The Vegetables returned to Japan JUST in time to see the cherry blossoms (aka hanami). We landed in Tokyo Tuesday afternoon (April 1st) and, in an effort to avoid sleep, wandered around town for a few hours amidst the trees. I didn't enjoy the scenery at the time because I had my customary flight-induced bloat which (as you may recall from previous posts) renders me incapable of both appreciating life and acting like an adult. So, Boz enjoyed the scenery and I worried about the lack of visible veins in my feet and pouted.
|...Boz eating a cherry blossom-flavored pastry in OUR train station. We|
hadn't even left our building before he found a snack. It's a skill.
Predictably, I deflated by Wednesday morning and started planning a full weekend of hanami. Boz left work a little early on Friday so that we could make it to our first stop, the Imperial Palace, around 7pm. We arrived at the palace just as the sun was going down and, accompanied by all of Asia, strolled the corridors of cherry blossoms lining the palace grounds. The trees line both edges of the walkways and are bursting with so many blossoms that they meet overhead and form a fluffy pink and white archway. In addition to the flowers overhead, the sidewalks are coated in a thick, billowy layer of fallen petals. It feels like a fairy tale cherry blossom wonderland (which is a little-known feeling if there ever were one). It is enchanting. B and I agreed that this is something that needs to be experienced in person.
...and I agree that that is the most annoying thing I could possibly say. In the off-chance that flying across the world to see flowers isn't at the top of everyone's to-do list, here is my iPhone's best shot at bringing hanami to you.
After an hour of strolling, B and I decided to hit up the food court portion of the festival.
And now I must provide some context:
I went to undergrad at Ohio University (aka #1 party school in America). I was in grad school at the University of Texas while the Longhorns won the 2005 National Championship. I really, seriously, know how to party. Or so I thought...
We arrived at the 'food court' and were stunned by the sheer number of people. There were millions of people (I'm not good at estimating...so perhaps it was more like a gazillion). The food booths were arranged in one long row which had to stretch on for a mile (again...an 'estimate'). Boz and I walked about half the length of the booths to get an overview of the choices. B's eyes bugged out of his head as he took in the endless displays of grilled noodles, meats, and seafoods (and one lone crepe stand).
|crepes are HUGE here (literally and figuratively)|
B quickly chose a few items and I tried not to die as hundreds of innocent octopi (which, out of respect, I refused to photograph) were slaughtered and grilled around me.
More context: I lived near the Dallas Aquarium for a brief period in 2008. There was an octopus living in the aquarium with whom I fell deeply in love. Admission to the aquarium was $80/visit. I visited the octopus 3 times in 8 months. I will never eat an octopus and I often think about becoming a sea life activist. Boz looks less-than-favorably upon this idea.
Anyway...Boz likes to eat in 'waves' when we attend these types of events, so after his first wave, we continued our tour of the food mile and...VOILA!!!
These long, green beans pictured above are very popular in Japan. I have no idea what they're called. I have procured them on numerous occasions via a series of borderline-obscene gestures. The entire bean is not edible (thereby making it the ONLY thing in Japan that people don't eat), but each pod holds 4-5 huge, delicious, semi-crunchy beans.
Before anyone gets all judgy, I HAVE tried to determine the name of the bean. Here's how that goes down...every time:
1. I perform my series of gestures to indicate that I would like the bean.
2. The server smiles and nods a thousand times and says 400 things in Japanese (all seemingly in the affirmative)
3. I say (in english, because there is something wrong with me) "Yes! The long bean. What is it called?"
4. The server says another thousand things which I am sure include the name of the bean (probably numerous times), but since I only recognize the Japanese words for 'hello', 'thank you', and 'I'm sorry', I have no idea which word refers to the bean.
So...there...at least I'm trying.
I ate my beans and Boz finished his 2nd wave and we tackled the remainder of the booths. Things grew mysterious at this point.
|A Japanese friend, after viewing this pic, helpfully informed me that these are balls.|
I refrained from asking the obvious.
|...suspicious meat trying to hide amongst piles of salad. Nice try.|
|...probably horse filets wearing egg shields|
Boz polished off a few things that I can't even discuss, and then we grabbed a couple cold ones and found a seat in the middle of the crowd. At this point it was around 9pm and there very well might have been more bottles of sake in the crowd than there were people (so, like, more than a gazillion). There was also a group of middle-aged men so completely hosed that they had taken off their pants and were dancing around in their pink (=cherry blossom-themed) underwear. People were playing music, dancing, and chugging sake like it was palatable. I glanced at our trusty Veggie leader and asked "So everyone's just going to get totally destroyed tonight over trees...?" to which he raised his glass and replied "Kanpai!" (which means both "Cheers" and "Ab, let's get crazy!!" in Japanese).
We did end up surviving the night and spent the rest of the weekend exploring other hanami sites including Shinjuku and Ueno park, along with our own neighborhood:
|I don't actually know what the gal in the kimono was doing. I just thought she looked cute.|