Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Illumination

We caught the fall colors just in time — and at night, too!
Japan does Christmas lights right. There is a tradition of bedecking public places in amazing light displays in the winter, and one of the most highly recommended displays was in Nabana no Sato, a town in Kuwana city, Mie prefecture. In November, two of my friends and I took a train and then a bus to the big park featuring the illuminations.

We saw some gorgeous displays, like the fall-colored trees above, and two full tunnels with endless fairy lights twinkling overhead. There was even a small-scale Mt. Fuji that changed color schemes and simulated the sunset and sunrise.

There were tons of food stalls selling hot foods as well as crepes and Turkish kebab, but I was on the hunt for yaki imo, a steaming hot sweet potato famously eaten toasty warm when out and about in the Japanese winter. The steep ¥2000 entry to the light festival included two food vouchers, but I jealously guarded my second voucher in hopes of finding that special potato! I kept my eyes peeled but didn't see any within the park itself. I was so disappointed when we made the entire circuit around the displays, only to come to the exit and realize I must have missed it. There was no time to go back, since we needed to catch the bus back to the train station. Instead, I ran to get myself a consolation crepe with the voucher.

I had a stroke of luck as we headed to the bus stop, and we spotted not one but two yaki imo stands! So that's where they'd been hiding! I snapped one up and happily snacked on it. Yaki imo has a soft mild flavor and an earthy purplish skin. That potato was huge though; I couldn't finish it, so when we arrived back in Nagoya, I placed it near one of the sleeping homeless men on Sakura-dori (a main, central road) in hopes they might welcome some Japanese comfort food. I felt guilty that I had already eaten part of it, but I hate to be wasteful, and I would rather just offer it (even if he wasn't going to eat it) than throw it away. The food waste and lack of sustainability in Japan is another topic for another day... just think of how much electricity is wasted by the illumination we enjoyed... yikes.

Despite it being a little excessive, I'm so glad we went to the illumination. It was my friend Iowa's last night in Japan, so Pennsylvania and I kept her company while she packed, and we even made off with some of the possessions she wanted to give away! We still miss her extroverted personality and funny commentary on our adventures, since Pennsylvania and I are both introverts. I hope Iowa had a good last night in Japan!

1 comment:

  1. I'm still waiting to hear about your trip to Korea and you meeting up with your amazing friend Laura.... ;)