Greetings from Tohoku, Japan!

Greetings to all from Tohoku, Japan! I am now in Sendai City at the ANA Sendai Holiday Inn hotel blogging about day 1 of the cultural exchange experience under the Youth Ambassadors for Tohoku.

It just seemed moments back then when we were all gathered at Changi Airport terminal 2 posing for a group picture, while friends and family were there to see us off on a safe journey ahead.

Even though many of us are meeting for the first time, we created bonds pretty first. (It’s day 3 in the leg of the journey now, and team A3 is pretty close knitted together)

The journey to Narita airport was quite smooth, and it’s feels refreshing to revisit Japan again after a ten year plus hiatus. No time was wasted and immediately after landing, the students were whisked onto chartered buses for another long bus ride to Sendai City in the Tohoku region.

It takes little to realize that along the way to the city, everything looked quite good. The expressways were smooth, the scenery was beautiful, the journey was simply cozy. The mega earthquake which hit off the north eastern coast of Japan, while disastrous in it’s many ways, had affected limited parts of the Tohoku region. (but more on that in day 2)

Lunch was taken on the bus, and it was my first bento set in Japan. I took a look and the immediate thought of “cuteness” came to my mind. The play of colours has and always been a significant part of the cuisine tradition especially in recent years. The meal was simple, tasty, yet with a visual appeal that was delightful.

Immediately on arrival in Sendai City, we were brought to one of the department stores in the district to have a local experience in making the traditional significances for the tanabata festival.

The Sendai Tanabata festival became popular during the feudal period when Lord Date Masamune attempted to raise the awareness of the tasks done by women. However, it was only after the First World War and economic recession which hit the country did the Tanabata festival come into significance again. Merchants wanted to raise the people’s spirits and the local business, thus the Tanabata festival was reinvented again.

What we were making were mini versions of the actual huge customary paper pieces called Nanatsu-Kazari. The full seven pieces are made for the Sendai Tanabata festival. There are the

– Paper Kimono (kamigoromo) : Improvement in sewing and artistic skills. By floating the kamigomoro on the river, it also symbolizes children to grow up healthily.
– Paper Strips (tanzaku) : Wishes for the improvement in studying and calligraphy.
– Net (toami) : Wishes for an abundance in sea catch.
– Streamers (fukinagashi) : Making a wish for improvement in handicraft and weaving skills.

– Trash bag (kuzukago) : The wish of cleanliness and thrift.
– Origamicmres (senbatsuru) : Making the same number of cranes to the age of the oldest family member wishes for long and healthy lives for everyone.
– Purse (kinchaku) : The wish for wealth and flourishing business.

When it comes to the festival this weekend, it will be the Full Sized versions of the Nanatsu-Kazari which will be on display.

The Japanese instructors, University students, and us.

After the demonstration for the day, the group arrived at the Sendai Kokusai Hotel for the Welcome Ceremony. Various representatives of the organizers, supporting Japan and Singapore statutory boards and the media were present.

Full glamour, and the chandeliers are simply huge.

The lavish buffet spread. I will post the food photos once I’m back in Singapore and have a chance to further process them.

We were also treated to an entertaining rambunctious performance by the Samurais. I have totally no clue what they were shouting about in their short performance, but I figured it must have something to do with sword fighting.

Day 1 ended pretty quickly for most of us as much time was spent on traveling from place to place. Day 2 and 3 in the upcoming travelogue will be my experiences witnessing the destruction caused by the tsunami, the reconstruction efforts, and on a lighter note the awesome scenery on Mount Zao.

As a teaser, here is a photo of me on the mountain overlooking the lake. Till then!