think of the right name for this dish but it's really really good, it's vegetables, noodles and often meat cooked together using batter and then topped with an egg and a sauce somewhat like bar-b-q sauce, it's really great:

Lots more octopus:

If you click on the photo you'll get a better view of this, it's frozen children's candies, basically frozen lollipops

One of the most import parts of the Bon Festival is the Bon dance which is a very simple but very fun summer dance that anyone can participate in. Basically someone pounds on a drum along with other music and everyone dances around in a circle following basic dance steps:

These two women are trading off playing the bon dance drums:

The people shown below are all doing the bon dance, a lot of Japanese women where Yukata for Bon which is a cotton Kimono:

This is what the bon dance looks and sounds like:

As you can see the neighborhood was very crowded all weekend and the weather was great:

Right around the corner from my apartment they set up a performance stage and had all sorts of random performers all weekend, including a marching band:

This is the view of the crowd from my living room:

With all the vendors on the street, a lot of them used funny costumes and other tricks to draw attention like this guy:

And this guy who had a giant beer in his head and a grapefruit in his hand:

And these guys who yelled with signs

And this kid who had a giant drink on her back??

The best show on the performance stage were these guys, I'm really not sure how to describe it so check out the photo's and videos:

When the show ended each night the neighborhood loud speakers, yes my neighborhood had overhead loud speakers, would play Auld Lang Syne ( ) the new years song. It's a random thing that you often see when things close in Japan. The other very funny thing is that the vendors had to be gone within an hour, the whole place cleared out and cleaned up in an unbelievably fast period of time:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Late August and Early September 2006

From the last post that’s been sitting on the web for six months it looks like I’ve been stuck forever in delayed flight hell. But, in reality that flight was just the beginning of the trip I took that week. I got into New York a day late due to the delay and that night I took a trip to Rhode Island with some friends, all told the door to door journey from Tokyo to Rhode Island was close to three days long. It was a long journey but it was worth it, I got to spend the weekend with my friends from college which was great. It was really nice to be able to be with native English speakers.

The trip didn’t actually end there, I wanted to see my family so the day after I got back from Rhode Island I flew from Newark to Seattle (after spending a day moving my belongings out of storage which is a whole other story).

As you can imagine I was pretty much seeing the world through airline windows at that point so I took a few photos along the way, these are all taken over Washington State on the way into Seattle:

Eastern Washington:

Mountains of Eastern Washington:

Clouds from the air over Washington State:

Mt. Rainier from the air on the way to Seattle:

Hey everybody it’s been about 6 months since I last posted anything here and enough people have asked me what happened that I figured I should get caught up. Long story short things got busy and I fell behind in posting. The brief version of the missing six months is that I took 4 trips between the US and Japan, visited Hong Kong twice, flew across the US twice, took a trip to Vietnam and most recently spent some time in London. I am no longer living in Japan, my time there came to a successful end in January, I am now spending most of my time in the New York City area, but there is a possibility that I may end up in London for a few months this year, that’s a whole other story I’ll explain later.

I will be catching up on posts over the next couple of months, I have a lot of photos and stories to post so bear with me, I am going to continue in a chronological order. I hope you enjoy.