He was a bold man that first ate an Oyster!–> Kashima Oyster Festival!!

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OYSHI OYSHI! Meaning delicious in Japan also explains how amazing the Oyster festival is! How often are you able to buy a huge bag of oysters, some rice triangles, hot dogs, and corn on the cob to grill for yourself for less than 20 bucks? The oysters themselves would be almost $40 in the U.S. Out here in Japan they are collected by the bucket load so no need to worry.

At the Kashima harbor park we bought our oysters, some beer, and the other foods mentioned above and we had ourselves a delightful afternoon cooking oysters on the grill, listening while they sizzle and when they finally pop they are ready to be pried open and eaten. I was wearing protective gloves because the coals become very hot and oyster shells are no joke in the heat. We munched for a good two hours on oysters, corn, and rice triangles. The Japanese were loving it! The oyster festival lasts the entire month of November in Sasebo and we had been so busy we barely made it the last weekend they were holding it. Lucky us! If I’m in town next year I’ll be back and that’s a fact.

So Good!

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Karatsu Autumn Festival

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One of my best and most traditional experiences in Japan! Chi, a Japanese friend invited us to a traditional festival in Karatsu Japan on Kyushu Island. Of course we said yes and my sister and I were picked up on a raining morning with another American friend and Chi to hit the road. We were zipping along in seconds and I feel like in Japan the towns are so close but because the speed limit is always so slow and the roads are so narrow and the roads zig and zag it is always hard to get to where you are going quickly.

Karatsu is a town close to Saga and holds the biggest Autumn festival of Kyushu island every year. Karatsu is composed of 14 cho’s (neighborhoods) which each have a giant float made of plastic and lacquer. Each year someone in the cho is chosen to ride on top of the float and a big group of the young men and women and children pull the floats through the city with long ropes while they beat drums and play music. It was amazing!

Floats of Karatsu

Floats of Karatsu

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Before the parade started we went to a traditional Japanese house for dinner. During the festival which lasts the whole week, there is much food prepared to celebrate. A large fish is cooked under hot coals for 3 days time and there are just platters of everything. We came inside the house, removed our shoes, and were ushered to sit down at a low table laden with food. We were then given small bowls and dishes to try the food to our hearts content. One of the men even let us try on his silk robe that was embroidered with war fighters! He had already drank a bit too much sake. haha.

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When we left that house the guy in the silk robe followed us out and insisted that we come across the street to his home. We tried our hardest to politely decline but he wasn’t having it so off we went, up to his house, to the surprise of his family. They were very nice and passed around a soup for us to try with mushrooms, greens, and rice cakes. We didn’t stay long since our group had about 9 people and we had yet another place to get to.

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We headed back into the town and got a cab ride to a restaurant that one of the Japanese people knew the owner and it turns out we were ushered into the closed restaurant to be served personally by the chef. The chef’s wife also asked me to help interview her son in English for a class project. Of course I accepted.

By the time we tried all of the delicious foods he had prepared for us, I was completely stuffed. At this time the rain had started to pick up outside pitter-pattering down the roof tops. They allowed us to borrow umbrellas and then we were off walking towards the center of town for the parade.

The streets were a sight to be hold! Every cho was dressed in their silk robes representing their neighborhood and we lined up in the streets with everyone else as one of the floats rounded the corner. It was magnificent. Apparently they hold the parade for hours but because of the rain they were bringing the floats to the center of the town and getting them inside out of the weather so they wouldn’t get ruined. What a great festival and parade!

I ended the day at a stand buying a banana dipped in chocolate on a stick. We were kindly given a ride back to our car and hit the road for home. Chi had stayed behind with her friends so it was just the American crew on the way back. We got lost about 8 different times which is the usual over here. haha.

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This is one of my most favorite Japanese experiences so far!

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Japanese Major League Baseball Game!

Its time to revert back to my American Roots! It’s a great thing that Japanese people looooove baseball. My sister decided that she was going to come live with me this past spring and I couldn’t have been more excited! She’s coming on a temporary visa with high hopes of getting a job and staying for a couple of years. We have been planning this for the past couple of months and before I even realized it the time had come for her to arrive. It was very exciting. I drove to the airport which is about 2 hours away with a friend from work and we had a grand time. When we arrived at the airport I ran to check the flights and we waited patiently for hers, it was delayed by 15 minutes. I thought for sure I would see her walking down the glassed ramp and it’s not very hard to spot an american among many Japanese people but she surprised me by coming out from another area and getting her luggage before I spotted her.

Her first meal in Japan was Coco Curries and she picked the quail eggs dish. She’s very adventurous. We ended up getting quite lost on the way home but I’m never surprised when that happens as it occurs quite frequently.. I feel like I’m always lost here!

The best part is that she arrived on the weekend and I had the weekend off so I made her go straight to bed when we got home and the next morning I woke her up and we were off to go to a Japanese Major League Baseball Game! The Softbank Hawks were playing and we wanted to see. We bought a shopping bag full of Chu-hi’s (best alcoholic beverage ever) jumped on the train and off we were zipping through the countryside with 8 people who I work with. It was a very enjoyable ride. I love trains.

We arrived back in the same town as the airport and after a subway ride and a short walk, we were there. Walking into the stadium I saw a monkey wearing a Softbank Hawk Jersey doing tricks. It was very interesting. Once we got our seats the game began and it was very fun. Our favorite part is during the seventh inning the away team and the home team blow up these balloons that look very funny and you don’t tie them off. The away team does it first and they sing their song for their team and then they release the balloons up into the air and let them fly around and fall down onto the field. Then the home team does it and we had a grand time. Watch the video below to see what I am talking about.

During the game I tried all of the different foods they sell at the stadium, noodle dishes, rice wrapped in seaweed, yakitori (meet on a stick), but nothing beats a hot dog and cracker jacks at a baseball game and I’m sticking to that story, It’s the first time I’ve really missed American food all at once.

After the game we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe Japan which is right next to the stadium and then we got back onto the train and headed back to our town. It was a very exciting and exhausting day.

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Gangnam Style. HEYYYYY SEXY LADIES!

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The balloons in question

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Balloons everywhere!

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Away Team

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Chu-Hi’s Galore. Sooo Good.

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Beer Girl.

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Monkey!

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Nagasaki Peace Park [“The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war– Ralph Waldo Emerson”]

Labor Day weekend was fast approaching and I decided that it was time for some traveling and some exploring! I had been hearing about the Nagasaki Peace Park since I’ve arrived and since I have my car [2000 Toyota Vitz] it was prime time to check it out.

The drive over was very nice. It is always much slower progress here in Japan because the speed limit is always so slow but it was a very enjoyable day and Kip more Up all Night was playing on repeat so it made the trip even funner.

Here’s a little bit about the Nagasaki Peace Park:

The Atomic Bomb was dropped on August 9th 1945 at around 11am.

[Approximately 40 percent of Nagasaki was destroyed. Luckily for many civilians living in Nagasaki, though this atomic bomb was considered much stronger than the one exploded over Hiroshima, the terrain of Nagasaki prevented the bomb from doing as much damage. Yet the decimation was still great. With a population of 270,000, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of the year.

“I saw the atom bomb. I was four then. I remember the cicadas chirping. The atom bomb was the last thing that happened in the war and no more bad things have happened since then, but I don’t have my Mummy any more. So even if it isn’t bad any more, I’m not happy.”

— Kayano Nagai, survivor

There were many facts that I learned at the Atomic Bomb museum and at the Peace Park. When I first walked in I saw paper cranes lining the walls and found out that there were 1,000 paper cranes strung together leading down to the museum start. After walking inside I saw the screens that show pictures of all of the identified people involved in the bombing and was told that it takes 2.5 hours to rifle through all of the pictures and names. I also saw the glass towers that have sheets with all of the names of the people. It was a very somber museum and a quiet atmosphere. There was much time for thinking and reflection. I saw pictures of the devastation and items that were involved. Atomic bombs cause great destruction.

Paper Cranes Outside

Looping all the way down to the museum entrance

The names of all of the victims are stacked inside here

Afterwards we walked over to the Peace Park to see all of the different countries whom have come together to make statues symbolizing peace. The most well-known statue is of the blue man who is holding his arms in a peaceful manner. As we were walking up the steps to the park you could see bullet holes from bomber planes during World War II. That definitely brought everything full circle for me.

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The Porcelain Park, Arita Japan

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Imagine my surprise when I was just trying to go to a porcelain flea market and I found this palace!

Arita Porcelain Park, the place where the most exquisite porcelain is made in Japan. I’ve had my eye sights set on Arita since I first heard about it the first week I was here, especially since it is just one town over. It was time to do some exploring, especially since they were having a porcelain flea market, and there’s nothing like a good sale to reel me in. I was going to drive there by myself but my friends W & D, a very nice older couple came along too. We made the trip over on a gorgeously sunny afternoon. It was a fantastic day. We got very lost, as I had a small feeling we would, it’s almost impossible not to around here.

In the end, we asked directions from a Japanese family at a park and the whole Japanese family I was talking to piled into their mini van and they drove to the flea market while we followed so we would ensure to get there. I bet not many people in America would go out of their way to do something so nice as that. Along the way we saw the Japanese porcelain making university, the wholesale of Arita Ceramics, and porcelain shops everywhere along the way.

Nothing prepared me for what we saw when we arrived at the Arita Porcelain Park. A German Palace! It was magnificent. At first I wanted to run over and take pictures but instead I opted to shop and shop we did. W and I bought all kinds of things. I found a porcelain fish bowl and platter, a set of five porcelain bowls with lids and a sake set. As an FYI the word for 4 in Japan is “she” which also means death and so ┬áNEVER sell things in sets of four. Its considered very bad luck to their superstitious nature so you will always find things in sets of 3, 5, or 6. More commonly 5 or 6. W saw a set of four plates in a box and an older Japanese women walked over to the stand and covered it up with a cloth.

We took all of our finds back to the car and then I set off to take pictures of the palace. The Zwinger Palace. All of the pictures attached I took using the Vivid option on my cannon camera to make it more colorful and spectacular! Inside the palace no cameras were allowed, but they sell the most exquisite porcelain pieces. I saw a plate for over 1,000,000 Yen, which would be over $10,000, for a plate! This palace is only about 20 minutes away from where I live. We spent all afternoon walking around and exploring and back at the main building this older Japanese man tried to get me very drunk. He almost succeeded. He made me try 5 different sake’s. The whole store was entertained by us.

Afterwards we went to a Sushi Go Round (The place where sushi swings by on belts and you just pick what you want to eat as you go) for dinner, and it was delicious as always. They even had electronic touch screens you can order from and when your food is on its way it dings for you to pick it up off the belt. That was one of the best parts although our food went by and then it dinged after it was already gone so we had to wait for a half of an hour for it to come back around. haha. The 105 Sushi as we call it, ┬áis only 5 minutes from my house, I found a back road, so they will be seeing me much more often for sure. We stuffed ourselves for just over 10 dollars and it was so yummy. It always is. It never gets old. And it’s so cheap. Enjoy the pictures, I certainly am, I still can’t believe that was there.