Except for large-scale political protests, revolutionary uprisings, and the morning after Thanksgiving, there aren’t many times when the entire population of a city takes to the streets with a single purpose. Last Sunday, I witnessed another example up close: the annual rite of hanami, or cherry-blossom viewing. As I’ve mentioned before, the Japanese go apeshit for the sakura blossom. For a week each April, they empty out of their homes by the umptillions to sprawl on tarps beneath the trees, pump themselves full of booze, show off their new spring duds, and gawk at everyone else doing the same. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find so many drunk people so densely packed anywhere in the world last Sunday as along the Shukugawa River just outside Kobe (I know what you’re thinking, but the Red Sox were still on the road). The octopuses that gave their lives for the takoyaki consumed alone must have numbered in the high thousands. On our own menu for the afternoon: beer, gin, chuhai, sake, shrimp-flavored potato chips, edamame, and donuts. What? Is noon too early for edamame?

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