Sunday, April 10, 2016
Kind of a weird roller coaster weekend this time. Nothing event-wise on Friday, but I was in the area of the Volunteer Center, so I swung by just to check if there was anything going on there later. Work crews were in the process of setting up tables for something called a "Happy Fest" that would run Saturday and Sunday, but I had no idea what that was supposed to be. Otherwise, I just worked.
The Yamakataya department store hosted their occasional culture classes presentation from 11 AM to 4 PM. I had to teach classes from 1 PM, so I wanted to at least catch the performance schedule and see what was listed this time. I've video recorded samplings of past presentations, and a few were pretty good. Unfortunately, I cut things a bit close getting out of the apartment, and when I got to Yamakataya, I only had time to take a couple pictures before I had to get to the school to prepare for the first lesson.
The harmonica class had just finished their set as I arrived, and they packed up and left the stage. The next performance wasn't going to start for at least 5 more minutes, either. Not much I could do then. There was a fairly decent audience for what was going on that this time. I assume they were mostly friends and family members.
Originally, my schedule was for lessons from 1 to 3 PM, a 2-hour break, and then more lessons on the hour between 5 and 9 PM. But, the student in the last lesson of the day asked to be rescheduled for 3 PM, cutting my break to 1 hour, and preventing me from getting out of the school until 4 PM. At that point, the Yamakataya stuff was long finished, and the work crews were tearing down the stage and chairs (I didn't miss much though, because the scheduled classes between 3 and 4 were either music or rhythm dancing). I had enough time to go over to the Volunteer Center, but the "Happy Fest" turned out to be a bunch of housewives selling craft work and sewing pattern kits to each other. Nothing to take pictures of. After my last class of the day ended at 8 PM, I ran up from the school to Amu Plaza to see if there was anything there that I'd want to check out on Sunday. There wasn't. It was just more arts and crafts booths. So I went home, had dinner, and went to bed early because I wanted to go to the Ohanami party the next afternoon.
There's an NPO group in Kagoshima that occasionally puts on events to get foreigners in Japan to mingle with the locals. They had an Ohanami (cherry blossom viewing party) last year that was pretty fun, although I'd gotten there late and didn't get much of the free food. This year, the Ohanami was set for the 10th, in the same place along the Kotsuki river. In fact, it's the same location as the Ohanami Jazz fest run by the city two weekends ago. However, the weather has been crappy for most of the week, and rain was forecast for Sunday several days in advance. Sunday morning, the rain was coming down pretty hard, then started tapering off. The NPO organizers announced on their Facebook page that the party was still going to be a "go", and they'd set up tarps on the ground at the specified site. Things were supposed to start at 12 and run until 3 PM. I waited until 12:30 to head out the door, and although there was still a light drizzle, there was no update on the Facebook page about a cancellation.
I got to the river at 12:45, and there were only a couple people standing around and talking at the party site. I walked along the river to check whether I had the location wrong. There a few groups braving the rain and having lunch, but they weren't part of the one I wanted.
Kagoshima apparently is behind the rest of Japan in terms of the blossom peak period, but things changed fast over the last week following the Jazz fest. About 40% of the blossoms are gone now, and the petals were falling like snowflakes as I watched. It was looking like the Ohanami was going to be postponed or cancelled. Either way, by the time the weather got better, all the blossoms would be gone and there'd be nothing to look at on the trees. I decided that I might as well go to Tenmonkan and sit in a coffee shop to read Attack on Titan for a couple hours before doing some shopping and returning home. As I was crossing the next major street, I heard someone call my name. A car stopped in front of me, and the driver turned out to be the woman that organizes the kiri-e (cut paper) classes sometimes. She'd tried going to the Ohanami site, too, and had just gotten a Facebook message on her smartphone saying that the location had been changed to the community room of the International Students dorm on the Kagoshima University campus. She asked if I wanted a ride there, so I got into her car before the street light could change and we'd be hit by oncoming traffic.
This time, most people had brought their own bento boxes, so there wasn't the free food I'd expected from the previous year. But there were snacks and sodas, and one guy I recognized from other events gave me a can of beer. For the most part, entertainment consisted of a few people getting in front of the group and playing music on guitar, bongos and a synthesizer. Otherwise, we sat around and chatted. I recognized a couple other people, but most everyone else was new to me.
The main reason I wanted to visit the Ohanami party was that I'd collected a whole bunch of duplicate wooden puzzles from the capsule dispenser machines, and I didn't have space to store them in the apartment. Rather than throw them out in the trash, I figured I'd try to give them away to parents with children, or anyone that works at a school that could give them away there. A few people came up to me to ask to take one or two puzzles, then they came back with the disassembled pieces and asked for help putting them back together. So, I spent most of the time doing that. At 3:30 PM, my driver wanted to leave, and the party was breaking up anyway, so I asked her to drop me off near Amu Plaza. I got some free sample coffee from Kaldi, did the shopping I needed to do, then returned home to read Attack on Titan there. Not a really exciting weekend, but it went better than I'd thought it would.