our impromptu outing in kitakyushu left both me and yoshi limping. yoshi more than me, believe it or not. he lugged sasha and the stroller up the hill to the very top of the mountain (sasha wasn't in the stroller, it was folded up; and also, believe it or not, hiro hiked up the hill pretty much the whole way himself. i was impressed.) he (yoshi) wasn't sure that he wanted to go to omuta after all. but i really wanted to take sasha to the daijayama festival. in the end, we decided to go.

we have the etc. card for paying electronically on the toll roads. we got to the on-ramp just before nine a.m. (for a discount) but the lady in the car in front of us did NOT have etc. she stopped, i stopped. then she pulled forward and hit the barrier! fool! then she jumped out of her car and grabbed a ticket. in the meantime, three people who were working the toll gates ran over to her car. then, one of them gave us a ticket and told us to go through the regular exit (at our destination) and explain what happened. then we would get our discount.

we drove to omuta and did indeed get our discount (and paid electronically). then we went to yoshi's parents' house. his dad works on saturdays, so the plan was to wait for him to get home and then go to the festival together. when we got there (around eleven; we went to a discount store first to get some sunscreen) both yoshi and i were starving, so we asked his mom to come to lunch with us. we went to have udon, something i don't like often but was actually in a mood for (and yoshi knew he had to get in on that before i changed my mind!) udon was invented in fukuoka and is very popular here. we went to a shop that started filling up nearly as soon as we got there. yoshi's mom had curry udon (ick! gross me out!), yoshi had wakame udon, and i had yasaiten udon (tempura'd carrot, onion and green bean). it was good! of course, yoshi and i shared our noodles with hiro and sasha.

yasai-ten udon

back at the house it was hot, but not too bad. their house is surrounded by trees and bushes (unlike ours) and the breeze could go through easily. (at our house, i usually have to keep the doors closed and locked because sasha can open the screen doors and the drop outside is too big for her. i worry she will crack her head open on one of the steps. and i keep the inside doors closed to keep her off the stairs and out of the bathroom. it gets hot here.) i finally convinced yoshi that we needed to take the kids for a drive so they would take a nap. yes, i know it's a waste of gas but not having naps is not good for them (though hiro can make it through the day without one, i'd rather he sleep). sure enough, we were barely down the street and sasha was asleep. a few minutes later, hiro was too. yoshi took us to a little university (i had no idea it even existed!) and parked on top of a hill. then he, too, fell asleep. i read harry potter (book seven, second reading. i understand so much more now.) eventually, though, i had to go to the toilet, so we left.

we returned to the house and the kids woke up. then we waited for yoshi's dad to come home from work. when he did, they (yoshi and his parents) decided what to do about dinner and onsen. first we would go to the festival, then dinner, then return to the house and get our onsen things (towels and changes of clothes.) first thing on our list was the snake/dragon and letting sasha get scared. when we got there, yoshi's dad thought hiro should do it, too. many babies and children were there getting scared. hiro didn't cry or scream at all (shocking) but sasha was properly frightened. very cute.

ok, put me down, now!

poor sasha

afterward, we ran into some cousins. one of them had a baby on the same day as takafumi and kumiko (his wife was still in the clinic). then yoshi's dad wanted to see the dancing. at first it was interesting, but then it was the same dance over and over. for an hour. that was pretty boring. after the dancing, the snake/dragon floats were pulled along the streets. since it was getting dark, they started the fireworks, too. kind of like roman candles, the participants on the floats light off these fireworks and make the snake/dragons are breathing smoke and sparks. pretty cool.

sparks and smoke

then we went to dinner. yoshi and i had already committed ourselves to a neighborhood bbq party, but his dad wanted yakiniku and so did i. i wasn't sure if we'd be able to eat a lot on sunday because of the kids. the place we went to was one we've been to often. it's actually a meat store on the first floor and a restaurant on the second. the yakiniku family meal comes with a lot of meat. i think we just got one, which is for three to four people, and we could barely finish it!

then we went back to the house. it was already after nine and the kids were getting pretty tired. good thing they took a nap that afternoon, though. we went to sekia hills in kumamoto, which is a very fancy hotel and onsen complex. for the first time, yoshi and i (with the kids) went to the family onsen they have there. the prices for the family onsen range between 2000 and 2500 yen, which is pretty expensive to me (most places we've been to are 800 yen for the family bath). it was definitely worth the price, though. there was a relaxing room with an air conditioner (not uncommon, but nice), two chairs, a table and a refrigerator with complimentary mugi-cha (barley tea). there were two baths, too, one was a 'rotenburo' (not really outside, but the roof was gone, so we could see the sky, and one wall was all glass, so we could see outside.) it was quite lovely and after the bath, i actually got sasha to go to sleep.

we went back to yoshi's parents' house and went to bed. then we were up bright and early the next morning. and would you believe it? as we were going through the etc. lane the person in front of us didn't have etc.! what are the chances??