Apr 13 2008

Sakura Matsuri

Well, it didn’t take long for things to get exciting around here. Yesterday I took a trip to Washington, D.C. with everyone from CAINE to celebrate the Sakura Matsuri (the National Cherry Blossom Festival for those who don’t Moonspeak). I’d never actually been in D.C. for Sakura Matsuri before, so I was of course excited about that – but more importantly, this was my debut event as the president of CAINE, so I was determined to pull this off without any problems.

There were 13 of us set to go yesterday morning, including Honya and Zanaikin. We set out from Charlottesville bright and early, at about 8:00 am. It was a long drive north, but it was pretty uneventful, although the six of us in the van I was driving got a laugh out of hearing Boss Hoss’ hilarious cover of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” My life (and that of the two other drivers in our convoy) was made easier by the fact that we didn’t actually drive into D.C., but instead took a metro from Vienna.

We made a mistake by getting off at the Smithsonian station instead of Federal Triangle (which would’ve dropped us off right in the middle of the street festival), but CAINE is a tough bunch and a little legwork wasn’t going to kill us. We got a nice view of the Washington Monument, anyways – and we would’ve gotten some good looks at the cherry trees in bloom, too, except that a sudden storm had passed through the D.C. area the night before and left most of the blossoms on the ground instead of on the trees.

When we finally found the street festival, we were all more or less dying from hunger, but American fare wasn’t going to fit the bill. We roamed around until we found a stand selling takoyaki (fried octopus) and okonomiyaki (pancakes filled with egg and meat and vegetables of your choice). The wait was horrific, but the food was worthwhile.

At about the same time I was totally shocked to see my friend Shannon moving through the crowd – dressed, unsurprisingly, in Gothic Lolita garb (she’s always had a thing for the quirky Japanese fashions). She spotted me, and we had our first face-to-face meeting in almost two years! It was certainly great to talk to her for a little while, although she had come with a group of her own and had to split off entirely too quickly.

After everything was all said and done at the takoyaki stand, Honya, Zanaikin, and I noticed a taiyaki (sweet fish-shaped waffles filled with red beans) stand just nearby and raided it. We’re all fans of KEY’s Kanon anime, so we had to have our own Ayu moment. After just one bite, I was hooked, and had to buy some more. That sweet, rich flavor was delicious, and since these taiyaki were hot and fresh, they were even better. Now I’m going to be craving taiyaki all the time, but as far as I know there’s nowhere in Charlottesville to buy any. DESPAIR.

After that, we watched a quick demonstration of Japanese-style archery. I wish I had more to say about it, but I’m really no archer, and don’t know the subtleties of the practice. But it seemed a lot more ritualized, and possessed of a stronger spiritual aspect than the Western sport. Further down the street, there was also a live band performing some J-pop, but there’s not much to say about that.

…I feel like I’m going into too much excruciating detail. At any rate, the rest of the day went pretty much like that, buying any kind of food that looked good and stopping to watch any demonstrations that were going on. Most of us bought some souvenirs, too. My purchase: a red yukata with a cherry blossom pattern on it, for $85. I’d been planning to buy a yukata from the beginning of the trip, since I’m an all-around fan of yukata and kimono – this one is shorter in length than my other ones, and made of polysilk instead of real silk, so it should be a lot more low-maintenance and easier to wear around at another festival or some such event, while still making more of an impression than a cotton yukata.

When it came time to leave, some of us went back to grab some more taiyaki, but unsurprisingly, it was all sold out at this point. With nothing else to do or buy, we took the metro back to Vienna (although it was WAY more crowded this time around), and then drove the rest of the way home. I was terribly jealous of the other five people in the van, who got to snooze for hours while I drove, but I had tunes from Voltaire to keep me occupied.

But when I was finally back at home, exhausted from the long day, I congratulated myself and everyone in CAINE for a job well done. Sakura Matsuri went off without any major problems – the weather was nice and most of us got whatever we came for. As for the Sakura Matsuri itself, as the president of CAINE I’m probably obligated to go see it again next year anyway, so it’s a good thing that it ended up being a lot of fun.

But where am I going to get my taiyaki fix until then!?

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