Monday, April 27, 2009

Naki-sumo...Cry, Baby, Cry

Naki-sumo or Nakizumo, not sure which is correct because I've seen both spellings. I've heard about this from my friend, Julie and Japanese sensei has talked about it but yesterday I got to see it with my own eyes. I took a lot more pictures and posted them here in my Shutterly album, and included a video at the bottom of this post.

Naki Sumo has been a tradition on this stage for the last 18 years; yesterday was the 19th. It's a prayer for the good health of children at Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, and if you want your infant to participate it'll only cost ¥10,000, or about $100 USD. The babies were all born in 2008 and are held by college-aged sumo wrestlers. Believe it or not they have a match to see who will cry first. If both babies cry at the same time, then the one that cries loudest wins.

The sumo wrestlers hold the babies, hold them up in the air, etc to try to get them to cry, and to see how loud they'll cry. If they don't start with just the sumo, one of the four men sitting in the corners will come up with masks or the big glasses with fake nose and mustache. A Japanese proverb says that 'crying babies grow fast' and believe that the louder an infant cries then more gods have blessed it. More information about it can be found here if you're interested in learning more about it. The official website is here, and I've already done the "Google Translate" thing, so it's in English.

There were four Germans standing to my left and a bunch of Japanese photographers to my right. The four of them live here, and until one of them said that I assumed they were visiting. Anyway, one of them translated what was being said and that was very helpful. She'd translate it into German for her husband and friends and then English for me. Impressive. You'll be able to hear her a little bit in the videos. The older man to my right was very kind and sweet even though we couldn't understand a word the other was saying. He pointed to my telephoto lens and was saying something about it, then when I looked at his I realized we had the same one. We also had the same camera, only different names. Mine is the Canon Digital Rebel and his was the Kiss. I puckered up and did the "smooch" sound and he did his buddy next to him. I don't think they were making fun of me though, because he tried repeating "Kiss" and "Rebel;" it was cute and he was really trying.

Once things got started and people were being introduced he got really excited when one man came on stage. He kept saying "Kabuki, kabuki" and people's cameras were clicking a lot more at that point. At the time the only thing I could think of was that this man is an actor in the Kabuki Theater. A statue near by is of a famous Kabuki actor who was famous for being a very strong child. So my guess is that he's the representative since the venue is set up under the watchful eye of the statue.

The judge, the man in purple and gold would yell "Nake, nake, nake," which means "Cry, cry, cry," and is prounced "Nah-kay." In one picture I took you can see him holding his hand up to his year while yelling. He would say it so fast though and I couldn't help but laugh. Some babies were sleeping, some started crying as soon as their mothers handed them off and one even laughed. I'm not sure if I got it on video or not, but either the judge or one of the men with the mask said, "This baby is laughing, not crying." My German friend let me know as soon as the crowd had finished laughing.

If you decide to go next year, try to get there at least an hour early to reserve your spot. Family members are the only ones in seats, and we were standing behind a waist high barricade. There were at least four or five rows of people behind me. It's set up behind the temple, so don't worry when you don't see anything in the main area out front.

I guess kids in Japan can be terrified of both sumo wrestlers and Santa Claus!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Thanks to all of you who submitted ideas for the blog contest! There were 30 submissions in all. I had my work cut out for me trying to choose a favorite. I loved the idea about a recipe using Kit Kats, weirdest candy moment ever and the favorite Katie story, but ultimately, I think the one that's the most fair would be the haiku about Kit Kats. FurryBeaver (and what a name that is) you are the winner! Congratulations and thank you!

To celebrate Pass the Chopstick's one year anniversary in May I'll hold a contest for the haiku submissions, so start thinking and let the creative juices start flowing!

FurryBeaver, please complete the "Contact Katie" form with your mailing address. That'll come directly into my email and is only viewable by me.

I also promised a random drawing of my followers, and the person I pointed to on my monitor is....Candee in Holland. Candee, please do the same as above with the "Contact Katie" form.

If I don't hear from either of you in three days I'll choose someone else. If you fill out the form and don't hear back from me leave a comment in this post!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Contest Idea Contest - Win Some Japanese Kit Kats

As you can see, I have a ton of Kit Kats, Pringles and other goodies. There are two and three layers in this cabinet, not just what you see in the front. We eat them (well, I smell them because I don't like chocolate), don't get me wrong, but it's time to start making room for more flavors coming out. I'm still going to keep part of my collection, but just one of each flavor.
Help me make more room. You, loyal (and new) readers can help me, and in turn you'll get to indulge in what you've read and seen pictures of here.
I've decided to have a contest to help me declutter this cabinet, but can't think of a contest. So that'll be the contest: submit a contest idea by commenting at the end of this post. Don't worry if you don't have an account with, just select "Anonymous" and sign your first name at the end of your comment. I'll choose my favorite, and the person who submitted the idea will get a package from me with some goodies from the newly deemed "Katie's Kit Kat Kabinet."
Make your contest idea conform to these guidelines:
-Not too easy or difficult
-Keep it clean/family friendly language
-Entrants can be world wide
-No limit on entries
Submit your idea (by leaving a comment in this post) within the next seven days. Contest begins as soon as this is posted and closes one week from today - that'll be April 24th 10 am JST, April 23rd at 9 pm EST. Winner will be announced the evening of April 24th (JST), so those you in the U.S. will see it the morning of the 24th. Be sure to check back for updates and the winning idea!
After I pick the winning contest idea, we'll then have a contest using that idea, and the winner of the second contest will get a box of goodies from me.

*As an added bonus, I'm going to have a drawing on April 24th. The names in the pot will be my followers. Right now there are 71, so become a follower and you'll automatically be entered! You'll see the Followers gadget in the side bar on the right side of the page and can add yourself there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sakura in Kamakura

Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. Did you know that the Japanese gave the cherry tree to the United States back in 1912? I didn't! Well, if I did know I've forgotten up until Julie and I were talking about it. In 1965, 3800 more trees were given and accepted by Lady Bird Johnson. Last week and the week before were the two weeks when they peaked, and we were out and about taking it all in. We arrived at this time last year, the peak of sakura season, so this year I knew where I wanted to go to see them. Bob's been working later hours than usual and on weekends too, so anything we wanted to see had to be done without him.

The Japanese are very serious and proud of the sakura; last year they even had Kit Kat Sakura! Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public
track the sakura zensen (cherry-blossom front) as it moves northward. From what I read it begins in Okinawa in January and reaches Kyoto and eventually Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April.

Last Friday evening we went with Julie and her family to Kamakura. It's only two stops away by train and takes about 15 minutes to get there. Specifically
Dankazura and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Dankazura is a walkway that leads almost from Kamakura Station down to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. I went to these places on New Year's here if you want to see more pictures and to learn about how the Japanese traditionally ring in the new year.

On Tuesday the girls and I went to Hase Temple (Hasedera) and Daibutsu/Great Buddha of Kamakura. We walked around, took some pictures and enjoyed the afternoon. The weather was beautiful and we were happy to take advantage of it. Below are pictures of a garden at Hase Temple and Daibutsu. I'm still experimenting with the panoramic stitching thing. Click the pictures to enlarge them.

I've added the pictures from both days to a Shutterfly album, click here if you want to see them.

Japan's Junior Screen Magazine: Twilight Special

This is for the "Twilight" fans out there. I found this magazine late last week and scanned some of the pages and took pictures of the rest. I've included Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart's pages. Click on the images to enlarge them. There are also two fold-out posters, one of Rob and the other of Kristen.

I have more from this magazine and uploaded them to Flickr. Click here to see them all....I think 24 or 25 in all.

Check out my other post about "Twilight," and this includes the Japanese trailer, the 11 books and the illustrations inside.

The Park at Kanazawa Zoo - and More Roller Slides

This park is so much fun, only 10-15 minutes from our military housing area, Ikego, and easy to get to. We went last Thursday with some friends (who have been before), and enjoyed it so much we went back on Saturday...and took Bob with us this time. They've got three roller slides, a rock climbing wall (more like a slope), rope wall/slope and more. I tried that panoramic picture again, and this time it should be clickable; click on it to enlarge it and you can see more detail.

I took two videos going down the slide. If you subscribe to my blog via email you'll need to click here to see the videos. The first is without the plastic seat and the second is with it. You'll notice a big difference in speed...I certainly did! The secret is to sit and lean back with it. FYI, they're sold at a small store there for ¥700 (about $7), but I heard Livin (on Rte 16 in Yokosuka) has them for ¥300 or ¥400. Entrance to the park is free, I'm not sure of the cost for the zoo, and parking is ¥600. There are bathrooms and vending machines at the top, but next time we go we'll bring a picnic lunch.

My one piece of advice is this: When you arrive, take the big slide down to the benches and play area. Don't bother going down all the stairs. Just put your bag, purse, camera bag, etc on your lap and enjoy the ride!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Well, maybe something more along the lines of "Happy Keester?!" In 2005, before Keanna started crawling, I painted her butt to look like two Easter eggs. I'll never forget the expression on Bob's face when I told him about it, but (pardon the pun), when he saw the outcome/pictures he agreed that it was cute. I think he was secretly shaking his head though!

He just peaked over my shoulder and not only did he shake his head, but he rolled his eyes too. Keanna doesn't believe me that it's her and at the same time Sydney's convinced it's her hiney we're looking at.

Easter isn't really celebrated in Japan since it's a Christian holiday and most people are Buddhist and Shinto. I have seen one Catholic church in Kamakura though. Christmas, on the other hand, is a different story. Anyways, out in town there are no chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs or Peeps. We have the Navy Exchange store on base to shop at and that's where we can find American products. I got the supplies to color eggs and some goodies for Keanna and Sydney's Easter baskets. The three of us colored eggs yesterday afternoon since Bob was at work.