Saturday, July 30, 2016

2016 Japan Vacation, Day 7: Blue Pond, Lavender Flowers, and the Bellybutton Festival

When we decided to visit Hokkaido, I most looked forward to seeing the places we had on our schedule for this day.

It was a rainy morning as we rented a car and left Sapporo. We were headed to the town of Furano, but would make a couple of stops along the way. After a three hour drive, we arrived at our first destination, Aoi Ike, or Blue Pond. The rain paused as we walked over to see this sight.

We found a beautiful place where the water was indeed blue, due to the minerals from nearby hot springs.

From there, we headed by to Farm Tomita, home of one of Hokkaido's famed lavender farms.

We had lunch while looking at the lavender fields, then walked around to get a closer look.

The farm sells various lavendar souvenirs, but what Kai liked best was the lavendar soft serve ice cream.

We were lucky as the rain mostly abated while we were there.

It started to rain again just as we were finishing up at the lavender farm. As we drove away, I took the following photo that shows the surrounding mountains.

Our next destination was Ninguru Terasu, a unique shopping mall in Furano. The mall is in a beautiful outdoor wooded setting, and each shop is a small log cabin.

The other interesting thing about this place is that each shop sells handcrafted arts and crafts. This wooden figure of a man playing the piano is but one example.

From there, we went to our hotel in Furano and settled in before heading out to experience Heso Matsuri.

Heso means bellybutton, and matsuri means summer festival, so the Heso Matsuri translates to summer bellybutton festival. When my wife told me about this festival, we knew that we would have to schedule our vacation around this festival to make sure that we would be here at this time.

In some ways, this festival is like any other with food tents and carnival games. Here we are finding shelter from the rain and eating dinner - yakitori (grilled chicken), yakisoba (fried noodles), and edamame.

But the highlight of the festival is the parade where everyone dresses up as the following character:

The twist is, the face of the character is drawn on each marcher's belly, while their actual face is hidden by a large hat. The result is very amusing:

It was very fun to see each unique "face".

And in the parade, the participants don't just walk, they dance to music with specific steps so that that everyone dances in unison.

We saw kids and adults, men and women. (Most of the women drew their faces on t-shirts rather than their belly.)

Here are just a few sample photos from the parade.

There were hundreds of marchers, and the rain paused long enough for us to see most of them go by before it really started to rain hard. Even then, most of the spectators stayed to watch.

Here's a photo of my wife and Kai with a statue of the festival symbol.

Photos cannot do this justice. You'll have to take my word that this festival was charming, fun, and definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and I was very glad we planned our trip around it.


  1. There were lots of places of natural beauty on this day. I love the outdoor mall. What a unique concept, log cabin stores.

    I'll bet Kai enjoyed watching the parade. There must have been some hams in the group of dancers. That would have made the event especially fun to watch.

    Your family is seeing some very unique sights. I am having vicarious fun as I watch your family enjoy the new experiences.

    1. Kai did enjoy the parade... the music is addicting even as they play the same song over and over... and of course, seeing the various costumes and faces. Each group of dancers had their adaptation while still being choreographed to the entire group. The enthusiasm of the participants was so much fun to see... you can't help but have fun yourself when everyone else is so obviously having a great time!


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