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It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).

Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.

Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017
Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

I recently checked out the grand opening of a new place in College Park, Maryland called SCETA Japan Center and, as part of the festivities, they held a Little Japan Festival. Okay, I’ll admit that it’s a far cry from a massive anime convention like Otakon but it was still a pretty nice occasion (and the fact that the weather was pleasantly sunny with low humidity helped). Here are my photos from that event, starting with the building itself.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

There were all kinds of Japanese language books on display, including this one on hedgehogs (which brought back memories of the time when I once had a pet hedgehog named Spike).

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

Here are a few miscellaneous cute items I found throughout the building.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

This next photo shows a backdrop that was set up for anyone to take pictures.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

Someone saw me take that last picture and told me what it was. She then offered to take my picture with my own smartphone and I obliged despite my one skinned knee (which I obtained the day before when I fell as I was leaving the Hon Fest in Baltimore).

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

There was also a special Japanese Arts and Crafts Edition of the board game Monopoly that was written in both English and Japanese on display.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

The last photo shows the free stickers and buttons I received that that event.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center is dedicated to teach Japanese as well as providing information about Japanese culture and tradition. Check out the website for more information.

Starting today I’ll be spending much of the weekend at Katsucon, which is being held at National Harbor from February 15-17. I won’t be blogging very much during that time so if you want to follow me, it’s best if you do it via Twitter or Flickr. For those of you who will be there in person, I will be having this bag on sale that I handpainted myself. (If you want to learn more about this bag, read yesterday’s post.)

Souseiseki/Suiseiseki Tote Bag
Souseiseki/Suiseiseki Tote Bag

The past few days the U.S. has been rocked by news of the sudden closing of a beloved iconic company, Hostess, the maker of the famous Twinkies along with other beloved snacks like Ho Hos, Suzi-Q, Zingers, Snowballs, and more.

What the hell happened? Hostess claimed that it was those greedy unions members who went on strike because they wanted their pay and benefits increased to outrageous levels and the company had no other option but to close. However if you look at other sources, you’d know that it wasn’t that nasty union who forced Hostess to close down for good due to its sheer greed. Hostess went into bankruptcy for the second time since 2009. For the past 8 years Hostess has had 6 CEOs (none of whom with experience in the bread or cake baking industry) and it had been owned by Wall Street investors: so-called “restructuring experts,” managers from other non-baking food companies, and now a “liquidation specialist.”

The union members who are now blamed for the Hostess closings had watched as money from previous concessions that was supposed to go toward capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment was squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants. Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually obligated payments to their pension plan. Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company fell deeper into debt.

If all that wasn’t enough, creditors of Hostess Brands Inc. said in court papers the company may have "manipulated" its executives’ salaries higher in the months leading up to its Chapter 11 filing, in what the creditors called a possible effort by Hostess to "sidestep" Bankruptcy Code compensation provisions. The high pay that Hostess executives received had been going on for years. One example: Hostess’s then-CEO, Brian Driscoll, saw his salary rise to $2.55 million from $750,000—a 300% increase.

Basically what those Wall Street investors did to Hostess was what Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital did to the now-defunct KB Toys: Purchased a profitable company whose products these investors had little or no prior experience in, drastically slashed workers’ salaries and benefits, laid off scores of employees, refused to invest in things like research and development or new equipment, and paid themselves outrageous salaries and bonuses until the company began to hemorrage money so much that it had to close.

Hostess was one of those solid American brands that many people were familiar with. I know that Hostess was a major part of my youth. I had lots of memories snacking on things like Ho Hos, Twinkies, and Suzy-Q. When I was younger I used to frequently eat a Hostess snack as a dessert with my lunch. I never forgot when I spent my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College when someone from Hostess sent two of its employees to the college’s Student Center. One person was dressed as the Twinkies mascot while the other person gave away free Twinkies to students.

Here’s another memory I’m going to divulge. My husband, who abruptly ran away from home last December and has largeley avoided me since, once told me a deep dark secret when he saw me snacking on a Twinkie. At the time we were both students at the University of Maryland at College Park and we had been dating seriously for at least six months or more. My future estranged husband told me that when he was an undergraduate student at Oberlin College he worked at the radio station there when he was snacking on a Twinkie and another campus radio station person saw him and started calling him "Twinkie." That Twinkie nickname stuck for the next four years that he was at Oberlin.

My husband didn’t want me to tell anyone about how he was once nicknamed Twinkie. If he hadn’t walked out on me last December with zero notice, I would not be revealing his secret in this blog post.

Yesterday I decided to head out for a final visit to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville, Maryland. I didn’t go there very often mainly because the majority of the food sold there wasn’t very healthy for me and if I got a craving for Hostess there is a convenience store closer to my home that I usually go to buy such a snack. But the white building and the colorful sign was definitely a fixture on Route 1.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

A fleet of Hostess trucks was parked in the back of the building after the trucks made their last delivery of Hostess products ever.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Despite the building’s large size on the outside, the store itself is pretty small. It was very crowded with people buying up as many Hostess products as possible before the store closed for good. Some shelves were already empty when I got there.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Hostess’ most famous brand is Twinkies. When I was at the store, the only Twinkes that were still in stock was a special edition Chocolate Creme Twinkies.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I looked at the inventory that was left, I found some surprises—I never knew that Hostess made cereal. (That’s what I get for not visiting the store more often when I had the chance.)

A Farewell to Hostess

After I purchased what I picked up, I put my bags in the car then I walked over to the 7-11 that is in the shopping center located next door to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop. I found a few more Hostess products on that shelf but, alas, no Twinkies. I bought some other products that I didn’t find at the other store. I ultimately had three shopping bags full of Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess

This is the only healthy Hostess product that I purchased. It’s for its unsweetened Toasted Oats that’s basically Hostess’ version of Cheerios.

A Farewell to Hostess

The back of the ceral box had some basic facts about animals that kids (and animal lovers in general) would be interested in.

A Farewell to Hostess

Since I didn’t find the regular Twinkies, I went ahead and purchased a box of the Chocolate Creme Twinkies. It’ll be close enough to the Twinkies that I fondly remember eating.

A Farewell to Hostess

I purchased three different flavors of Hostess Donettes—chocolate frosted with a yellow cake, chocolate frosted with a devil’s food cake, and powdered sugar with a yellow cake.

A Farewell to Hostess

Rounding out my purchases are the following products: Suzy Q’s, Hostess Cup Cakes, Ho Hos, and Fudge Grahams Cookies.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Today after church I decided to make one more trip to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville. I had The Smiths’ "How Soon is Now" playing in my car as I arrived to the store’s front parking lot. In a way the pulsing rhythms and the overall depressing tone of that song made for a fitting soundtrack because I learned from one of the employees that today is the last day that the store would be open to the general public.

Today the prices were slashed even further than yesterday.

A Farewell to Hostess

There were even more empty shelves than before.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I browsed the stuff that were left on the shelves, I found that this particular Hostess store sold products by other manufacturers such as the ones I photographed.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

This next photo shows how abrupt the closing of Hostess really was. The store had decorations up for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday. Ironically the Hostess employees who are in the process of being laid-off will probably have a hard time finding much to be thankful for.

A Farewell to Hostess

I didn’t buy as much today as I did yesterday mainly because I had either already purchased enough of the products I wanted yesterday or because the products I was interested in (like the original Twinkies with the vanilla cream filling) were sold out. I purchased a couple more boxes of Hostess’ version of Cherrios cereal along with these two new Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

I plan on being very slow about consuming these products over the next few months in order to savor my last taste of these products and to prevent rapid weight gain. I hope I can discipline myself. I have to balance eating these products before they go stale with not eating them so fast that I gain enough weight to make my clothes a tight fit. I know that I need to make sure that I exercise as much as possible in order to burn some of these empty calories that are in Hostess products.

Unless a different company buys the Twinkies recipe and the right to manufacture them, if I have a desire for Twinkies in the future, I will have to closely watch this YouTube video of Jolene Sugarbaker demonstrating how to make Twinkies knock-offs.

In addition, I came across this site that has recipes where you can attempt to replicate 9 Hostess treats—Cup Cakes, Donettes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Sno Balls, Suzy Q, Chocodiles, and Ho Hos.

A Farewell to Hostess Part 2 (December 1, 2012)

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