Monday, 24 May 2010

Golden Week - part 2 - Hamamatsuri!

Hamamatsu Matsuri = Hamamatsuri... it's one of those wonderful combined words that I'm hoping will catch on!

So, I'm FINALLY updating this...

After Tokyo, I spent three days enjoying Hamamatsu Matsuri (festival!) with some of the lovely friends that I've made here in Japan.

Day 1: After returning from Tokyo relatively early the previous night, I organised a meet-up for Monday morning. A bunch of us made our way down to Nakatajima sand dunes, where the kites were being flown. It took slightly longer than anticipated to get there, seeing as there was a MASSIVE queue for the special shuttle bus. We managed to squeeze onto the regular service bus in the end, but it was reminiscent of Tokyo's sweaty sardine feeling. When we got there, we had to walk a fair way before any actual kites were in sight - however, we were at first greeted with food stalls and taiko drums! We were allowed to try beating the drum, so to speak...

Yeah, apparently I'm a pro, but I bet they say that to all the girls...

So, onwards we went, to the main field, where we were greeted with more food stalls and the sight of a million kites. Well, perhaps not a million, but certainly a fair few. Almost every district, or "cho", in Hamamatsu is represented here - whenever a new son is born within the year, a new kite is made to represent him, if my understanding is correct. Anyway, I know what you want... pictures of kites... well, you're going to see them anyway, because I did the only thing you can do when looking at an abundance of kites - I took a load of pictures.

I won't bore you with any more... but believe me, there were kites! Oh, and here is a picture of me with the awesome Azusa!

After we had had our fill of kites, we headed back downtown. We queued for around two hours to get the bus back into town, which was slightly annoying, as I had a friend waiting for me in town.. however, it was made a lot easier by good company and sharing a can of anonymous alcohol.

Eventually, we got back into town and headed to ACT City's Sunken Plaza (sounds cool, ne?) for the International Food Festival. This was a nice opportunity for owners of every interesting restaurant in Hamamatsu to advertise their cuisine - and believe me, we have quite a variety! During the three days of the festival I had Mexican, Brazilian, Russian, Thai (I think) and of course Japanese food, as well as some form of curry... admittedly, when I say "Russian" and imply food, what I mean is cinnamon vodka, which was pretty special. Just so you know... in the UK, alcohol is measured in very precise units (pints, milliliters) but Japan is a "just pour it in" country, meaning that when I pay 600 Yen (£4) for a Baileys, I am actually getting what would be 4 or 5 measures in the UK!! So... any drinking habits that I may be accused of have a perfectly legitimate reason behind them!

After enjoying the food festival for a while, we went onto the streets to watch the parades. Children and adults alike are held captive in very pretty floats and forced to play the same twelve seconds of the Matsuri song over and over again for three days straight. The floats are very pretty, but if you look closely, you can see the tortured expressions seeping through those well-rehearsed masks.

As I write, I am now pausing and wondering what happened next.... ah, yes! Most of the people I was with started to sneak off to bed, however... I'm not one to waste my time off with crazy things like sleeping (unless it's the middle of the afternoon, of course), so I somehow found myself in Araimachi at a beach party/barbecue with around 12 other people, some of whom were my training friends, others were new. Across the water we could see the twinkling lights of buildings in the night, which was quite enchanting.. and that's all I remember, officer. Actually there is one photo from the beach that I have to share(I didn't take it), and I think it's best that I don't make any comments on it:

The next day I got up with no hangover whatsoever, read to the hungry orphans and did a spot of praying... *suppresses laughter*... but seriously, Jenna (who was staying with me and so, poor girl, had been dragged to the beach too - although she seemed to want to!) and I had some delicious and cheap breakfast at Yoshinoya and met up with everybody on the roof of ACT City for chilling out and picnicking. Behold our beautiful rooftop picnic:

The rest of the festival was more of the same activities, really. On the Tuesday night I rocked out at Liquid Kitchen, which was decidedly more dance-floor-like than it usually is (it should always by like that!). I shall share some more photos!

On the way to the kites, we were given the opportunity to wear yukata (cotton, kimono-like robes) and pose for this picture. Now, this also happened when a friendly man at the castle park helped me to take a touristy photo - they don't expect any money!! This is one of the reasons that I love Japan... I can guarantee you that in many countries (especially ones I have visited), somebody would be expecting money for taking this picture - especially considering that most people in this photo gave the poor guy their cameras! But no, he smiled, and I think that if anybody had offered money, he would have been mortally offended (as would happen if you tried to tip somebody here).

Here, at the International Food Festival, we see some Taiko (a Japanese form of drumming, which I will write more about later... it is awesome). Oh yes, there was a stage at the food festival.. I didn't mention that bit!....

Also, some martial arts (points for whoever can tell me the specific one?):

And, Japan wouldn't be Japan without a slightly distressing childrens' character. Behold... Red Panda?

Oh, there he goes...

Huzzah! And that concludes the matsuri, I think. Needless to say, it was fun going back to work for just two days... Thursday, Friday, and then another weekend of excessive partying, leaving me feeling as if I was going to pass out at any second for the following week.... ah well! Shoganai... tanoshikatta!

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