However, today I discovered a third factor that when combined with the other two form a holy trifecta of unfunness that can not be disputed.
Now, all sarcasm aside, the real reason we had an overnight here wasn't for the piles of wood and rocks, which were awesome, but for a summer festival being thrown the next town over. The passengers had taken buses and taxis over to witness the parades, and some even get to take part (for a fee). All over Japan cities celebrate summer with parades and fireworks. It seems to start in late July, and as of this writing there are still cities which have yet to have their celebration, as with tonight's port. The production cast has been called upon twice to participate in the parades, but if you're picturing marching bands and floats sponsored by the local Japanese Kiwanis club, you're way, way off. Let's go back a bit and take a look at my first parade...
On August 6th, we hit the port of Aomori. Let's take a look at the dock camera and see what kind of city we're dealing with here...
Anyway, once we've got our kimonos all set, we head out to join our float in the parade.
So, we jump and chant for almost two hours. I lost count of how many blocks we made, but it was plenty... and plenty hot too. Even though the sun had set hours ago, it was still humid as hell, and the heat radiating from the concrete made our kimonos a tied up sweaty mess. Thankfully, we had all been given fans, and boy was I glad to have one.
The parade was still going strong when the Asuka II group was pulled out and corralled at a Japanese restaurant. I know, redundant to say, but this was the kind of Japanese restaurant where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor... yeah, that kind of Japanese restaurant.
So, that was one summer festival that I attended, but what about the port with all the piles of wood and rocks? Yep, we were there for a festival as well, but were not called upon until the second night. This time we wore officially branded Asuka II kimonos, which we were able to put on by ourselves. Then, we hopped onto a bus and rode into the neighboring town of Awaodori for the parade competition. That's right, this time our jumping and hollering is to be adjudicated by a panel of experts. Also, instead of jumping and hollering for hundreds of city blocks, the parade areas were clearly defined, and maybe two hundred yards each. The other difference was that this time the chant was more of a call response game, where “yato-sah yato-sah” was both the call, and the response. At the moment, I still have no idea what that means. Finally, there was no jumping involved, but a certain walk that everyone does, where you move forward with the same arm and leg.
So, we arrive at our first parade area, queue up, and do the thing... then we corral and walk to a second staging area. Do it one more time, then off to the hotel to get fed... this time sitting in chairs with our shoes on. For a look at our award winning choreography, check the video below.
Fireworks once again closed the night out... and let me take a moment to address the fireworks. In a nutshell: America's are better. Shocker, I know, but let me explain why. I had a schedule of the day's events, and it said that the fireworks will go from nine until ten at night. At nine on the nose, the fireworks start... for two minutes. Then a few minutes go by with nothing... then two or three minutes with fireworks... then a break... then fireworks... then a break. This goes on for exactly one hour, and at the end the last fireworks are shot off as ceremoniously as the first (read: NO GRAND FINALE) and at ten o'clock on the button the fireworks are concluded. The exact same thing has happened three times, and once the fireworks show went on for two hours, stopping and starting over and over. Of course, the fireworks were big and loud, but never did they light a fuse on a thousand at once, setting the sky on fire... nope. Oh, and sparklers? Hello??? Where's my damn sparkler?
So yeah, the summer festival season in Japan is somethin' else... but did anything else happen since the last time we spoke? Let's see...
Realized that no matter how expensive the ticket, or how many stars the cruise line claims to have, a cruise ship is never, ever, above Bingo.