We went to Morioka last weekend on a base-organized trip and had a lot of fun. Morioka is about two hours from Misawa and there is a Handi-Works Square there that is a kind of artists' co-op. There is a large central store, exhibition hall, and classroom and then there are smaller workshops around the central area. Each shop features a traditional Japanese craft or food and has space not only for the making of the wares but for the teaching of the craft. Annelise and I went on this trip with Kim, Vanessa, and Vanessa's two boys. A is 7 and E is 4 (?). We went into the main classroom and were taught how to weave bamboo pen holders. The wooden bases had already been cut and drilled and the upright bamboo pieces had been secured to the base, plus a few rounds of weaving had been done. We were shown how to weave our bamboo in and how to start new pieces when the others ran out and were instructed to weave until our pen holder was 10cm tall. Then the ladies showed us how to weave in the ends of the upright pieces to finish off the top. My pen holder doesn't go straight up, I was pulling too tightly and it narrows a little at the top, but it's really cool. Thank goodness for Kim, Annelise got fussy halfway through the project so I played with her while Kim wove and then we switched off.
After we finished with our pen holders, we were free to explore the shops and of course buy souvenirs. We watched sembei being made, they're traditional rice crackers with a variety of flavorings. I bought some honey-peanut sembei and also liked the cheese-flavored ones. (who'd have guessed that I liked the cheese ones, right?) The best part was being able to buy fresh sembei that were still warm, they were very very delicious.
We went into a toy workshop where I bought a rolling toy for Annelise. It's a rat because she was born in the year of the rat. I also bought myself a necklace from the ceramic workshop with a beautifully painted ceramic fragment pendant. After we explored the workshops, we went back to the central area and I bought a kokeshi, of course! Vanessa bought a couple of Mutsu apples, those are my favorite. They are huge and expensive, but she got a good price at the market. Mutsu apples are a little tart and just between American green and red apples in the texture department. I don't like red apples in the US, they're too mealy for me, but I love basically all Japanese apples. Actually, writing about the apples was making me hungry so I took a small break to slice up a Fuji.
After we left the Handi-Works Square, the bus took us to the mall so we could grab lunch and do some more shopping. We ate at Pepper Lunch, it was my first time to try that restaurant, and the food was delicious! In the truly Japanese way of doing things, you put your money in a vending machine and choose what you want to order, then hand the tickets that the vending machine spits out to the lady at the counter. I followed Vanessa's lead and got a dish of beef, rice, corn, green onions, and of course pepper. The rice and corn are already cooked, but they load all of your food (including raw meat) onto a very hot cast-iron dish and then you can cook your meat as much or as little as you want. I didn't realize just how hot the food was until I fed Annelise some of the rice and she screamed and spit it out. Best Mommy Ever! She forgave me when I gave her a fruit twist and then went on to eat plenty of rice and LOTS of corn. I've gotten ok with chopsticks, but I still can't eat corn with them and had to resort to the spoon provided. Well, I can pick up the corn one by one, but I didn't want to deal with that.
We walked around and shopped a bit, I didn't buy anything but I oohed and ahhed over the adorable matching rain boots/jacket/umbrella sets in every color of the rainbow that they had in the kids' store. Have I mentioned lately that I love Japan?? Just before it was time to get back on the bus, we stopped by Mr. Donut to get dessert for the road. I love Mr. Donut and it's a good thing that we don't have one in Misawa because it's addictive.
In all, we had a lot of fun in Morioka and I'd like to go back with John, one day when he's not working his tail off!!
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