Hanami is the main event comes every spring season in Japan. This is the time where the Japanese will be crowding parks which has hundreds of cherry blossoms trees and have some sort of picnics under the shade of the full-bloom cherry blossoms. In some parts, the lively atmosphere sometimes makes it looking more like a big festival for them to celebrate the blooming pink sakura. Living in Japan for more than a year already, participating in hanami is not something new to me as I have went to one of it as recent as a couple of weeks ago in Ueno Park. Considering that it is already the middle of April, I reckon sakura season down south has ended by now. On the contrary, it is just the beginning for people who live in the northern region of Japan.
It is an annual event for the Malaysians who are either studying or working in Nagaoka to organise a gathering among ourselves during this time of the year. Just like every other year, the best spot for hanami in Nagaoka would be at Yukyuzan Park, which is situated just a few steps away from my college.
Despite the number of people in Yukyuzan Park could hardly go any nearer to the crowd in Ueno Park, the enjoyments coming from the crowd were making their present felt, nevertheless. The elderly were relaxing under the trees of sakura chatting and sharing their laughters together with the rest of their families, while the kids were enjoying themselves in the middle of the field playing all sorts of games like badminton and kicking the ball around.
To add to the people who went there were of course, there were stalls being set up everywhere around the park. Take this as an example.
"You wanna get yourself a pet?"
However, having plastic air-filled dog as a pet is surely a sad case. It made it look like Japan don't have enough dogs for the people to keep as pet. A message to all the dogs here in Japan. Go make love more often. The more, the merrier. Anyway, it was not the fake dogs that gained the most attention. People were more interested in looking for food to fill their empty stomach. One example was yaki-ika.
Average sized squids are boiled and when any customers were buying them, they will be dipped into some black sauce in which I suppose is a mixture between black soysauce and some other ingredients, and later grilled for a few minutes. One stick is around 500yen (RM16). It will sound expensive when you convert them into our currency. However, when you have live in Japan long enough, you will never convert the price during shopping or you will end up buying nothing.
Apparently, Winnie the Pooh loves ringo ame too.
This is one of the most common snack you would find anywhere in Japan. They call it りんご飴 (ringo ame) or literally, "apple sweet". Basically, they dip fresh apples into caramel and later leave them to harden. They come in two sizes but this is one snack that is not advisable for those who is under medication for diabetes. For once, I suddenly sound like a nutrionist.
As for this one, they call it Hiroshima okonomiyaki. It is some sort like a pan cake, with a few ingredients inside like cabbage, eggs,and meat; which is a famous delicacy in Hiroshima. I just took a few pictures of the food sold there because after all, most of them are similar to each other.
They were even selling grilled hormon.
Even though it looked like there were plenty of food and snacks on offering, they lacked variety in terms of the food they sold. Besides the ones I showed above, others would include yakisoba (fried noodles), kakigori (ais kacang) and takoyaki. You will come across exactly the same thing when you walk around the stalls in the park. For once, I know that we will fare better if we have our pasar malam in place of these stalls. Imagine getting to buy fried kuey teow, chapatti, keropok, sweet corns, sugar cane juice, putu mayang and have them under sakura trees, although that sounds a little bit out of place. By the way, quite as amazing as it might sound, they sold satay as well. A Japanese version of satay, called yakitori. Some people may prefer yakitori to our satay but personally, I still believe that our satay still remain the best.
Hence, to counter that stall, we the Malaysians set up our very own satay stall too.
We call the guy in front at the right "Bapa Ayam".
Here is the story behind that name. The previous night, we had an welcoming party for the new students to Nagaoka at Nagaoka National University of Technology and this guy was promoting his business by telling anyone who wants to get halal chicken to contact him. He even distributed his business cards to interested ones. In fact, the chicken rice we had during the party that night was under his sponsor. The best part was during the time the party ended and he stood at the entrance to the hall with his chickens, asking anyone who wanted to buy them. We heard some lines that went something like, "Kalau nak ayam, telefonlah saya, okay?" (Call me if you want chickens, okay? (pun intended)) When you hear a guy telling another guy in such way, how could you stop from bursting into laughter, isn't it? Anyway, I shall leave the "Bapa Ayam" alone and to wrap up this post, here is the group picture we took at our picnic spot.
Well, not everyone were inside the picture above because if you had noticed it, only the guys were inside the picture. Here is the one with everyone inside it, minus the camerawoman.
What a big family we have in Nagaoka. And mind you, those attended the hanami that day were just half of the actual figure.