Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Which We Visit The Iris Festival! (Part One)

I have been trying to go on the base's MWR's Iris Festival Tour ever since we moved to Japan.  The tour sounded that great! The first year, I excitedly signed up as soon as registration opened.  A month into Mr. TF's first deployment, and two days before the tour, his ship made a brief return to port.  Of course it was at the same time as this tour, and of course I had only booked two seats and the rest of the tour was full.  So we had to cancel.  

The second year, going on this tour was at the top of my early summer agenda.  Then, the Great Tohoku Earthquake happened.  Little TF and I evacuated Japan during the nuclear disaster, while Mr. TF headed to northeastern Japan for Operation Tomodachi.  From Operation Tomodachi, Mr. TF rolled right into his second deployment, so we just stayed in the States for most of the summer.  No one was in the mood for fun, anyways.

On registration morning this third year, I planted myself outside the tour office, waiting for the doors to be unlocked.  This June is our last in Japan, and my last chance for the Iris Festival Tour.  I couldn't miss it a third time, could I?  Of course, these are exactly the kinds of situations that Murphy's Law Of Deployment just loves, and I fretted and worried until Saturday.  Miraculously, the day actually came without incident.  A cool, rainy day, but after waiting two years, who cares?

Low, sleek sappa bob alongside the dock.

First on the agenda: a boat ride!  Sappa tours cross the Yodaura Bay (located next to the gardens), and duck up a small canal system that is crossed by twelve bridges.  Charming houses, enormous hydrangea bushes, and the old, wooden bridges languidly drift by.  The boats are low and tippy.  Little TF was a bit concerned, at first.

My inner, Northern Renaissance Art History nerd is inordinately
proud of having incorporated a mirror into this photo

Canal traffic runs in both directions.  Sometimes, it can be a tight squeeze!

A small portion of the river bank is devoted to iris-themed souvenirs.  Because of the rain, we were unable to stop.  Sad.

Small knickknacks are all decorated with the beautiful iris.

Cute, little paper dolls, iris lanterns, woven hats, and printed banners.

We glided past another boat being poled by a woman in the clothes and amigasa hats that have become synonymous with this event.  A plastic rain cover protected her hat.

A tight squeeze!

Make sure all hands (and cameras) stay inside the boat. Little TF warned us solemnly that "it would be terrible to lose a hand."  Thanks, Little TF!

Lots of tire bumpers, just in case!

Count the bridges as they pass overhead.  I'm not sure if my Japanese comprehension was correct, but I believe the captain of our boat said each bridge is named for a flower.  Little TF was kept busy trying to count all twelve.

The wisteria bridge is up ahead!
Already a delightful tour, with a kid (and mommy)-pleasing boat ride, and we hadn't even been to the famous iris garden, yet.  Stay tuned!  The day only got better!

During the Iris Festival, which lasts until June 24, sappa boat cruises operate from 7:00-sunset, every day. Fare for a boat is 6,500 yen.  If you have a group of six, fare is 1,300 yen a person. A cruise lasts about 50 minutes.
Location: Next to Suigo Sawara Aquatic Botanical Gardens
Access: A shuttle bus operates from Sawara Station (on the JR Narita Line), only for the duration of the Iris Festival. Bus fare is 500 yen.  The drive takes approximately 25 minutes.

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!

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