Late this afternoon I stepped into the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park to enjoy their first ever Tanabata Festival!
I arrived half an hour before the festival officially opened, and as time progressed more and more people arrived for this joyful summer event. I lingered for a while to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes, and to learn about various aspects of Japanese culture and the Tanabata holiday.
According to the Japanese Friendship Garden website: “Originating from Chinese folklore, Tanabata is a holiday that celebrates the meeting of Orihime and Hikoboshi. Separated by the Milky Way, the stars Orihime and Hikoboshi are able to meet once per year on the seventh day of the seventh month. On Sunday, July 7th, JFG has partnered with the Minatomo Japanese Community to have their inaugural Tanabata Festival in San Diego!”
As I walked randomly about I learned about the Tanabata tradition of tanzaku: wishes are written on small pieces of paper which are then hung with other happy decorations on bamboo. I paused to admire some living moss art–kokedama. I then walked down into the Lower Garden.
Outside the Inamori Pavilion yummy Japanese food was being prepared. Inside the elegant pavilion there was artwork, including some bright, very colorful fluorescent paintings. I caught the first scheduled performance in the pavilion, which was an onigiri (rice ball) preparation demonstration. I was shown how to easily fold a paper flower.
I then headed back to the Upper Garden and listened as Write Out Loud presented a Japanese fairy tale. I paused to admire a bunch of origami artwork that was being created.
Every person I met was smiling.
I hope this is the first of many wonderful Tanabata Festivals at the Japanese Friendship Garden. That is my wish.
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There are dozens of cool things to see in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. I’ve barely scratched the surface so far with my blog.
For example, there’s a small free museum right next to the central Plaza de Las Armas called Commercial Restaurant. A rather dull name, but a very interesting place jam-packed with history!
The small recreated restaurant shows what life was like in the mid 1800s, back when San Diego was downright tiny. The Commercial Restaurant is comprised of two rooms: one contains the dining area, the other, the kitchen. Originally called the Casa de Machado y Silvas, the house was built by José Manuel Machado and given as a wedding gift to his daughter María Antonia, and her husband, José Antonio Nicasio Silvas. The simple adobe building was converted into a modest restaurant by its owners in the early 1850s. Today it stands as one of the five historic adobes in Old Town San Diego.
I’ve provided a bit more info in the photo captions!
In the mid 1800’s, when New England travelers arrived by ship to Old Town, they sought out a dining establishment serving meals like they would find at home, including stews, soups, crackers, bread and cow’s milk. Over the years, exposure to native Kumeyaay cooking influenced the European diet and became integrated into the region’s cuisine.
Historical documents discovered by archeologists hidden in the Casa de Machado y Silvas shed light on the life of San Diego resident Allen B. Light. He was also know as the “Black Steward”. Allen arrived in California during the 1830s, aboard the sailing ship Pilgrim, the same vessel that brought Richard Henry Dana Jr. who would later write Two Years Before the Mast.
One document was “a sailor’s protection”, which proclaimed Light was a “coloured man, a free man, and a citizen of the United States of America”. The second document was his commission from the Mexican Governor of Alta California to investigate illegal sea otter hunting along the coast.
I spotted these funny pictures and quotes on some windows in the Horton Plaza shopping mall food court, in downtown San Diego. I’m not sure if this particular eatery closed down or is soon to debut. I saw no sign. But I had a good laugh!
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While walking to the Fifth Avenue trolley station yesterday morning, I passed the window of the Donut Bar on B Street. They’d just filled it with the day’s freshly-baked yummy treats and were preparing to open for business. I almost began to drool right there on the sidewalk!
The Donut Bar is frequently listed as one of the top doughnut shops in the entire country! Wow!