Just realized I lied with the juxtaposition of those pictures and that text. They were taken the day before the festival - and you wondered why the park looked so empty.
I had festival okonomiyaki for the first time. Here's the story of me and okonomiyaki:
I've wanted to try it since I was in America and first heard about it. It's a type of savory pancake with shredded cabbage, egg, and various meats in. So when I got here I got a bag of mix and a head of cabbage and tried making it at home. It... was disgusting. The cabbage made the dough taste weird, and the dough overwhelmed the crispy cabbage. And because the mix came in such a large bag I had huge amounts I couldn't let go to waste. I tried eating it all sorts of ways, fried and baked and with all sorts of sauces. Nothing improved it. By the time I finished it all off I never wanted to eat okonomiyaki again. But then I went to Osaka, where it's the famous food. I figured, it was probably just my poor cooking that made it such a bad experience. I would have tried it again, but There were so many options at the restaurants that my poor Japanese couldn't handle. I ended up not having it there either. The nice thing about festival food is that there really aren't any options as to toppings or sauce. So I tried the okonomiyaki in my humble hometown's festival, and though there was a little of that dreaded odd taste, it was much better when made by professionals and with all the proper ingredients.
Things I've put off saying as I've been a bit worn out from school starting again:
I'm sitting with the first year teachers this time which has its pros and cons. When a student is looking for a teacher, the routine is to hover around the door and ask in very polite language, "Is ~sensei here?" and the nearest teacher will point them in the right direction. My desk is closest to and facing the door, so sometimes I'll see a shy one that no one else has noticed, and then I'll get the warm glow of pointing them in the right direction and telling them, "Good work" for coming all this way.
For some reason the first years don't seem quite as tiny and breakable as the ones last year. Some of those I was surprised to see out of diapers - and they're now our second years. There is, however, one boy who might have hemophilia. I'm not sure as the English teacher who explained didn't know the medical terms. "When he bleeds," she said haltingly, "He doesn't stop." Hemophilia, right? But the sensei is concerned about his head in particular - he wears a hat or hood at all times, which could be to avoid head injuries. Regardless, I'm going to be in a state of paranoid anxiety in his class. "Sensei, I appear to have cut myself on your razor-sharp English flash-cards!"
The morning of the entrance ceremony the first-year teachers stood and said, "Please take care of us," to the rest of the teachers. It's a nice echo of Graduation day, when all the third-year teachers stood/will stand to say, "Please take care of us." Because it's a day both special and nerve-wracking, we were served sakura tea in the fragile guest tea-cups. Have I mentioned my previous sakura tea experience? In a tea shop in Utsunomiya I was given a sample cup and I just wanted to stay there breathing it in forever. I ended up buying some sakura jam as well. Sakura-flavored things are amazing - you'd think they'd just be cherry-flavored, but somehow a culinary genius figured out how to extract the essence of the blossoms themselves, the fragrance. It's like standing in the park with your mouth open - minus the bugs. Heady stuff. Well, that was the sakura tea sample I was given. The cup I had for commencement day... there was the basic sakura scent. But it was very thick and salty. It coated my throat for the rest of the day. It was like the world's most flowery nosebleed.