Hi, it’s Ai!
I am now in Sendai!
11hours of flight from Heathrow to Narita, Japan.
Then hopped onto Narita express to Tokyo station, then bullet train(Shinkansen) to Sendai.
It was raining very heavily but the train was running as normal.
I was really amazed by the punctuality of Japanese railways.
The first thing I saw at the Sendai station was of course Tanabata decorations displayed on the platform,
Well, this was just a little welcome sign and the real ones appeared as I walked down the escalator.
Huge! I can not describe enough how magnificent they were!
A taxi driver taught me that they were made by professionals.
He said Normally it takes almost a year to prepare these decorations for the Tanabata Festival.
It costs around 300,000 yen per one Fukinagashi!
The taxi driver proudly explained that Sendai’s Tanabata festival is very special because all the decorations are made by Japanese paper, called Washi.
Across the city centre, Washi paper decoration was everywhere! I mean every single corner of the street you see Fukinagashi and bamboo trees decorated with origami and Tanzaku (a piece of paper which people write their wishes).
I could see Sendai people are really enjoying this cultural event.
Sendai city is now on campaign called Tanabata for 1million citizen.
Tanabata is originally a household cultural event that people make wishes for better health, study, harvest, etc. This campaign is basically to call for people to bring this culture back to their lives. Tsunami and earthquake destroyed many things but culture remained. Tanabata I suppose added extra meaning to people in the area. I saw many wishes written by local people. What surprised me most was that their wishes were mostly not about themselves, but praying for community community recovery.
Back to Fukinagashi, to bring up huge decorations is not easy. Strong bamboo trees were brought into the arcade shopping street and trimmed into a particular shape.
Beside the huge commercial decorations, there were many rather small but very lovely decorations along side the street.
I encountered a very kind man who turned out to be the chief secreariat of the arcade street, Mr Futonagane. He explained that those small ones are mostly made by people living in Sendai.
I very much liked the ones made by school kids and junior high school students.
Next, I visited Sendai volunteer centre.
Mr Hayakawa, explained the timelines and situations around volunteer centers. He said at first they could not even set up a volunteer centre especially near the coastal line. People could not simply get in to such areas to make investigation easier to find many missing people who were believed to be there.
Even after this period, they were not ready to accept volunteers as they were not sure if there would be another Tsunami or huge earthquake would come again.
He said there were around 54000 volunteers and still the number is increasing. Volunteers came not only from other areas of Japan but also foreign countries.
I will go volunteering on Mon!