Date: August 5th & 6th
The weekend in the middle of the Canadian students exchange proved to be an action packed affair with a couple of festivals and a day at sea.
On the Saturday night Karen and I headed out for a quiet, low key, walk to check out the Takeo lantern festival. Last year I missed this festival and felt like a prized fool for doing so. Takeo doesn't have that many festivals on so I like to try and make it to virtually all of them. On this Saturday night the festival basically consisted of one street, which leads up to the famous Takeo onsen gate, being closed off to cars and lined with hundreds of hand painted lanterns. Anyone can design their own lantern and submit it to the local town hall for entry. The designs varied from kiddy scribble, to dragon ball Z, to NBA logos, to beautiful Kanji, to amazingly detailed Japanese designs. The atmosphere along the street was very relaxed and good spirited, as seems the case for virtually every festival here. The majoirity of females were dressed in yukata's and a good number of males were dressed in the summer jinbei's. Honestly, seeing a little three year old girl walking round in a flowery pink yukata holding the hand of her two year old brother in a jinbei is just too cute for words!
It wasn't long though before our 'little walk' to see the lanterns turned into a night of gaming madness at Merryland after we ran into some of the boys. Oh, the joys of hitting baseballs, tenpin bowling and blowing a load of money on the addictive games where you try and grab a soft toy with a mechanic claw thing. How bumbed out was I though after trying to be the man and win Karen a King Snoopy toy, only for her to teach me a lesson and win it for herself!
After a rather late night we were woken at 7am on Sunday morning by the seemingly ultra loud telephone. Cursing Alister for calling so early (again!) I was rather shocked to find it wasn't Alister at all, but was in fact Karen's friend Emiko. She was calling to invite us to a day of fishing on her uncle's boat. Now it may have been 7am on a Sunday morning after a late night, but we are not mugs, and quickly accepted her offer and before you know it were racing off in the Car to Imari beach to board the boat.
What a day for it too, the sun was strong, but luckily masked behind some much needed, on our part, cloud. The sea was calm and the fish, as we found out soon enough, were biting! On board the vessel were six crew; Karen, Emiko, Tai, Emiko's uncle and his friend, oh, and of course the ever sea worthy ME (sporting a sick beard and straw hat combo)! We made a quick stop off for some fuel and then churned through the open water out to the sea. Well, we actually went about as far as the end of the coast line and then spent the day moving from island to island in order to be above the right type of fish.
I was, and I stress the 'was' part, a novice fisherman, but, I think after my awe-inspiring effort of providing food for my loved one, Karen can vouch for my 'skills with a rod' anyday! Now, the fish we were catching may not have been the biggest guys in the world, but according to the captain, Emiko's uncle, they were perfectly adequate and so we basically followed the rule that 'If it was caught, it was to be eaten'. "What?... but that fish was only about 10cm....?!" "Doesn't matter!... in she goes to the fish hold. It'll make a tasty mouthful later on." Pulling out the hook through a fish's head and eye was definitely not the days highlight for me!
Now, I mentioned that the sun was hiding behind clouds. Turns out that doesn't stop you from getting burnt in Japan. Karen really knows what I'm talking about having decided she would do her best to sport a 'Rudolf nose' on this hot summers day. I just decided to mix it up with a red neck, arms, legs, face... ahh... everywhere, approach. Blowouts.
After many brilliant hours aboard the boat we made our way to shore to have a swim at Imari beach. The beach was lined with people a plenty, all there to enjoy the days "Reggae beach party" that was in full swing. They had a massive stage set up with Japanese hip/hop artists belting out rhymes in a mix of Japanese and bad English.
Feeling like we would self-combust at any moment Karen and I made our quick way across the scorching hot sand to the refuge of the cool water. Cool water my arse! It was warmer than I have my baths! Still it was relaxing to be able to float for a bit and have a lazy swim.
However, it wasn't long before the fear of what the sun could do to us through the water forced us out onto land and into the shade where we got changed and bid farewell to our fishing party before making our way to Imari city to enjoy the festival that had started.
Last year the Imari festival was my introduction to "Japanese festival season", and also the first time Tan and I hung out with our good friend Rumi-chan. It's a weird feeling to now find most things I go to have been done before and mark an anniversary to things. It's also strange in a way knowing that it's my last time at many things.
The festival itself is a big dancing type of one and has special meaning for celebrating girls. The culmination of the day is when a load of girls "battle", like the boys of Ton-ten-ton, on massive chariots, before a load of fireworks are let loose over the city. Of course, mixed in with all the dancing and fireworks are the rock bands, yukata's, jinbei's, food stalls and old men drinking beer. Oh, Japan is good I tells ya!