Sunday, August 17, 2014

S'mores and Hirosaki Castle

This week was another "holiday".  It is called Obon.  It is basically like Memorial Day, where they remember their departed ancestors.  When we went to the grocery store, it was crowded like for Thanksgiving.  They were selling flowers all over the place too, to decorate the graves.

They canceled our English class out at the factory in Kakuda.  They closed the place down for the week.

But, we still had our English group out in Tagajo.  The missionaries decided it would be a good idea to make "S'mores"!  It was interesting to hear our Aussie elder explain what s'mores are!  (Biscuits??)  Anyway, we were in posession of a box of graham crackers, thanks to Sister Rollins who left them here.

And, how do you roast marshmallows in Japan?  On chopsticks, of course!

And a few rounds of "Big Buddah"

We're getting ready for transfers next week, so we had the opportunity to move a few bikes around.

This is what the parking garage of the sisters' apartment looks like.  Not too many cars, but lots of bikes!

I saw one young mother the other day with one child behind her on a seat and another one strapped to her back.  She took off on her bike down the hill like it was nothing!

Sister Shitami wanted to send a package to her son who has lost his job.  While she was shopping, I wandered around for a while.

This is a typical display of bread.  The packages are all the same size.  A perfect cube.  But, some of the packages have four slices of bread, some have six and some have eight, depending on how thick you like the slices.  And, there are no ends to deal with.  And, it's all white bread.

These are, I don't know what to call them, but they are used to cover your arms and hands and prevent you from getting too much sun on your arms.  This week the weather has been nice, but on a hot day??

You can see that Sister S has her arm sleeve things on.  No matter that it was a cloudy day and we are inside.  Here, she is mailing the package to her son.  She put meat, yogurt, vegetables, noodles, etc.  She asked that it be sent in a refrigerated truck.  It will be delivered the next day.  And it cost under $10 to ship.  Japan has an amazing mail and delivery system!

This is a statue of a samauri in the town of Hirosaki.  On Saturday, we took the mission van and drove three bikes up to this city in the north part of the island.  It was a four hour drive up.  So, we took a little time to look around a bit before heading back to Sendai.

This is one of the most famous sites in Japan.  This castle was originally built in the 1600s.  (When the explorers and conquerers were going all over the world.)  The first castle here was hit by lightning and burnt to the ground.  This one was built in 1810.  It is surrounded by moats and on one side is a cliff so it was a good fortification against invaders.

Inside the castle is a museum.  Here is a model of what the site was like.

There are several guard towers.

Apparently, one of the towers was burnt down by a fireworks accident in 1906 (oops!)

It is a lovely park.  Luckily, the rain stopped long enough for us to walk around.

The gates are huge!  You can see how small Alan is compared.

These are water lilies in the moat.

Can you see the swan?

Several beautiful bridges are around the park.

This is one of those sedan carriers that six guys had to carry the woman.

Samaurai outfits.


Dragon bowl

The park is surrounded by cherry trees.  This is supposed to be the oldest cherry tree in Japan.  They tell us that in the spring, the blossoms are unbelieveable.  I don't know if we'll get back here in the spring, but it must be amazing.

Just down the road is a large Buddist Temple and burial ground.

Inside the "cages" on either side of the entrance are some demons that are supposed to stop any evil entry.  Their shape reminds me of Darth Vader's helmet.

It's hard to see, but they do look terrible.

Inside the shrine.

The burial yard behind the shrine

Bell Tower

Another bell tower

This neighborhood looks like it was built in around the graveyards.  There are beautiful shrines or homes all down the street.

I wasn't sure if this car would make it through the gate, but it did.  Many people were coming with flowers to put on the graves.

I would like to know the story behind the two "Hello Kitty" memorials.

And a couple more guards

After we ate some lunch, we headed back to Sendai.  We saw about three ski resorts, went through over 10 tunnels (each way) and saw lots of rice fields and little towns.  It took four hours to go up and about six hours to come back.  We were very tired of riding by then.

This sign is to remind sleepy drivers to pull off at the rest area.

Sign for an upcoming tunnel.

A couple of the tunnels may have been as long as our "Tunnel of Death" experience in Tajikistan, but they are all in much better shape than that one, and took only a fraction of the time to pass through.

We saw some signs for deer, and bears, but racoons???

It's a jungle out there.  There was a lot of traffic so we were driving slow enough to get a little scenery.

And when we had to stop for gas, the attendants are right there to help!  So many cars had pulled off at the rest areas that you could barely pull off the highway.  The lines for the bathrooms were probably about 50 people (no kidding.)  Even the men's line was long!  Good thing we went to the bathroom before we left Hirosaki!

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