Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival 2015

My mom, step-dad, and a couple they are friends with went on an awesome cruise that started in Tokyo, went around to near where I live in Aomori prefecture, and then on to Hokkaido, Russia, and a few stops in Alaska before ending in Vancouver.  My sister came along with my parents and then stayed with me while they were on the cruise.  The timing of their cruise worked out perfectly for the sakura viewing at Hirosaki castle.  We drove up and picked them up at the port, headed to see Big Buddha in Aomori, and then drove down to Hirosaki.

The pictures really speak for themselves, but like most beautiful things in nature, these can't do it justice.  It was a beautiful day.  The park was packed with visitors.  There were many good foods to choose from.  

Here you can really get an idea of the large crowds.

I love to see the river covered in cherry blossom petals.
Here you can see what is known as hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, which is often done with a picnic.

Here I am with Ryan, sitting in the same spot we sat in to take a picture a couple of years back.

This is one of my favorite views.

We managed to get a view of the snow capped mountain nearby.

Here is another one of us.

Since I have been to Tokyo so many times I ended up not taking many pictures while I was there with my family.  They took pictures but I passed and instead was busy playing the role of tour guide.  I wanted to really show them as much as possible during the few days they were visiting.  We managed to fit in a lot and it was a great trip.  Really glad they were able to make it over to Japan before we moved.

QUESTIONS:  Did you see the cherry blossoms this year?  If you live away from family, how often do they come visit?

Iwate Snow Festival at Koiwai Farms

To say I am behind on my posts is an understatement.  To start, I am well aware I am posting about winter when we are finishing up summer.  Additionally, I don't live in Japan anymore!  More on that to come!

I do have a few more posts left from things we did in our last few months in Japan, including my parents visit and a trip to see the cherry blossoms.  But for now, these are my pictures of the incredibly fun time we had at the Iwate Snow festival back in February.

It's significantly smaller than Sapporo, but significantly closer, and we had never been before.  It made sense to check it out.   Below are the pictures of the snow sculptures for 2015.

As usually, plenty of festival food vendors.
Ryan said this meat was amazing!
I, on the other hand, stuck to vegetarian options and went with the custard filled pancake.  Yum!
Although we didn't go for a sleigh ride, it certainly sounded like fun.

You can see that so many kids were having a blast on their sleds.
This was a show presenting the trains.  Yes, I said trains!  These are the different Shinkansens.

And they danced!

This part was very cool.  Although I don't eat meat, I still took a peek inside.  These are igloos that serve as a table for cooking your own meat and veggies.
Inside is a cooking source and table.
So cute!
At night this is lit up.
Some fun snow sculptures

This one was made from ice.
Koiwai is the name of the farm where this was held in Iwate Prefecture.

This was inside a snow maze, which was actually a lot of fun to walk through.

Another shot of the visitors enjoying the snow.

I enjoyed heading back inside for some warmth, only to cool down again with some fresh soft serve.  This is a dairy farm.
In the distance you can see the mountain. It's a little hard to make out.
Before leaving we got a steamed potato with butter.  It was excellent!  In fact, we are still talking about how good this potato with butter was!
Just before we left it was starting to get dark so the lights started to come on.
One last view with Mt. Iwate in the distance.
It was definitely worth checking out.  Although I am not a snow fan I will definitely miss the beautiful northern Japan winters.  At least looking at them...not going out and driving in them!

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been to a snow festival?  When was the last time you built a snow man?  Ever dined in an igloo?