Monday, March 17, 2008

Mochi Macho Man (the end)

There is only so much watching of the macho-mochi-man contest we could take in one sitting. We decided that it would be best to have a look around. We wandered over to check out the area around the pagoda. It was a truly impressive structure the towered into the air. Booths selling various souvenirs to the visitors of the festival surrounded the pagoda. We saw all the different things that they were selling. Most of them were selling little trinkets and small food items that people can bring back with them to give to family and co-workers upon their return from their trip. We did not buy any of the uniquely Japanese items.

We began to wander farther into the temple area. The next are we came across was a group of monks blessing people and items of religious significance. The monks had started a fire using fresh pine boughs. Smoke from the fire rose slowly into the air and the smell of the fragrant smoke hung in the air like incense. The spectators brought over bags that contained a lucky talisman or plaque; the monks took the bag over to the fire, held the contents over the smoke. They held the bag over the fire and chanted a prayer as they did so. We watched for a time and then it was time to move on.

Deeper and deeper; we next came to a pond and a small temple set against a small hill. We took some time to admire the view and absorb the majesty of the beauty. I was in the process of taking a picture of Logan and Jenny as they sat on a big rock in front of the temple and pond when a gentleman came up and offered to take our picture as a family. It was really nice that we were able to get a fair family picture in this scenic local. As it always seems to happen Logan decided that he did not want a stranger to take his photo, and as a result he would not smile.

Further and further; next we came to a giant turnstile gate. It was a point of no return. If we proceeded through the gate we would be hiking up the mountain. We did not let the hike stop us. We went right on through the revolving door and set to hike up the mountain. The sign at the bottom said that it would be about an hour to the top. We knew that there would be no way it would be that fast of a walk. Not with short three year old legs trekking up the hill. We thought that Logan would be hiking short way up, get tired, and demand to be carried the rest of the way up. This is not the way that it happened. Logan got determined. He became the little engine that could. More precisely he became the “Little Thomas the Tank Engine” that could. He said that Thomas could make it up the big hill and so would he. And so he did. There was one small section of the hill that he asked to be carried up, but that was it. The rest of the way he hiked up the mountain. (I guess that is another thing to cross off the list: climb a mountain in Japan.) We made it to the top and were greeted by a beautiful and serene temple.

Once at the top we were greeted with the worst part of climbing a mountain, walking back down the mountain. It was at this point that Logan decided that he was too tired to walk any farther and needed to be carried. We all hiked down the mountain. Logan rode on my back and we walked down the hill. I was glad that the weather was pleasant and not summer heat.

We made it back down the mountain and found that the mochi lifting contest was over and we had missed seeing the men. We were a bit disappointed that we did not see the men trying to lift the giant palate of mochi, but how much difference can there be between seeing skinny little Japanese women trying to hold a bunch of mochi in their laps and a bunch of skinny Japanese men trying to do the same. We saw what we came to see and we had a great walk to the top of a big hill. Now it was time to go get a nice hot fish cake before heading off to find dinner.

Now don’t worry they are not what you think they are. Fish cake is the term we use to describe the little cakes that are filled with adzuki bean paste. We call them fish cakes because they are molded in the shape of a fish. When bought fresh and hot from the vendor they are very delicious. The crowd was starting to disperse and we managed to get a hot cake and some fresh doughnut holes before we headed back to the station.

We decided to find the proper way back to the station this time. It was an easy proposition because all we had to do was to follow the crowd. Well it was not so much of a crowd as it was a group of other people. Just go with the flow seems to be a good motto in such circumstances. It is amazing how simple it can be to get places when we follow the proper path. We made it to the station in little to no time, but there was still dinner to be eaten. We had passed a nice looking ramen shop on our original ramble to the temple that was not too far from the station. We had decided that it would be a great place to eat dinner when we first saw it.

We continued our walk to the restaurant and in no time we were sitting in a booth ready to order. We ordered three bowls of soup and two plates of gyoza (Chinese dumplings), one regular and one spicy. We also ordered some extra toppings to go on our ramen. We got some extra meat, veggies, a boiled egg, and some Korean kimchee. We stuffed ourselves silly with our ramen feast. We were not able to walk back to the subway station and we were forced to roll our way down the sidewalk.

The trip home was uneventful other than the snow that started to fall while we waited at the train station in Yamashina. By the time we exited the train in Omihachiman the world seemed to be a swirling snow globe. We walked from the station to our home and we slowly turned into snowmen as we walked. We shook the snow off our coats and bodies as we entered the front door. It was certainly nice to be home. When I looked down at the pedometer on my belt it read over eight miles. Wow, I thought to my self, what a busy day. I guess that when it comes down to it WE were the macho men!

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