Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cherry Trees and Martial Arts

Hey all, Aaron here. I'd like to take a moment to speak about a very memorable daytrip I took a couple weeks ago in Osaka. To bring you up to speed, there is a mystical magical tree in Japan that stays in bloom for only a couple weeks in March. It is called the Sakura tree, and it's actually a breed of cherry tree, though it doesn't get fruit like our cherry trees back home. Unfortunately, the blooming season has both come and gone now, but it's not too late to show some great photos and whatnot. You see, the trees have deep significance in Japan because the blooming and falling of the petals of the Sakura trees represent the brief and beautiful nature of life. So, the Japanese coat their streets and parks with these trees mostly for those few brief days of passing glory, during which time they often take off work and just sit and reflect (and drink--a lot--remember, it's legal in public here). Anyway, Kendra will tell you more about that later, but first, I'm going to tell you about my trip to Osaka with our friend Abel.

I was invited to go to an exhibition of a really neat martial art called Capoeira by our French friend Olivier (pronounced O-live-ee-ay) whom we met through Abel. Olivier is part of a club that participates in Capoeira, which is a Brazilian martial art that incorporates dancing into fighting. If you've ever seen Tony Jaa's The Protector, the guy in the temple with "pray" carved into his chest uses it. It was also used by the character Eddie in the Tekken games. Anyway, the exhibition was going on in a massive park that envelopes Osaka Castle. Abel and I ended up going through part of the castle's outer layers. It was my first castle--yay! Here are some photos of the park.

This is a great closeup of a fully bloomed sakura tree. Notice the great pink color and the density of petals. This was probably the best day of the year for these blossoms, and they were constantly flowing in the breeze. It was something.

This is an outpost on the inner walls of the outer moat. I couldn't believe how huge the outer moat of this castle was. I couldn't help but imagine giant armies marching up and facing such a huge ring of water. This is only one of many outposts on the wall.

Here is a different outpost near one of the outer gates. I really like the pine trees as well.

This is where Abel and I stopped for a snack. We had Yakisoba, which is grilled noodles. Most people don't know this, but most street venders are actually affiliated with the Yakuza, which is the Japanese mafia. It's a little strange paying them for food, but you have to remember that the Yakuza is a different kind of organized crime over here. They actually do a lot of good for the society. For instance, they were the first group to respond with aid after the devistating Kobe earthquake of 1995. We ate literally on the edge of the moat. From where I took this picture, we easily could have dropped at least 70 feet down in to the water below. It was pretty epic.

Here is the second moat, which you will notice doesn't have any water in it. Still pretty imposing. Note the line of sakura trees overhanging the walls. The whole park was coated in them.

Here's a pretty decent view of the Osaka skyline. This is from above the moat. In the water below, we could see the hugest koi fish ever, which are the gold-fish-ish carp that dwell everywhere in Japan.

And this is what you were looking for. This is the actual castle, within two sets of walls and moats. It's difficult to tell how big it is. There are windows and railings by the top. We could see visitors walking around up there. It's pretty big, but the complex around it makes it actually a very tiny part of the overall castle area. The architecture is pretty impressive.

Anyway, we checked out the castle and the park and then watched the Capoeira performances for a couple hours. Because of how quickly the performers were working, I couldn't get any good photos. But I do have about 25 videos of them, and I've picked out a couple here for you to watch. One of them is of our friend Olivier. I strongly recommend checking them out. Oh, I almost forgot. There was also a performing monkey in the castle complex. I have a great video of him doing a trick. Check that out as well. I hope you find the videos enjoyable. Oh, and so you know, Olivier is the one in the blue shirt, not the white. See you next time!

No comments: