Happy New Year! And so far, a Happy New Year it is. My last week in Hawaii was good and very low key. Not much to report really. Got a lot of shopping done, and ate a lot of sweets that I wouldn't normally eat in a desperate attempt to gain weight (to no avail, I only gained 2 pounds). Still, the sweets tasted nice. Here is the shave ice that I ate when Oriana, Nick, Josh and I went on an emergency shave ice run before we took family photos.
And here is the lucky New Year's honu that showed p on our beach in the last hours of 2006.
After the experimentation with the pineapple last 4th of July, I had just about had enough of fireworks. Strangely, this year, the one who really got into the fireworks was mom. She even joined in when the Devits and Kira started throwing poppers at each other.
Fireworks at Hapuna were twice as good this year, since they seem to have gotten all the fireworks that the Mauna Kea would have had as well.
That was New Years. In the time between New Years and coming back to Japan, my big activity was helping Grandpa Clay and Grandma Mary buy a computer, setting it up for them and teaching them how to use it. I am so happy that, at last, Grandma and Grandpa have the ability to check this blog.
So now, let us begin the story for real. I left for Japan on January 5th, at 4am. Grandpa Clay came down to the house, and came to the airport with mom, dad and I. I had a huge suitcase, packed with chocolate for my coworkers, vitamins, hand sanitizer and other various things that I could not get in Japan. But it took until I was in the air before I realized that there was something rather important that I did not have: the key to my apartment. The realization that I did not have my key in my wallet struck me as my plane took off from Honolulu, which meant I had a 9 hour flight to contemplate the fact that it was probably going to cost me a lot of money to get a new key. Not only that, it was probably going to be difficult since the apartment is not actually in my name, the shop where I would have to get the key was far from any train station, and by the time I arrived in Gunma it was probably going to be close to closing time. Well, I hate to say it, but this story doesn't have much of an ending. When I got to Japan I called Yuri, and by the time I got to Gunma she had solved every problem that I had.
A few days later, Yuri and I went to Kaiten sushi. You know how in America they have sushi boats? Well, that style of sushi has gotten far more advanced in Japan. You can order individual dishes on a touch panel screen...
and they arrive by train!
After Kaiten Sushi, we went to a park in Takasaki to fly a kite that I had just purchased.
So, I tried the kite a couple of times, and had limited success getting it to fly. So I let Yuri try, and in no time she had it soaring at the end of it's string.
I took over the kite and Yuri went off to climb a tree and see if she could rescue a second kite that had been entangled in a tree on a previous day.
A crowd of people came over to see the kite fly. I offered it to one woman who looked interested, and no sooner had she touched it then it fell out of the sky and into a tree. I told her it was no problem, and gently began to untangle it. Finally, five minutes later, one big tug and I had it free. It began soaring again right away. As soon as it up, I offered it to a different woman to try. No sooner had I given it to her than the string came loose from the handle and the kite and string began to float towards some nearby shinkansen tracks. Luckily, a tree caught the kite before it could become a hazard. This time we had a problem. We could not reach any part of the kite. Even the string was suspended 20 feet up between two trees. At that time, just about everyone in the park came over to help us. Finally a man with a baseball glove showed up and threw the glove in the air. The glove brought the string down with it, and once I had the string I was able to get the kite down. The woman who had lost control of the kite was very moved by the whole adventure. To begin with, it seems as though she hadn't had much contact with foreigners, so being offered the chance to fly a kite by a foreigner, and one who didn't even mind if she lost his kite as the result of an honest mistake, seemed to have had a rather positive effect on her. The kite adventure did feel quite symbolic, like an omen of things to come, but I don't know enough about what happens next to interpret the signs yet.
The next day I met Yuri, Kyoko and Kyoko's mother at the Maebashi Hatsuichi, or first market of the year. Gunma is famous for its daruma figurines, as you will recall from my post that talked about Shorinzan Temple. Here is the big daruma at the Maebashi Hatsuichi.
Here is the overhead view of the Maebashi Hatsuichi.
I had dressed in rather light pants before I went to the Maebashi Hatsuichi, unfortunately, and I spent most of the time cold. The cold nearly sent me home in fact, before I had met up with anyone, but in the end, it was very worth braving the cold. I decided to buy a daruma figurine, but I left the bargaining to Yuri, who is an avid and skilled bargainer.
And this man has the most expensive head decoration that I have ever seen at a festival. Japan sure is a safe country. Where else could you wear 10 hundred dollar bills on your forehead, at night, in a public place?
And that is how 2007 began.
Now before I forget, here is my New Year's Resolution. In 2007 I am going to dream.