It’s finally happened! I’ve finally gone and blown my allotted monthly bandwidth out of the water. So (sorry to be a nuisance) I’d like to quickly ask everyone once again that whenever you come to check for updates, please take a second and also check out my Google ads (to the left or at the bottom of the page). It really helps me pay for the (now more costly) hosting, and so far this month out of the 8,000 people who’ve stopped by only eleven have actually clicked an ad. Click, clickity click-click!
So, as I mentioned in my last post there are pretty much two kinds of festivals in Japan: the beauty kind and the rowdy kind. Saturday afternoon’s Jidai Matsuri was without a doubt the beauty kind. Saturday evening’s Kurama Fire Festival was the rowdy kind. Just try to imagine a tiny mountain town with only one thin road dividing its two rows of traditional wooden houses. Now imagine that same town filled with the population of mainland China as well as a large number of torches weighing well over 100kgs each. Welcome to the Kurama Himatsuri.
Luckily, because I chose to ride my bike up the mountain rather than taking a train I arrived with plenty of time to not only secure a decent viewing position, but to enjoy a nice bowl of hot noodles as well. And while searching for a good spot I was lucky to run into a bunch of friends from Ritsumeikan. So I joined up with Hidy, Yanti, Sonya, and Nancy, and we positioned ourselves in front of small family bonfire to wait for the real show to begin.
The festival itself started rather slowly, first with a number of people walking through the street each carrying a single torch. Soon the big boys were hauled in, far too large for a one man but manageable for two or three. We still weren’t sure if the festival had actually started or if they were only prepping. Then came the real monsters: three-story tall torches requiring teams of men, all dressed in butt-revealing loincloths that would soon become singed by falling ashes and soaked by the water that was continuously being splashed over the torches (and often, the crowds) to keep the fires under control.
Somehow the main event had started without anyone even noticing. But a quick reality check could instantly show that without a doubt we were in fact witnessing yet another Japanese festival. Perhaps the flowing crowds of people that kept me moving at the same pace in the same direction regardless of what I wanted to do was big enough a hint. So much for securing that vantage point!
Unfortunately even the slight elevation difference between Kyoto and Kurama led to a surprising difference in temperature, and as such it became increasingly difficult to bear the cold as the night wore on. But then again, we weren’t completely cold, per se. Our faces were burning from the flame and our eyes from the smoke. I guess it doesn’t sound like all that fun of a situation, but you’ll just have to take my word for it: it really was. One word of advice for next year’s viewers, though, is don’t underestimate the temperature difference. Even if you’re sweating in Kyoto bring a winter coat 🙂
To avoid getting stuck in too long a line for the train home my friends decided to head back at around 9:00, so I hung out a bit more on my own playing with some of the night settings on my new camera until what I determined to be the grand finale had passed. My conclusion was based on the number of flaming cinders that were airborne at any one time from the shaking of the torches. It was quite a few.
Then I headed back. The ride down the mountain was absolutely freezing, although to be honest I still really enjoyed it. This was now my second time riding up to Kurama, but even taking a slightly different route back it felt like I was exploring a totally new area. Stopping for a hot steamed bun to warm my hands, I made it home by around 10:00, early enough to camp out on the roof of my building and write up the previous post about the Jidai Matsuri (rather than study for Monday’s midterm).