Sunday, May 26, 2013

Matsuri (Japanese Festival)

I am standing on the bridge that goes over Blue Street to the entrance of the Chuo Station.
I've heard this called a couple different lady said it is called Rei Tei Sai and it is to celebrate good health and prosperity.  Someone else said it is a festival to celebrate Yokosuka.  Yet another person, said it was to honor a local shrine.  And, someone else said it was to celebrate what a wonderful not-so-big-city Yokosuka is....I'm sure it's a combination of all of those.

Every year around Memorial Day, Yokosuka holds a Matsuri, a Japanese Festival, on Blue Street.  It's a two day festival, Saturday and Sunday, where vendors set up stalls all along Blue Street and sell food, fish, turtles, toys, games, etc.

We walked to Blue Street at about 5 p.m. and started up one side, crossed over the street and walked back up on the other side.  We were trying to find something interesting to eat for all of us.  At the end of the first side of the JAPANESE festival we found:  french fries for Mackenzie and a chicken gyro for Kris, Garytt and I to share.  I know....weird!  But, I had a hard time finding a table that didn't have squid on it, and I just wasn't ready to be that adventurous.  I've heard it's really good, but I just couldn't make myself do it.  Maybe by the time this rolls around next year I'll be ready.

Shaved chicken
first bite...yum!

Surprise....Miss Picky is eating FRIES!
We walked across the bridge and then down the other side of the street.  This side was mostly games and toys and desserts.

The fish booth was a game.  You pay a few hundred Yen and get a little paper net.  You then get to try and catch as many fish as you can before the net falls apart.   Most people we saw had two or three fish in their bags.
 Same thing goes for the turtles.  Kris stood up to the begging and pleading...he kept strong and refused to let ME try to get a turtle.  :(  They are so darn cute!!!

The kids were promised one gift each.  They both chose masks.  One Japanese lady asked us if we knew who the personalities were behind Mackenzie's mask....we had no clue.  She said she was a vocaloid...just a computer voice.  So, we googled her when we got home.  Turns out, her name is Miku.  Hatsune Miko, to be exact, and she is quite popular here.  She has all kinds of albums and videos.  She even has a version of "Gangnam Style".

We found a snack that Mackenzie would eat.  It was thin dough filled with cheese and then was delicious!
And, we found something else she would try...Choco Banana.  It was a banana covered in white chocolate.  It was a different kind of white chocolate, not as sweet as what we get in the states.  It was okay.  

Finally, the kids both had slushies.  The vendor filled the cups with ice and then the kids could put their own flavoring on.  That made it fun!

So, since the kids ate mostly junk at the Matsuri, for snack they had hot dogs.  :)  I missed taking pictures of the chicken and steak on sticks that we had.  Kris and Garytt ate most of it, Mackenzie and I tasted it.

On one of our rounds up and down Blue Street we were able to check out the cart preparations.  The cart below was carried around town.  

I'm not sure what that is to the right in the picture below.  I was told that it was possibly a shrine.  It's not usually there, so I'm not so sure how true that is.  I didn't know shrines could be mobile.  I'll have to research that a little more.

At 7 p.m. the carts started moving up and down the streets.  We found a spot one block East of Blue Street, near Lawson's Drug Store and and waited.  We heard the music first, then heard people chanting, and then saw the mass of people heading down the street.  We were able to get a few videos.  It was pretty cool to see.  Not as extravagant as we thought it would be, but still fun to watch.

The people walking beside the cart would switch places with the people carrying the cart when they got tired.  It was a constant switch.  There were men and women carrying it around, young and old.  They all were chanting.  There were also people walking with them and taking pictures.  We made it into someone's photo album because the people below thought Kris was hilarious.

Helping the kids get a good view

 Taking pictures of Kris and the kids.  They probably took at least 30 pictures each.  They had us all pose together and talked to us about how good Garytt was.

The music cart

This lady is taking a break from her turn carrying the cart.  She looks pretty tired!

 What an interesting night!  We saw a lot of interesting food and walked among thousands of people.  It was quite a bit of fun!  The kids had fun seeing all the different foods, even if Mackenzie refused to taste most of it.  I've heard there are tons of festivals all summer long here, so stay tuned....more to come!! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kisarazu Base Air Show

This year is the 41st anniversary of the foundation of Kisarazu Base.  It is the home of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Helicopter Brigade.  We were invited to be guests at the Air Show this year.  Yay!

Sunday, we all got up bright and early, 6 am, ate breakfast and drove down to Command Hill to wait for our ride.  17 people loaded onto the van and we were off.  It took us about 2 hours to make the 50, or so, mile drive.  The highlight of the drive...the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line...a bridge-tunnel across Tokyo Bay.  Pretty cool!  The tunnel part is 6 miles long! We also had a nice view of, the always-beautiful, Mt. Fuji.

We got to the base just as things were about to get going.  We made a quick stop at our designated waiting room for a snack, drink and bathroom break.

Our snacks and refreshments

Our hang-out room

We made a short walk to the flight line and took our seats at the very front of the crowd.

First up:  The Anniversary Ceremony.  This started when several groups of men marched out onto the runway.  They stood in formation while someone spoke a lot of Japanese for a long time.  While they did that, we talked to the kids about what we saw on the flightline and made friends with the Japanese lady and her son, who we offered one of our four seats up front. 

Once the base commander showed up and did his thing, they all marched back off the field and got into the nearby trucks.

 Second:  The Army Band performed several songs.  I've included a link to a video of the band:

Third, these guys pushed this helicopter out in front of the crowd.

 Then, the base commander was driven back out onto the runway.

 The Commander got into the helicopter and then hovered over the ground for a bit (something Kris said was very difficult to do, especially in the wind).  Check out the link:
After this helicopter took off, all the others followed suit.  They made a couple loops around the field before flying off for a bit.

 This is when the cheerleaders showed up...I know...cheerleaders??!!  :)

Performing "Hey Mickey" and then "Call Me Maybe" and another song I haven't heard of and finally, a Japanese Pop song.

Even the military guys joined in with green....

....and purple....
....just kidding!  The wind kept blowing them down the runway and these poor guys chased them down.
As the cheerleaders ended, the helicopters started moving in from the distance

Accomplishing an air show underneath active commercial airport traffic must be fun!

Next the Drill Team came marching in.

Drill Team links:
After the Drill Team was the Training Demonstration.  Cobras came flying in and then flying out, then they would come back in and fly around a bit before heading out again.
Another link:
And, another:

Here comes the next helicopter.  He dropped off the two guys below.

They moved to center field, then started signaling the other helicopters to move in.

This guy came in and picked up a jeep
Then, three helicopters came in and started shooting out of the side and back.

This one dropped a line and several guys came sliding down the rope

Once off the helicopter, they all took up positions around the field.
The jeep was brought forward and unloaded

Then, the Cobras gave chase for a bit

This helicopter unloaded motorcycles and a jeep

"Look Ma!  No hands!  While holding a rifle!"

This helicopter moved in, dropped a line, and then the guys all hooked themselves up

And, then they took off.

After the Training Demo, we were lead back to our room for more lunch.  We went into our room, made restroom visits, cooled off a bit, and then we were able to enjoy a Japanese Drum Performance.


Waiting for our turn to file in for lunch.
Kagamibiraki - this is the breaking open of the traditional cask of sake with a wooden mallet.  Many people walked up on stage, donned blue shirts, took a mallet, and at the same time, they all smashed the top of the cask.  After this, they dipped cedar boxes into the sake and handed it out to the people.  I had a taste...yuck.  I don't care to taste it again.

The "after" shot...the top of the cask is caved in.

The lunch spread:  fruit trays, sandwiches, meatballs, cheese, roast beef, scallops, shrimp, chicken, potato wedges, sushi, tea, orange juice, beer, coke

There were no seats.  At first, I thought, "oh, how silly!  We are supposed to eat lunch standing up?!"  But, once we got started, it was actually great.  We could walk around and chat with people and meander up and down the table.  It was a fabulous lunch. 

Soba.  It was pretty tasty, but it was so hot in there that hot soup was a little hard to eat.

My plate.  All yummy

Yes, this is Mackenzie's plate.  We always come prepared with turkey sandwiches for her.  She did taste the chicken and she had several chunks of pineapple and some potato wedges.

Meat and cheese tray.  I had the scallops, shrimp, and a slice of roast beef.

Next up:  HELICOPTER RIDE!!!  Woo hoo!! 
I was trying to get shots of Mackenzie waiting in line for the helicopter ride, but she had a little photo bomber in the background that I didn't notice.

Headed to our chopper!

He's in and buckled!

So far, so good.  She is looking around and looking out the window, calm as can be
So, we were all very excited to get on the helicopter.  We climbed in the back, sat down and buckled up.  We started moving forward and the back door closed.  We lifted up and once in the air we could take our belts off and walk around.  Garytt and I looked out the window by us and Kris picked up Mackenzie and took her to a window where they looked out.  As soon as he put her down on the floor, she bolted to her seat and frantically tried to buckle her belt.

She couldn't get the belt buckled, so Daddy offered her some help.

I sat down and asked if she was ok, when she babbled something I couldn't understand.  I asked if she thought she was going to be sick and she shook her head no.  I tried to put my arms around her and she started flailing her arms around and yelling don't touch me over and over.  The Loadmaster offered her candy, but she refused.  She just crossed her arms, put her head down, and poked out her bottom lip.  As soon as we landed, she was cool as a cucumber again.  Later that night, at dinner, we asked everyone what their favorite part of the day was.  Mackenzie's answer:  The helicopter ride!  Either she had a horrible day, or she blocked out the up-in-the-air part of the ride...dunno!

Garytt looking out the window.  He had a blast and walked all over the helicopter.

Looking out of the window

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After the helicopter ride, we made one last stop in our room then headed out to the van.  The traffic was pretty busy on the way back, so we decided to make a stop at the Tokyo Bay Oasis - a touristy stop just before the tunnel.  Garytt was asleep by this point, so he and Kris stayed in the van while Mackenzie and I headed out to look around.

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That is one of the digger things used in the construction of the bridge-tunnel

Our reflection in the side of the digger thing

Some of the snacks and drinks we got, we all got pins and sake boxes as well.

The kids were given gift bags with lots of candy
We made it back to the house by around 530.  Kris was ready to take me out for Mother's Day, but I was so tired that I just wanted to eat pizza in my PJs!  :)  So, that's what we did.  It was a pretty fantastic Mother's Day!  We were able to experience a lot of new things.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to top this for Father's Day...