Sunday, August 10, 2008

What we did on our summer vacation....

The Japanese school year takes a three week break in August. Since Shawn is technically a city employee, that meant he had to spend those three hot weeks in the B.O.E. (bureau of education) office. Too much for any sane person to bear, we broke free with a few paid vacation days and borrowed the village tent to go camping.
This is what our tent had to say about camping in Japan. "Putting yourselves in Nature is one of the best ways to reflect on yourselves, to soften your heart and to refresh body and soul. We know how great nature is and how nice field life is." Here, here!
We didn't realize that borrowing the "village tent" meant it was big enough to fit the entire village inside! This campsite was free and a half hour outside of the big city of Asahikawa.
A day at the beach. Most beaches in Hokkaido are littered with these ugly cement pylons. Despite unseemly anti-beach erosion devices, this is our favorite coastal stop, a 20 minute drive from Nishiokoppe.
Kelp laid out to dry. Nova's favorite snack is nori (dried seaweed). Sure beats Dorritos.

Tanabata Festival was held over the school break. Our very generous neighbors, the Otosakas, hosted us for our first "star festival". It celebrates the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair), across the Milky Way. They are allowed to meet only once a year across this river of stars on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. Sachi and Ruyua's mom, decorates a tree outside the house. It is customary to attach paper wishes to branches for Tanabata.

Sachi lent Nova a yukata she hadn't grown into yet. Nova and Wakkava patiently allow themselves to be layered and spun and cinched by the obi, a very long and wide sash. Both boys and girls wear yukata to summer festivals, a less formal and lighter form of the kimono.
Nishiokoppe street's notorious band of merry makers. "Kawaii, ne?"Nova's sensei gave her these traditional shoes which despite being uncomfortable, Nova was thrilled to wear. Chizue-sensei also kindly offered me her own beautiful yukata for the night. Incidentally, I was the only adult dressed like this at Nishiokoppe's Tanabata festival. A year ago I would have felt very self conscious and a little pissed off that no one gave me a head's-up. After a year of feeling this way, I'm over it...... I felt pretty and proud to be the only grown up in traditional clothing. The village put on a great fireworks display. Lots of oooohs, and aaaaahs.
And then the kids went to town for I swear, an hour, with these giant sparklers. I seriously kept expecting the burn unit to rush in and extinguish some of those long yukata sleeves.After fireworks kids teamed up with parents and roved the streets of Nishiokoppe. Wearing glow in the dark bracelets, they were on the lookout for homes with a light on, to signal fair game for the Japanese form of "trick or treating".
Nova's bag-o-loot. Lots of shrimp flavored crackers, cookies, even a can of green tea.