One day trip to “Japan”

Sometimes leaving home is not an option – dang plane tickets cost so much, no time off from work, just got back from a trip.  The litany of excuses goes on and on.  But, often you can “travel” in just a day.  What’s your excuse now?  We spent a day in “Japan” last weekend.  We learned a tremendous amount about Japanese culture, got inspired to grow a bonsai tree, bought some trinkets, and ate great food … all in a few hours and all for about $50.

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We started at Aki Matsuri, the Japanese Fall Festival at Bellevue College.  For one weekend, the campus becomes Japan.  There is a food court selling boxed sushi, chicken skewers, yakisoba noodles, Japanese

drinks in cans, and more.  We saw Taiko drummers.  We were offered the opportunity to try on a kimono and get photographed.  We toured a room full of bonsai trees. And we saw more giant carp that you can imagine could possibly be  transported to a temporary staging area at a community college.  The carp were auctioned off to the highest bidders!  Our kids played a traditional game in which you buy a rice paper net and try to fish small goldfish out of a pond.  All the goldfish you fish out, you can keep.  (Last year they lived for months, this year’s fish were not so lucky).  And they sell Japanese yo-yos.  Small, round balloons filled with a little bit of water and hung from from a rubber band.  These too have to be fished out of a pond.  I enjoyed a sample of reiki, a traditional healing technique which uses the laying on of hands to transfer energy.  There were karate demonstrations, pop music concerts, puppet shows, films, and more.  After a few hours of travel fun, we were tired and starting think about the next meal.

So, on to Uwajimaya!  Risking a kitchen disaster, we decided not just to eat Japanese food  but to make Japanese food.  Shopping for the ingredients is definitely the best part of the cooking ordeal.  We arrived in time to sample Korean pancakes and saki.  Yes, free samples of saki in the grocery store! I had to show id and step inside a tiny roped off area – silly but fun.  We explored the fruits, the exotic drinks, the huge variety of moshi, the cute ‘this and that’ in the gift department, and finally escaped with one sack of groceries and only two packages of candy.  One package of candy was a 6-pack of mini-soda pop cans for the boy next door and another was laser-pointer candy which I bought as a present for a scientist friend.  How can anyone resist laser pointer candy??

Back home, the pile of mushrooms, scallions, scallops, and fried tofu was turned into a steaming pan of yakisoba noodles.  Not the best thing we’ve ever made but edible and a great match to our evenings film, Howl’s Moving Castle. An anime film directed and animated by Hayao Miyazaki .  If you’ve never seen a Miyazaki film, don’t wait for a trip to “Japan”, just rent one now and enjoy!  We didn’t understand every detail of the plot (good luck with that) but the plot really isn’t the point.  The art, the characters, and the fantastical creativity are what it’s all about.

By bedtime, the kids were back in their own beds, rested and well-traveled after our day abroad.

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For our next trip to “Japan”, we plan to visit the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America.  About an hour away, it is a traditional Jinja Shinto Shrine.  Look for a post when we get home ….

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