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Last Friday I went with Saito-san from the BOE to pick up our newest JET, Shauna. Kawata-san took Shauna and I out for dinner that evening, then I introduced her to Keis and the local Izakaya where we had a drinking party. At one point one of the other customers mentioned that their local izakaya was getting awfully international, to which oyaji-san answered with something like, “yeah, I’m good like that!” XD ahaha, I love him!

Anyway, Saturday was spent retracing a lot of the steps that Kawata-san took with me, but a bit easier since she had done it once before. Shopping for supplies and the like, plus getting Shauna her phone (she got the one I wanted originally). It was much easier since I could explain things. Also, I think originally the guy who helped me with my plan made things a lot harder than they really were, since the process went really smoothly.

We also had ramen for the first time since I got to Japan. The weather’s been really rainy and chilly lately (in August? Really? I’m still shocked…), so something hot seemed in order. It was yummy, and quite close to my school, so I think I’ll be going there a lot!

After a break for Shauna to unpack a bit, we met Ken and Crystal, the two JETs from Kanra, for the Takasaki Byakui Dai-Kannon Candle Festival. The Takasaki Byakui Dai-Kannon Candle Festival (高崎白衣大観音ろうそく祭り), called “Mandoe 万灯会 (まんどうえ)”, is a festival that features over 10,000 candles and lanterns lining the path all the way up to the foot of the Hibiki Bridge. Visitors come and pray for such things as their ancestors, safety of their homes and families and success in business.

The festival is located at a giant statue of Kannon, the buddhist goddess of mercy. The statue stands at 41.8 meters (9 stories) tall, weighs 6000 tons, and you can climb up into it to “visit many Buddhist idols in the shoulders of the Kannonsama.” It is quite… interesting!

The admittedly rainy and misty view of Takasaki from the mountain we were on

The large monument where you start the walk from

Of course, since it was still day when we walked up, while most of the lights were lit, you really didn’t get the full effect. At the same time, it was great for pictures!

Following a kimono-clad group up the hill

Shauna and I posing… the Buddha is in the background, though a bit hard to see

Ken pointing at where we are on the map XD

We were passing by a lot of shopping opportunities, when I noticed at one place that in between the buyable cats was a real one, awwww! So cute!

After walking up, we got to see the buddha up close:

The giant buddha

Some cool pictures of the lights as it started to get darker…

Going up to the “shoulders” of the Buddha, I managed to take one decent picture of the view. Of course, it would be a bit better if it weren’t rainy.

Apparently on clear days you can even see Tokyo from it! After that, we walked back down in the dark for the full effect, then went into Takasaki for something fun to eat. I suggested Yakiniku, or korean-style bbq, which was a unanimous “yes”:

Mmmm, raw meat. Cooking this is really fun!

“Dessert” XD According to Ken, who actually ate it, it tasted like meat. Next time, let’s have dessert first, alright?

But we weren’t ready to call it a night. After visiting Tower Records in Takasaki, we drove back to Fujioka and went to Seizeriya for dessert. Then we went off to the game center. A few games of taiko, mario cart, and kung-fu games later, we hit up the purikura machines.

Purikura are basically machines that take your picture with different backgrounds and poses, and you can draw on them and do interesting things, then it prints them and sends them to your cell. We had a bit of trouble figuring out the machine, but once we got the hang of it, had fun! Shauna and I did a set, then all four of us piled in.

The machine booths… there were like 8 different ones to choose from!

Finally, my spoils for the evening!

Daruma, the big red thing in the middle, are famous in Gunma. When you first buy one, either only one or neither of the eyes are filled in. You’re suppose to only fill in one eye, make a wish, and when your wish comes true, fill in the other eye. I haven’t made a wish on mine yet, mainly because I don’t have a sharpie to draw in the eye. Whoops! The cat in the middle is holding a daruma. Cute!

Anyway, I go to my school to meet the principal and stuff today, so I need to go get ready. Hope everyone’s doing well!