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February 27, 2012

Plums Blossoms and Home Runs at Dazaifu

About a month ago, Kam joined a baseball team and on Sunday he played his third game in Dazaifu. The timing was great, because Kam's brother Lukasz was in Fukuoka for the weekend so we were able to spend the morning sightseeing at the nearby Dazaifu Tenmangu- one of Fukuoka's most famous temples- and then head by bus to the baseball field to watch Kam play.

We've only been to Dazaifu once before, in the Summer just after we arrived in Fukuoka. It was the hottest day ever, so most of my memories are of the heat, rather than the beautiful sights. So I was really happy to return in much more temperate conditions.

The road leading up to the shrine is full of stalls and tourist shops, and has a busy market feel about it. It was particularly busy on Sunday, as winter is nearing a close and the weather is finally warming a little. I really enjoyed winter, but I am on the edge of my seat waiting for spring to arrive properly.

Dazaifu is famous for umegaemochi - a type of rice sweet (mochi) filled with red bean paste, served warm. There are many umegaemochi stalls lining the street and you can watch the sweets being made through the windows.

Since our last visit, Dazaifu has acquired a new little attraction of sorts- the following Starbucks, designed by architect Kengo Kuma. There are over 2000 wooden beams that form the lattice-like structure on both the interior and exterior of the Starbucks. I've seen photos of it on various sites online for a few months, so it was really cool to see it in person.

We had some delicious green-tea flavoured zaru soba noodles and tempura. Cold soba noodles are one of my favourite Japanese meals to have when we eat out. So delicious (excuse the blurry photo)...

And then it was onto the main attraction- Dazaifu Tenmangu, a shrine well known all over Japan, and one of Fukuoka's most famous. The shrine is dedicated to Tenjin, the god of learning or scholarship. Because of this, many students visit Dazaifu before their exams to pray for good luck & good results. There are also lots of plum trees at the shrine, which are just starting to bloom. The flowers are a brighter pink than the sakura (cherry blossoms) that will come in spring, but still so beautiful.

It was really lovely to see Dazaifu Tenmangu for the second time- a completely different experience in winter! Next, we jumped on a bus that wound its way up through the mountains and down the valleys until it dropped us off at a fairly remote baseball ground for Kam's game. It was quite picturesque and very peaceful up there.

Kamil's team, Sawara Love, played a practice game as they didn't have a league game this week. They played against a team called The Old Rookies, who are actually in the league above them. Lukasz and I sat in the dugout and watched what turned out to be a really interesting game. I was really impressed with the standard of Kam's team, who had particularly good fielding. Their uniform is cute too (Kam hasn't got his yet, but soon will have his own #19 jersey & rep cap!)

By the bottom of the fourth innings, Sawara Love were looking in trouble with the score at 0-2 in the other team's favour. Then things turned around as they loaded bases and then hit three home- one of those being Kamil! It was his first time on base and his first home, and I couldn't have been more proud!

Sawara Love won 4-2 - the first time they have beat The Old Rookies! It was a really awesome way to spend Sunday afternoon & really great that we could take Lukasz to watch his brother play ball.

More photos from other recent adventures soon!

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