Monday, April 03, 2006

Sikora Sakura

Oh hanami matsuri you are so good to me. Last weekend was a nice break from the 6 day work week.Makoto (some of you may know him as Tsuji) and I went to our favorite little wine bar (Bar Le Matin) in Nishiogikubo on Thursday. I gave Hiroko, the cool gal who owns the place, a copy of my cd. She played it and some guy next to me inquired as to who the artist was. Hiroko told him it was my cd and he bought one from me. Yeah! The bar is smaller than my bedroom (which is pretty darn small) and only about 4-5 people can actually sit in there at a time. There is a back room too but it's not as intimate. I seriously love that place. She's always playing great music and I'm happy that my album is now part of the collection.

The next day, Mako and I headed to Guma prefecture to a little ryokan (inn) called Shima. I could be wrong about the name but I'm pretty sure it's called Shima. This area is known for it's many onsens (hot spring baths). That's about all there is to do there. The place we stayed at was really old and very cool. Despite the slight "Shining-esque" feeling I experienced walking through the winding halways and up and down the many stairways, I thought the place was amazing. There are 3 different baths. A beautiful indoor/outdoor one, a private one, and a really old indoor one with about 5 scalding hot baths. The indoor/outdoor one was my favorite. The outside bath was surrounded by many rocks and a japanese garden. Serene. The really old bath kind of scared me. For one thing, we went there at night. Men and women have seperate baths so I was alone. When I got there, a woman and her young daughters were rinsing off and getting ready to leave. I thought I was alone until I saw a skinny little girl crawl out of a tiny door, pour some water into a bowl, and crawl back through the door. Intrigued, I watched as a different scrawny little girl came out another door. A few moments passed and then both girls came out, chattering to eachother in Japanese. After they left the bath, I crouched down next to one of the doors and opened it feeling very Alice-in-wonderland-ish . It was a dark, steamy little room with just enough space for one person to recline on some dingy looking tiles. No thank you... I knew for sure I'd be claustrophobic in that space and anyway it didn't look too sanitary. Later on, Mako and I dined on Japanese bento-box dinners that were quite delicious and drank sake from the local liquer store. For dessert, we feasted our eyes on "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" which was dubbed in Japanese. Luckily I've seen it before. Despite my terrible Japanese and Mako's less than fluent English, we always manage to have a great time together. Could it be the sake? haha. I seriously don't know how we do it but we have pretty in-depth conversations without too much confusion.

Over the weekend, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We returned Saturday afternoon and went to a hanami party in Shimokitazawa. Our friend Takachiho, from the band SF, was hosting a picnic under one of the many beautiful Sakura trees there. It was amazing! There were people all over the place having picnics under the trees, drinking, laughing, and playing music. Children were playing games and showing off doing cartwheels for the adults and, I'm sure, downloading unforgettable memories into their impressionable minds. I know I won't ever forget Japanese spring. When it got dark, we packed everything up and went out for more festivities at an Izakaiya. I had a great time talking to Takachiho's friends.. I wish I could speak better Japanese! I went to another hanami party on Sunday but the weather was cloudy and rainy. We were also in Yoyogi park where all the Harajuku and Shibuya boys and girls hang out. They were loud and rambunctious with their glaring orange skin, dyed and fried hair, and expensive (and rain soaked) shoes. Atleast the people I was with brightened the day. My pal Lindsay was there as well as our friends Jonathan and Yukiko. Yukiko's girlfriends were really sweet too. We went to a bar afterward to see some art display but I didn't stick around long enough to really see any of it. Some of us went to see a friend perform at a bar nearby. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the evening and headed home sorry to see the end of such an enjoyable weekend. I almost took the wrong train home which would have really messed things up but I managed to get one of the last trains back. I wish we had Sakura trees lining the streets of New Jersey. I guess I'll just have to come back to Japan next hanami season (and the next, and the next..)

Hiroko "Bar Le Matin"

bus ride to Shima Onsen

bento dinner

the love corridor (actually kind of creepy)

Makoto was cold

really cold

Shima onsen

the water was crystal clear

view of the bridge

Makoto wishes there was such a place...

a town in Guma... (name?)

one of us is always making a face

Shimokitazawa Hanami Party...... (funky people)