Today I went on another of the cultural trips MCAS Iwakuni offers, this time to the Shukkeien (meaning "miniature scene") Garden in Hiroshima. My friend, Marilyn, was also on the excursion, so we meandered around the small lake at the center of the garden over the hour we had been allocated.
At this point, I have been to several Japanese gardens. They are all fairly similar, but with different trees and plants, different placement of bridges and waterfalls, but, essentially, once you've seen a handful of Japanese gardens, you have a pretty good idea what to expect, especially in late summer/early fall. It's too late for most flowers to bloom, and it is too early for leaves to start changing to autumn color. So, there is a lot of green. A lot of green. Here, let me show you:
Of course, there are splashes of color, like the bridge in the photo above, pink flowers on one of the few bushes blooming, a blue sky, and the koi in the lake.
But I already have a lot of photos of green Japanese gardens with splashes of color, so I was fairly uninspired photographically until I caught a glimpse of a traditionally-attired Japanese couple... surrounded by women all dressed in black, one wielding a camera I wished I owned. It was a Japanese wedding photo shoot and, as a photographer, I couldn't resist snapping off some shots.
Notice how serious the couple is when the picture is being taken, yet how happy they look when the camera is off of them. This was the trend of the day... because as Marilyn and I proceeded around the lake, we discovered at least three other bridal couples getting their wedding portraits. I couldn't blame them, it was a gorgeous sunny day for it, 70 degrees with a slight breeze. But take a look at how, when the camera is on them, the couples do not look too thrilled with their nuptials. Yet, when the photographer is busy doing something other than taking photos, the couples smile and laugh:
Picture time out
Another picture time out
Picture time out
Picture time out
I am now rethinking all of the Japanese wedding photos I have seen. These people weren't unhappy... they were just following some sort of Japanese wedding requirement, perhaps showing that they were taking their vows seriously. I'm not sure. But, I prefer the moments I caught with smiles, but I'm sometimes to American for my own good (that's a whole other blog post, though).
Here are some more shots I captured while trying not to intrude... too much.
Here's the proof I was actually at the garden, compliments of Marilyn:
I really enjoyed seeing the different wedding kimonos, all of them with red or pink in them. Watching these new couples made the time at the garden go by quickly. That was a good thing, because I was getting hungry!
Our fearless tour guide, Akie, recommended an okonomiyaki restaurant near Hondori Street, so we headed there on one of the city trolleys. Outside of the restaurant, which was located on the second floor, was a shrine, tucked in between the rows of stores. While I cannot remember the name of the shrine, I do know that it was a shrine dedicated to the gods of good business and entrepreneurship, so, me being one to hedge my bets as best I can, I paid my respects to the shrine. After watching a Japanese couple do it first, I climbed the stairs, donated 100 yen (about $1) in to the top wooden box, bowed twice, clapped twice and had a moment of silence where I wished for good luck for my businesses. I suppose time will tell if it worked.
Then it was time to eat! At this okonomiyaki restaurant, it was kind of like Korean barbecue or fondue - you cook it yourself. So, here are the steps:
You ingredients all arrive in one bowl, with the exception of the noodles (either udon or ramen), which arrive separately on a plate. You start cooking the meat (I had pork and shrimp) first.
While your meat is cooking, you stir up the other ingredients... a raw egg, cabbage, green onion, a powdery substance (think Bisquick for okonomiyaki) and maybe some other stuff, not sure.
Then you put that "pancake" mixture on the griddle, along with the noodles.
Flip it so it cooks on both sides and then, once it has, put it on top of the noodles.
Transfer it to a plate, top it with okonomiyaki sauce and eat! It was delicious!