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Tokushima Festival

JAPAN | Friday, 14 August 2009 | Views [788] | Comments [1]

When we were looking into coming to Japan at the end of July, I was in charge of the packing, JN was in charge of finding lodgings. As we have done during our long trips to Australia and San Francisco, JN organized home exchanges for us. For those of you who do not know what this is, there are several websites that let you meet people all over the world with whom you can exchange your home and car for their home and car. Up until this trip, we have never met the people with whom we were exchanging since they were simultaneous exchanges. This time we have met or stayed with all the people we are exchanging with. First there is Lovely L and her son who is letting us come and go from their house outside of Osaka during our entire visit, then there was V who passed us her apartment in Nagoya for a week and lastly there is Mr. W.

Mr W has been a mystery. He invited us to his place, we thought. We were not sure. Our e-mail correspondence has been a strange affair in bizarre English.  We tried to determine if he was letting us stay at his place, at least for one night. He wrote back that he was “happy that our family would be staying with you.” Ahm. The date that was set was for August 12.

We got around to calling him on August 11th about 10:30 at night. L was nice enough to call and translate for us. She wrote down the train directions and told us where we needed to get off.  We knew we were going South. We knew we were going to an island. That was it.

So we got up early, took three small suitcases and headed off on an adventure.

We had to change trains two times to reach Akashi which is on the coast. We got off the train walked into the train station…. And no Mr. W. We stood for about 10 minutes trying to look like a nice family, in case he was hiding behind a column trying to check us out. Still no Mr. W.  We realized that we never set up a meeting point so JN took SB into a Starbucks and I waited with the bags right at the turnstiles. I seemed to be making to much friendly eye contact with all the potential Mr W’s because a lot of Mr V, Mr K and Mr M started to check me out. I rapidly changed places with JN and he finally tried to call to Mr W, and got his answering machine.  JN left a message that said that we were waiting near Starbucks. So we waited. I was surprised when a young Starbucks counter worker walked over and told us that our friend would be there at 11:45. How he managed to get that specific Starbucks number still amazes us.

We played a game with SB of “guess what Mr. W will look like.” Old? Fat? Young? Tall? We had no idea.

Finally a nice looking man in his 50s walked in wearing a Hang 10 tee-shirt and shorts holding a sign with our name on it. (Like he wouldn’t be able to spot the only three non-Japanese in the train station.) He introduced us to his wife, a lovely lady who was a little shy.

We collected our bags and followed them to the ferry. It turns out that they are from Nara and were staying at the family house on the island of Awajishima. The ferry ride lasted about 20 minutes and sailed under the longest suspension bridge in the world that is almost 4 kilometers long.  We had time to get to know one another and it turns out that Mr and Mrs W are teachers and they were spending the O-bon holidays on the island. O-bon is the festival of the dead and many Japanese travel home to their birthplace to honor their ancestors.

The house was in a small village in the hills, not far from the coast. It was made entirely of wood and had one bedroom. They let us take the bedroom and they slept on futons on the floor of the living room downstairs. We took a short nap and then headed out with Mr. W by car to the neighboring island of Shikoku to the town of Tokushima for the Awa-odori dance festival.

It turns out that we were there for the opening night of the festival which is considered to be one of the premier good time events in Japan, according to the lonely planet guide book. To cite the guide book “The event largest and most famous ‘bon’ dance in Japan and attracts tens of thousands of people from August 12 to 15 every year. Every night, over four days, the revelry continues as men, women and children don yukata (light cotton kimonos) and take to the streets to dance to the samba like rhythm.”  There are expecting more than one million people over a four day period.

We had a hard time finding a parking place and had to hurry to see the first dancers go by the big grandstand. We had to help SB hurry as he wore his kimono for the event. We passed by a small park where six different groups were perfecting their dance steps. There were elegant women wearing fascinating straw hats, men in kimonos and shorts high stepping, musicians with flutes, three string guitars, and drums called taiko, and another group that did not dance very well and had ridiculous looking foreigners wearing blue and yellow kimonos waving their hands around. I mean, really. Where was their pride? That is when a very kindly man approached us and asked if we would like to join their group. That is how there were three more ridiculously looking foreigners with no pride ended up dancing with their group. We borrowed kimonos and the president of the international association even loaned SB his own obi (the colored cloth that wraps around the waist) for his kimono. We practiced dancing for about five minutes before we found ourselves in the parade, dancing and chanting before the grandstands. We had a blast!

Afterwards we walked with Mr W through the streets to find another parade and ate fried octopus balls along the way. The parade was fantastic (see the pictures in the photo gallery).

We headed back about 9:00 and ate at a ramen noodle house on the way. Back at the house they had prepared a tradition Japanese bath for us. First you take a shower and wash with soap before completely rinsing off before getting into the deep hot bath in which you are sitting straight up and the water easily reaches up to your shoulders.

The next morning Mr W offered to take us swimming in the “interior sea.” It was the first time SB has swum in the ocean. Mr W was driving back to Nara and offered to drop us off in Osaka.

As we were saying good-bye, we said that we were looking forward to seeing them in France someday soon.   

          

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

1

Hey klynne,

We really liked your blog and decided to feature it this week so that others can enjoy it too!

Happy Travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Aug 17, 2009 10:33 AM

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