May 25, 2014

Golden Week Holidays 2014

You just took three weeks off of work Tricia, what are you going to do first?

I'm going to Disneyland!

Tokyo Disneyland
I was so, so excited when my family walked through the arrival gates of Tokyo Narita Airport. After thirteen months, I was finally reunited with my aunt and uncle, plus I got to meet my uncle's mother for the first time. Now I had a chance to show them the best of Japan in the week we had together.

We stayed at a traditional Japanese inn, called a ryokan, with bamboo flooring, futons, and a shared open bath. My family really enjoyed the washoku (Japanese-style) breakfast; all of us sat on the floor while I taught them to clap once and say itadakimasu ("thanks for the meal") before eating.

Tokyo DisneySea

All of us are big Disney fans, so we decided to go to the Tokyo Disney Resort. Of the two parks there, we visited DisneySea because its nautical theme sounded unique. The entrance to Tokyo DisneySea is "Mediterranean Harbor" - buildings and moats designed to look like Venice. Gondoliers called out "bene!" and "arrivederci!" in their Japanese accents (remember, this is the language that has no 'v' or 'r' sound). I was really surprised, but this kind of setting must be so exotic - after all, Italy's on the other side of the world.

After visiting a few other famous sites around Tokyo, we took the shinkansen bullet train back to Nanao in time for the big Seihakusai Festival! Everyone in Nanao looks forward to the three-day festival all year round, when the 200-ton dekayama floats are pulled through the city streets to chants and the beat of taiko drums.

The front of the dekayama.

These floats welcomed me to Nanao last May with awe and excitement, and now I was able to share this experience with my family, too. I was very aware I may not be able to see Seihakusai again, or if I did it would be as an outsider rather than a member of the community, so in a way it was the first of many goodbyes to come.

Pulling the dekayama in the rain.

After the rain cleared up, it turned into one day after another of sunny skies. Even though I can no longer drive in Japan, my Uncle brought his international driver's license so we could drive down to Kanazawa via the Chirihama beach driveway.

Along the beachside, restaurants had been erected from simple white boards and plastic sheets. We stopped in and had fresh oysters cooked over a grill. We listened to the waves lap up on the hard-packed shore, and watched as brave Japanese prodded clear gelatinous blobs (jellyfish!) with their shoes.

Low ridin' on Chirihama Beach Driveway.

Once in the capital we toured Kanazawa Castle together. The many buildings surrounding the castle are made of cedar, and have such a sweet smell. Inside they are bare of furniture or ornamentation, and seem very plain, disguising the innovative architectural designs that were new at the time of its initial creation.

As I looked out from the viewpoint of the castle's second floor, I couldn't believe that the next day I would be flying to the States, putting thousands of miles between me and the place I've called home for over a year.

Speaking of going back to America though, I still had presents to buy! We ended the day shopping for souvenirs to bring back to the States - little pieces of a far away world to share with those who may never see it for themselves.

Kanazawa castle with Mt. Hakusan in the background.

And just like that, Golden Week ended, and I was buckled in to a transpacific flight bound for Michigan.


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