Obon vacation part 4: A rainy day around Arai

On August 12th, my mum and I had plans to meet up with my friends Kumi and Azusa in Arai.  It was a rainy day, but we didn’t let that spoil our fun!  I even learnt a new word for drizzly rain: しとしと雨 (shito shito ame).

First, we went to an old-style 喫茶店 (kissaten), a Japanese style coffee shop, and had the most amazing かき氷 (kakigori) I’ve ever seen!  Kakigori is basically shaved ice with flavoured sauce, but these ones came in more flavours than I ever imagined, and with extra things like anko (red bean paste) or kinako (soybean flour).

Mum and kakigori
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Me and Kakigori

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Kumi and Kakigori

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Azusa and kakigori

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After filling up on kakigori, we went to a nearby temple called ほんこうじ. There was a graveyard there, where we paid a visit to Azusa’s grandpa, and there were also some shrines there. I always get confused by shrines and temples in Japan, because they are often jumbled together. And yet I think it’s amazing that Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples can co-exist so peacefully within the same grounds. Western religions really could learn a lot from Japan…

Shrines and temples
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Shrines and temples

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Shrines and temples

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Saisenbako

I learnt that this is called さいせんばこ (saisenbako). It’s the box you throw money into when you pray at the temple. (Interestingly, when I Googled ‘saisenbako’ most sites seemed to say that this was a Shinto thing found at shrines, but this was definitely at the temple…)

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Please take off your shoes

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Shrines and temples

These buckets and scoops are used for cleaning the graves and watering the flowers.

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Ema

Ema – small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshipers write their prayers or wishes.
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After wandering in the rain we were more than ready for some dinner. We went back to Azusa’s house and had a feast of temakizushi (hand-rolled sushi).  Temakizushi is a wonderful food for a small party. Basically, you have sheets of nori (seaweed), freshly prepared, cooled, sticky rice, and whatever toppings you like.  Toppings can include sliced vegetables like cucumber, raw fish, tuna-mayo… It’s pretty much ‘anything goes’!  The trick is to not be too greedy and try to stuff too much into each roll, otherwise they’ll never roll up properly.

Mum, me, Kumi and Azusa

After our feast, we had watermelon (スイカ), which is one of the symbols of Japanese summer.

Watermelon - a symbol of summer in Japan

And cakes… which have nothing to do with summer, but they were delicious anyway! 🙂

Beautiful cakes

If you’re lucky enough to live in Japan, or even just to visit, my advice to you is to try to spend time with Japanese people as much as possible. Visit their homes, let them take you to traditional places. You will see and experience things you never dreamed of. This day was relatively simple, and yet I learnt new vocabulary, saw some things I had never seen before, and had a wonderful time with really good friends.

Thanks Azusa and Kumi! 😀

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