November 3rd is officially celebrated as National Culture Day in Japan. The purpose of Culture Day – to promote culture, the arts, and academic endeavour. November 3rd has been officially recognized as Culture Day since 1948, however, the day has been unofficially celebrated since 1868 when it marked the birthday of the reigning Meiji Emperor.
I spent Culture Day in a bit of a stupor due to my lack of sleep from the all-night kagura performance the night before. I spent the early hours of the morning preparing my first “American” meal since arriving in Japan – wild rice pancakes and maple syrup sent to me with love from Northern Minnesota. It was delightful. I enjoy miso soup and natto, but I miss pancake mornings with my love.
That morning the local community center was featuring a variety of exhibitions – including shodo (calligraphy), knitting, stitchery, and sadō (tea ceremony). I paid 300 yen and participated in the tea ceremony – complete with a cinnamon-covered (similar to yatsuhashi) wagashi and a stimulating bowl of macha. Perfect.
I rode my bike to the next small community down river for a mochi-tossing (mochimaki) ceremony celebrating the construction of a new group home. I was late for the moch imaki but was surprised with gifts of mochi, kaki (persimmons), homemade udon and soba noodles, and onigiri just for showing up.
From there I rode my bike to Yakami to catch the tail end of the Kiku Matsuri (chrysanthemum festival) – complete with a giant flower arrangement in the shape of a Japanese anime character. I watched the high school’s brass band perform, wandered around for a bit enjoying the flowers, and then headed for the nearby Iwami Spa. I was suprised along the way by a police officer. I was glad I hadn’t forgotten my foreign resident card as he immediately asked for verification of the legitimacy of my presence in Japan. Our brief meeting ended with him recommending I ride my bike carefully and handing me a business card. The only issue – Japan’s emergency response number is 119…
I rode the rest of the way to the onsen and discovered I wasn’t the only one with a refreshing dip in the hot spring on my mind – the place was full of women and men of all ages.
The hour that I spent in the baths – featuring various herbs and temperatures (including an ice bath) – completely renewed my energy, inspiring me to stroll through the nearby herbal gardens before my bike ride home.
I went to taiko practice that night and felt completely fulfilled in my Culture Day experience.