We arrived in Japan at 9am 19th March. This was about 9th or 10th visit to Japan and the 4th visiting at this time of year. Our daughter lives in Japan with her Japanese husband Nobu and our 2 granddaughters. They have had their own English school for 14 years. It is a favourite time of year as the cherry blossom season starts and is celebrated throughout Japan. The weather is still a bit cold but beginning to get warmer during the day but remains cold at night. They live a couple of hours north east of Tokyo & the area is somewhat like Hereford, rural with many farms around.
This particular trip was very cultural for some reason. We were lucky so much was going on.
We chose to go then because our granddaughters Mary & Kate were on school holiday
The school year ends in March & so they leave one year and go up a year. This means they have a bit less homework than during the other holidays. Despite being " on holiday " they had to go into school several times. Mary would have been in for 3 days for club activities, the week after we arrived , however the whole family were going to an onsen for a couple of days so she was allowed not to go. They had to go in another day to say goodbye to the teachers who were leaving and clean the school ready for the new term. They are also expected to do about an hour of homework every day during the holiday.
Japanese schools do not employ cleaners, this is done by the students
I remember when Kate started pre school at the age of 3 years the parents were given a list of items to bring, including a duster. At the end of the school day the children spend 15 minutes cleaning. There is very little litter because they know they will have to clean it up.
An onsen is a hot spring. We go for at least one stay each visit. You book into a hotel and and in the room there are yukatas. These are like a casual kimono. You change into these and wear them all the time in the hotel, even to meals. The hot springs are separate for men and women.
When you go into the hot spring you strip off and wash all over, including the hair. Then you make your way to the pools
There are usually 2 or 3, including one outside. It is lovely to sit outside when it is freezing and sit in the very hot water.
The wonderful array of food!
After breakfast next morning we went to a Japanese theme park called Edo wonderland. The nearest I can describe it is a bit like St Fagans, the Welsh museum. It was near a place called Nikko. Every time we have been to Nikko it has poured with rain and this time was no exception. Despite this it was good to look at some old traditional Japanese sport, including Ninjas!
One day Fiona's mother in law suggested we go to the kimono shop as they were having an open day
Kimonos vary in price but can be quite expensive, thousands of pounds. While we were there they suggested I try one on. It takes ages as they have to put several layers, & then the obi around the waist. These are very intricate. It is less usual to see women in Japan in kimonos now except on special occasions. Girls have a ceremony at the age of 3, & 7 years (boys - 5 years) and they wear a kimono then. There is a ceremony performed at the temple & we have been fortunate enough to attend some of these.
Ken, my husband and I in my kimono
I love Japanese food. It is quite healthy & I have never put on any weight whilst over there. A lot of fish is eaten some of it is eaten raw, sashimi.
Sushi is actually rice with, sometimes, raw fish
They do all kinds of snacks, that again are quite healthy, called senbei. Nobu's mum makes her own and she always makes some for me when we go. Japanese food is always beautifully presented, even the takeaway. They do have McDonalds and KFC. The only time my husband got sick was after a McDonalds! Most restaurants also provide plastic containers to take any left overs. Left over sashimi is cooked if left for a couple of hours, it must be eaten completely fresh.
I said at the beginning we were there for the cherry blossom season
The Japanese always celebrate the changing seasons, particularly spring & autumn and will travel many miles to see the cherry blossom or autumn leaves. We went to a festival at a local park for a celebration. There was Japanese dancing, singing and the tea making ceremony. It felt very cultural and then we went to Nobu's parents for a Japanese meal.
Beautiful cherry blossom season
One weekend we were there we went to a shrine, about 15 minutes drive away. Again it was a ceremony at a temple. The highlight was a horseman galloping up stone steps followed by a procession of priests and other people some of whom were dressed up as spirits and archers with flaming arrows. It was very busy and crowded but a lovely atmosphere.
A galloping horseman
The last weekend our son in law got us tickets to see sumo wrestling. It started about midday and went on most of the afternoon. As the day went on, the better wrestlers came on. Sumo wrestlers are very respected (not sure about this anymore as there has been a few scandals in recent years!). Their wives looked beautiful in their kimonos.
In Japan people normally sit on the floor on cushions
On the ground floor it was all cushions and people sitting on them. We were in the cheaper seats upstairs but luckily they had chairs! The sumo was so interesting. There was a lot of ceremony prior to the bout, sprinkling of salt and bowing to each other. The wrestling itself lasted seconds. They had to push their opponent out of a defined ring and of course the experienced didn't take long.
We left for home a couple of days later after having a wonderful time as always, several earthquakes, meeting up with friends and relatives. Looking forward to going again but not sure when.