Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hanami in Misakiguchi

It's Cherry Blossom season in Japan!  We are all finally on the mend from one sickness after another, so the kids and I headed out to see the beautiful trees!

After a quick school session this morning the kids dressed and I packed a lunch, then we were off.  It was an easy train trip today.  The weather was pretty, a bit windy, but in the 50s.  We made it to Yokosuka Chuo a little after 1100 and waited for the 1116 train.  The train did not have the bench seats but had the double, forward-facing seats, which is not fun when there are no seats available.  The standing room is very cramped and it's hard to move out of the way for people wanting to get off.  Lucky for us, a very nice man gave us his seat so we could all three smoosh into the two seats.  Of course, there were a few fights about who was going to sit by the window, but after a quick compromise (switch at the halfway point) things were smooth sailing for the next 21 minutes.  We got off the train at Misakiguchi and just walked toward the cherry trees.

The walk was a bit longer than I thought.  I think it took the little legs in our group about thirty minutes to make it to Komatsugaike Park.  The kids were so excited to go to a park...turns out, this isn't a play-kind of park.  It's just trees, flowers, gardens, and a pond.  Not as exciting as we thought.  It was pretty though.  Next time I'll need to research the park a little better.

I found out last week that there are several different kinds of cherry trees.  There are some that bloom in late February and early March - I think these are called Kawazu Sakura.  Then, there are the plum trees, called Ume, that bloom in early - mid March.  And, then there are the Sakura trees that are all over our base.  These bloom at the end of March or early April.  There are tons more trees, but these are the only ones I could figure out when and where they were around us.

I think the blossoms we looked at today were Kawazusakura.  My plan was to head to Misakiguchi, which is the last stop on that train line, and walk around.  Then, head back toward home and stop at a few other places on the way.  Miurakaigon is supposed to have really pretty blossoms right now too.  But, after the thirty minute walk to the "park", then the thirty minute walk back, the kids were getting cranky and it was getting a little too late in the day to fool around.  So, I plan on heading out again next week while it's nice out.

The walk to the park was a quiet one.  There are tons of flowers planted all over the place.  Mackenzie called them "lion flowers", I think they are pansies.  We walked down the sidewalk for quite a ways and then under a bridge and along the bridge for a while.  We finally came around a corner and saw all the cherry trees out in front of us.  We found our way to the other side of the road and started in toward the park entrance.

I asked the kids to go stand under the trees and next to the pretty yellow flowers.  Well, they both got next to the flowers and then took off screaming down the sidewalk.  There were bees in the bushes.  Ugh.  I had to beg and beg for them to just get a little close to the bushes.  As you can see from the picture, they kept their eyes on those buzzing beasts.

Both sides of this street are lined with cherry trees.  It's beautiful!  Then, under the pretty pink blossoms are brilliant yellow flowers.  I think our train came past all of these trees on the way to Misakiguchi Station.  And,  now that I look at a map...if we had just kept walking down this road we would have been at Miurakaigon just as fast as it took us to get back to the station we came in at.  Oh well!

I really wanted to snap a lot of pictures here, but the kids were bored, so I had to move it along.  We found the staircase that leads down into the park and walked across the bridge.

Here is the entryway to the park.  The lanterns are so pretty hanging in the trees.  At the bottom of the stairs we stepped to the right so I could get a look at which way was the direction we wanted to go.  It was in this little area that Garytt saw a sign with a "creepy" looking turtle (says Mackenzie) on it.  Now, he was on a mission to find this turtle!  Gee, thanks park caretakers...

At this point the kids were really complaining about being so starving that "we ca-an't walk anymore".  So, we pulled up two tree trunks and ate our sandwiches.  This time of year many Japanese have parties under the cherry trees.  This is called hanami.  A lot of the time these parties involve a bit of alcohol and music and craziness.  I guess that comes with the later blossoms, at the beginning of April.  I guess this is why everyone was looking at us funny....why in the world were we eating here instead of under the cherry trees?  Duh!  I did convince them that they could save the rest of their lunch until we got to the pond.  So, I'm considering that our hanami.  :)

I got the kids up from the stumps and we got back on the path through the brush and marshy ponds.  When we came out into the clearing of the pond there were all the people, and the trees.  We sat down on the edge of the pond...terror filling me as soon as we sat down and Boy leaned out toward the water, did a quick can-I-do-it glance back at me, and then moved his arm toward the water.  I was quicker than him though....we had a nice talk about not touching the water and he behaved.  I could see the pain in his face when a little girl came along and her grandparents let her splash her hands in the water.  But, still, he did not disobey.  He did keep a close eye out for that elusive turtle.  Every thirty seconds he whined, "Buuuuuuttt...where's that creepy turtle?  I HAVE to find that turtle!"

The crowd on this day was mostly made of elderly Japanese couples.  I saw a few young couples holding hands and walking under the trees and one or two little kids.  But, mostly older people.  We did walk up the little hill to the food stands set up along the tree line.  They had yakitori, sweet potato fries, whatever that bread thing is below, peanuts, and a few stands that I wasn't sure what was being cooked.  Garytt and Mackenzie had a bag of peanuts and I got the bag of deliciousness below.  It was some sort of pancake and then I could chose between three different flavors:  azuki beans, cream cheese, and something else I wasn't sure what it was.  I chose azuki beans.  Mmmmmmm....yummy!!!  Garytt tasted it and didn't like it at all.  Mackenzie, of course, totally refused.  So, I had it all to myself!

I let Mackenzie chose which path to take back toward the entrance.  It was a shaded path, unfortunately, we ended up getting behind a couple walking their two dogs.  Two dogs that desperately tried to mark every blade of grass on the path as their territory.  So, we spent a lot of time dodging their paths.  Once the owners stopped to dig something out of their bag, we quickly ran past them.  

We got back out to the beginning of the path, where we ate our sandwiches, and made a turn toward the right.  On the way in I saw a staircase that looked like it led to a bridge where there were a lot of people with huge, thousand dollar cameras set up.  And, I assumed this was the way.

At the top of the stairs we made a left turn and headed toward the bridge.  Well, after we stopped long enough for Mackenzie to draw a picture of one of the pink lanterns.

We walked around the corner and came upon a small grove of trees.  It was magical walking through all the pretty pink trees!  I think the kids would have spent a lot of time running around in there, but there seemed to be a lot of serious camera enthusiasts there and I didn't think they'd appreciate a blue or pink blur running through all their pretty shots.  So, I convinced the kids to move along to the bridge.

The bridge was pretty awesome!  The kids thought it was the coolest thing they'd done all get to lean over the rails and touch flowers at the TOP of the trees!  Both pulled off one blossom to put in their backpacks and save to show Grandma and Grandpa on Skype.  Both of which got smooshed to tiny balls of goo by the time we got home.  So, I disposed of them before the kids could remember they were packed.

We stood on the bridge for a while and watched the trains go by.  Then, both kids decided it was time to go.  So, we headed back to the train station.  (Like I said earlier, if we kept walking down the road under the trees in the picture below we would have been at Miurakaigon in no time.  Oh well)

Garytt was quite disappointed in the "park" I picked out.  There were no roller slides, no dirt hills, no swings or slides...geez Mom!  Mackenzie, however, said, "This is the bestest day ever!  It's such a beautiful day!"  Of course, that sentiment was ruined a few minutes later when she tried to climb up onto a cement stand like her brother.  Somehow she stepped on her own finger....yeah, you got me how that happens!  She cried and cried.  Of course, there was a little bit of skin scraped off in the incident so that freaked her out even more.  She kept looking at her finger and whining that it was so sore!  Then, she hissed in a breath and said it was burning...burning really bad!  I looked at it and said she would be fine, she just had to get through the initial pain...."and burning," she added.  Then, she started singing, "This girl is on fire.  This girl is on fire."  (for the grandparents out's a song by Alicia Keys.)  Love that kid!

What would an excursion on my own be without a little train mixup....

We made it back to Misakiguchi station by a little after two.  As we were walking down the stairs to the platform I said, "hurry, that's our train."  To which, of course, they both sighed loudly and started flying down the stairs....too late, though.  It closed the doors just three steps from the bottom.  So, we had a ten minute wait for the next train.  There are two platforms at this station.  We were on 2.  While we waited a train arrived on platform 1 after about five minutes.  Then, the next train arrived on 2.  So, we boarded 2.  As we were sitting there, I was looking at the time.  The train I wanted left at 2:17.  Both trains would get us where we wanted to go, but on one we would have had to make a couple switches at other stations; on the other we could get on and sit for twenty minutes all the way to Yokosuka Chuo - much easier.  Well, as my clocked ticked 2:17, the train on track 1 took off....urgh....that was the train I wanted.  So, I made the kids get off and we walked around to the other track.  It would be about a twenty minute wait, but it would be such an easy ride back that I was okay with that.  When the train arrived on track 1, we hopped on.  Then, a man got on and told us we had to get off....I was confused, but we got off.  Garytt said, "why did he make us get off?"  Then, a Japanese lady came over and explained that they would shut the doors, clean the train, and then let us get on.  So, we watched as the train was swept, some water was splashed on one end, and the destination screen was switched from "Misakiguchi" to "Shinagawa".  Then, we hopped on, found our seat, and rode home.  By the time we got home it was starting to really cool off and the wind picked up.  So, we made it home just in time!

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