Obon/Lantern Lighting Festival @ 11:00 am
Every year, Como Zoo holds a Lantern Lighting/Japanese Cultural Celebration. Mason and I went last year and enjoyed it tremendously. So, this time we decided to go early and stay late--that might have been a bit of a mistake because we both got a bit tired and grouchy by the end. But, it's a nifty little festival full of traditional Japanese dancing, crafts, martial arts demos, as well as things of interest for otaku of all nationalities.
We ended up having to park several long park blocks away from the entrance (which, no surprise, is near the Japanese garden). This was the beginning of our snappishness, actually, because the sun was hot and Mason insisted on carrying several large books to read. At any rate, as we were headed to the park, I saw a small contingent of my people. What do I mean? They looked like fans and they were clearly trying to call some friends to figure out where the hell the festival was taking place. As I approached, I leaned in and said, "Near the Japanese Garden" and the young man on the phone instantly perked up and asked if his group could follow me and Mason. Of course I said yes and it took about five seconds to discover we'd not only run into otaku, but a guy who regularly cosplays Ichigo.
So, we chatted Bleach and cosplaying the whole way to the festival. I gave the young man my card in case he wanted to stay in touch. Mason, of course, blurted that I've written an obscene amount of ByaRen fic and that led to a somewhat awkward discussion of orientation (the young man is bi, and was proud to have been part of a yaoi photo shoot at Detour in which he kissed a cosplayer dressed Grimmjow... which means I could probably Google a picture...) Regardless, they were a fun bunch, but we separated at the gate.
The booths were much the same as last year, and the first place Mason and I made a bee-line for was to the people who, last year, had a metric ton of Japanese-language Shonen Jumps. This year that had only a handful, but we were able to find a really good one to send to my friend empty_mirrors, who is learning to read Japanese.
Otherwise, Mason and I ate a lot of Japanese food--though I managed to chose some fairly gross eel as one of my entries (this is what I get for not reading Japanese) and passed several hours watching martial arts demos of all kinds. Mason is particularly fond of the sword folks, but I was pleased to watch my former Aikido sensei show off ki magic (aka "the Force"/reiatsu.) Here he is, John-sensei, who infamously refused to let me give him face and drove me insane by teaching me how to drop Zabimaru in bokken class:
Sensei-John was in fine form this Obon, I have to say. He completely baffled this audience member, Mark, who he had performing the 'try to pick me up/ oops now I'm using my ki and you can't" gig. For myself, I was the most charmed by Mark who kept giving sensei looks like 'what the hell? How does he do it???'
Mason also tried out the archery:
And, we watched BOTH
I also took a picture of this young lady (kneeling) because: hair. Also, note the color of her
There was also a guy that they had sparring with this group who their sensei introduced as Cameron, and Mason and I nicknamed him 'Cameron-pachi' because for a while he was the undefeated champion (he's the aggressive blur in this action shot). I liked him because his ki-yah sounded a bit like 'fight! fight!' which made me think of my boy:
I also ran into my neighbor from across the street (who I long thought was named Eric, but who introduced himself as John), who is a member of a martial art that uses FARM IMPLIMENTS to defend against those guys above (samurai). Can I just say? AWESOME. I tried to get a picture of their head instructor wielding a hoe, but it may be blurry too:
Also because we had so much extra time this year, I discovered a mumbling old guy demonstrating bansai and ikebana arrangements inside the Conservatory:
Then, of course, came the final part, the actual lantern lighting. I took a picture, but it's really just kind of a dark shot with a few points of light. It's probably best to imagine the scene in your head: tall rectangle paper lanterns glowing a soft yellow, lowered slowly by a poll into a man-made lake at dusk. It's really very spectacular.