Sunday, April 16. HAPPY EASTER!
It’s Easter Sunday here in Japan, but still only Saturday the 15th in the US. I heard that the Easter Bunny has to go to the US first, before going abroad so I told the kids they’d have to wait a bit longer for the Easter Bunny’s arrival. He just doesn’t operate on Japanese time.
We did go to Easter Sunday church service at Minoh International Church. Afterwards, the church had a picnic lunch at a nearby park and all the kids got to play around and eat lunch.
The church organized cookie decorating, egg coloring, games and an egg hunt for the younger kids. A few of Avalon’s classmates were there and she was very surprised to see them.After the Easter festivities we went to the Osaka Mint, the government office where coins are made. This place is called Zouheikyoku (zoe-hay-key-yo-koo) in Japanese. It is a very, very popular and famous place in Osaka to see sakura (saw-koo-ra), or cherry blossoms, in full bloom. The sakura garden is usually only open to paying guests of the Mint Museum. But for one week only during sakura season the Mint opens the gates of the garden and people flock in to see the trees. This year the dates were April 11-17. This event is called Sakura-no-toorinuke, which means “cherry blossom walk-through.” It’s a strictly one-way movement walking south to north so you have to be sure you’re entering from the correct gate. Otherwise you have to walk all the way around the outside to get to the correct entrance. At the beginning and at the end are matsuri (festival) booths called yatai, or literally “shop stand.”
The kids weren’t super excited to see a bunch of cherry trees, no matter how beautiful they might be. But the festival atmosphere and the crush of people making it feel as if all of Osaka were there made it more fun. Since we went on a weekend, and the Sunday before it ended no less, it was very crowded. It’s usually a 10-15 minute walk from the train station to the entrance gate and the line was backed up past the train station! The line was as long as Hatsumode or even the enormous line we saw when we went to the gaming expo downtown. I can’t even describe it! It did move along at a good pace though.
Zouheikyoku is famous for it’s 134 varieties of sakura trees. There are about 350 trees there in all and many of them are the late blooming variety. So you can go around town admiring the most common variety, called somei yoshino (so-may-yo-she-no), and when they are finished it is time to find the late blooming trees. Somei yoshino are delicate flowers with five petals. They tend to get blown away easily in the wind and rain of April. A late blooming type is called yaezakura (yah-ay-zah-koo-rah). Yaezakura come in many varieties with as many as 30-50 petals per blossom, making it a more hearty and durable flower. These cherry trees along the river are probably somei yoshino and you can tell they are past their peak. A lot of petals fell off in recent wind and rain that we’ve had. The Sakura-no-toorinuke was built in 1871 during the Meiji Period when the Modern Osaka Mint was constructed. The walk is 560 meters in length and stretches along Osaka’s Yodo River. Here are just a few of the many beautiful blossoms we saw on Easter Sunday. Many of these are the late blooming yaezakura. Notice the throngs of people in some of the photos!
Sakura Matsuri! Cherry Blossom Festival! The booths stretch all the way along the river. You can buy anything from fried noodles (yakisoba) to fried octopus balls (takoyaki) to mochi on a stick (dango) to skewers of grilled meat (kushiyaki), fish, fruit, vegetables, candy apples, chocolate bananas on a stick (not frozen!) made into little minion faces, crepes, egg and squid, okonomiyaki (a savory pancake with eggs, cabbage, onion, etc), cotton candy, beer, ramune soda, cocktails and on and on!