Sake Temple Drinking + Yakiniku + Fireworks = ^.^
Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
41Trip End Ongoing
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You know, we had a hard time deciding which Festival we were going to check out, and it's a very long and somewhat unfortunate story as to how we ended up in Taguchi, but boy was I glad we went.
Every town will have its own flavor, its own specialty, that it will boast freely about and advertise. This can be partly attributed to a governmental push in (no idea what year, but possible in the early 20th century) to promote, advertise and distinguish areas, town and villages by whichever specialty they claimed to have perfected. Whether it be cooked eel, specialty breads, the best chestnuts or miso-flavoured grasshoppers, everywhere you go in Japan will have a reason for you to visit.
This makes planning trips both delightful and overwhelming.
Needless to say, along with specialty foods comes specific and sometimes very original festivals. I don't think that Taguchi's festival was anything out of the ordinary (at least not for this area). It followed the standard format: festival stands and decorations set up, ranging from drink-tent with soups, to toriniku (fried chicken) and takoyaki (fried octopus balls); early-morning drinking, usually made possible by trips to the liquor store the night before, as well as stocking the temple with its home-brew sake-barrel, music, costumes and festival outfits, and, of course, fireworks.
At this particular festival, the only ritual we saw was the carrying of the shrine (see video for explanation). We had spent the early part of the day talking with locals, and playing with their kids. These kids were adorable (except for this one little kid who kept punching Derek in the nuts, and calling me a variety of names that he learned, no doubt, from someone in his family), and they were hanging on our arms, legs, neck, anything they could get their hands on, showing us the temple, the scary broken statues (no idea why this is scary...), and doing everything they could in their power to determine whose girlfriend Yoshimi was, and whether she was Japanese or not. We kept playing her as the Chinese-American.
We had no idea what was coming when a little 8 or 9 year-old girl came tugging at our sleeves that we had to see something. Running up the hill came about twenty or so totally inebriated young fellows, huffing and puffing a chant to give them the final energy required to carry their shrine (and their yellow-topped friend) the last few steps to the temple
I saw this same procession on a much larger scale in Toei's festival, which, if you recall, involved a larger number of people and a larger temple. Toei has hilly roads, too. Ask me what I prefer, and I couldn't tell you; there's no way I'd willingly like to participate in the Taguchi festival's shrine-tugging practice. That might either make me feel bad for drinking them all under the table, or really sick. Probably a combination of both.
After we finished helping the two gentlemen who were clearly in need of hospitalization into the backs of two Ford pickup-trucks, we set out to Taeko-san's place for another Yakiniku party. You can never get enough of these things. The food is always absolutely delicious, and it was no exception in this case. She had freshly caught Ayu, gohemochi (pounded rice on a stick that you cover with sweet miso-paste and fry for a short time on the fire), various meats (chicken, pork, beef), a variety of home-grown vegetables (peppers, onions, cabbage, carrots, potatoes), and the occasional chestnut.
Actually, we had a rather explosive experience a few minutes into the Yakiniku party. i was standing over some meat talking to Yoshimi, Derek's girlfriend, when a loud explosion in the fire sent me reeling back in surprise
Once we've had our fill of beer, meat, gohemochi, and nut-explosions, we head out to the prime location for that night's fireworks. I think where most festivals distinguish themselves is in their rituals and how grand their fireworks are. This time: By far the best I've seen. Still, the magic of seeing Tezutsu that first night in Tsugu will never be topped, simply because it was my first time, and it was such a large display for such a tiny crowd. But I have to admit, the finale on this display was breathtaking--it just kept getting better and better.
I remember going to Calgary's Firework's Festival (or something like that) with my cousin Ian, his wife Shelley and their two daughters last summer for a beautiful display. There were thousands of people, and after various cultural dances and performances, they put on a synchronized firework-show
But there is something about the way the Japanese prepare their fireworks, either hand-made, or the meticulous effort that goes into making the most out of what they have from imported fireworks, that makes them stand out in a different way. It's not that they're better (well, in some ways I have to grant them that they are), but that the culture here in Japan around fireworks is very important. Even people in their backyards, chasing away evil spirits and the lingering spirits of their loved ones during Obon Festival, had their own score of fireworks. And I'm talking about my neighbors, people here in Toyone. I have no idea where they buy their fireworks. Someone has to give in on me eventually...
Anyhow, the weekend was one to remember. I had spent the earlier part of the day wandering around since the others were all so lazy after our late night at our favorite Yakiniku joint. Stuck waiting for them yet unable to sleep, I took a long walk around town, soaking in the beautiful weather and taking shots along the way. I eventually came to a nice little off-the-road spot, behind the High School, that had a very old wooden shack (yet well-kept), and a little stone path beside it leading to a beautiful little farm, hidden away under the rising hill behind it that serves as a road up to the mountain
I picked a good spot to sit down and enjoy my lunch, and closed my eyes for awhile. eventually, my thoughts turned to snakes (as they usually do out here), and I started at the sound of something moving leaves around to my immediate right. I didn't blink (well I couldn't then anyways) in turning around and spotting two little reptile eyes staring at me from a pile of dead branches and leaves. I moved back, startling it in the process, and realized that what looked like a snake was really a skinny gecko. Phew.
Not taking any chances, I stand up, and start to walk back to Derek's place. Yet no sooner than 10 steps from the path, I run into a snake. It was thin, black, and barely perceptible. Fortunately, these skinny guys are not the most lethal ones to be found out here. I was told that the mamushi (vipers) and much thicker, and have that ugly head that makes them so distinctively my enemy. This little feller was no longer than half my forearm, as skinny as a pencil, and a still as a mouse. I tried approaching it, and I was sure that it could see me with the camera, but it didn't budge. Disappointed that I didn't get a rise out of him, I packed the camera away and started forward.
That's when he spotted me
He wound up, started hissing bad barring his tiny little fangs (which for all I know, could still be poisonous, at least to my sense of courage), and showed me that he could, indeed, do more than play a statue.
Anyhow, I think I covered most of what went down. I had a ton of stuff going down the following two days, from temple visits to a trip to Nagoya castle (next entry!), so I had to leave early the next morning (which was rough). Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of drinking out here. The beer is just so delicious. But that's slowed down a bit lately, not just due to the light pocket, but also the heavy stomach. I was sick earlier this week, an experience at the doctor I can't wait to share with you guys. I dont' blame the drinking, but it's been holding me back some, and I plan to, at least unofficially through this blog, declare my 'slowing-downness' of that tasty, tasty vice.
Much love to you all, and thanks for checking in.