5 November 2007

Three Festivals

I haven't written in here for quite some time, and I suppose I should check in. I've been out and about quite a bit lately. Work has been a bit busier, and quite a bit more challenging as I've started carving out my niche in a country that is famous for denying foreigners niches. At first, I was too busy just figuring out how to teach, and after that wore out, I began to feel like a stray dog that no one knows that to do with, but instead, they just tolerate out of vague sympathy. My current method for breaking past this and gaining the acceptance and love that I so sorely deserve from staff and student alike is to just make myself visible, interested and active. It might be dancing in front of 500 high school students (check), it might be lugging a locker up a flight of stairs to a teacher's room (check), and it more often involves just talking to people and trying to communicate that I'm interested in what I'm doing and want to do as good a job as I can do.

Well, that sounds lame. Let's move on, shall we?

'Tis the season here in the Ken of Saga, and in the last two weeks I have witnessed three distinct festivals, or matsuri: the Yoshinogari Fire Festival (吉野ヶ里ふるさと炎祭り), Karatsu Kunchi (唐津くんち) and the Saga International Balloon Fiesta (佐賀国際熱気球祭り). And somehow I managed to miss anything remotely interesting... mostly just festival food. BUT, I had a hell of a time with some great company, so I thought I'd share some photographs.

Let's start with Yoshinogari.

I love the grass at the bottom of the shot.

Absolutely heavenly sky with those yayoi-period huts and the mountains in the background, without the usual haze.

A good illustration of why Kyushu, Japan is a nice place to live.

In case you can't see that properly, there's a guy riding a huge drum the size of a bull in the background.

Next was more recently: the mighty Karatsu Kunchi. Kind of rhymes with "crunchy". I missed the parade itself and we definitely did not get invited to any impromptu drinking parties in people's houses, which I was expecting, but we mostly just walked around acres of food stands near this one central shrine. It was pretty cool taking in the atmosphere, and I did really enjoy spending time with Lee-ann, Andy and ]Tiffany, who I had not met up to that point.

The tori'i in front of the barely-visible shrine. Pretty impressive crowds. A lot of punked out Japanese kids.

In case anyone's every wondered what it's like to see the world through the eyes of a 6"6' gaijin, here's a photographic simulation.

Tiffany and Lee-ann in front of the aforementioned tori'i.

A gang hit.

By the way, hip-hop fashion in Japan is my new favourite. I can go and buy a fairly conservative-looking hoodie in a Japanese shop that would be HUGE and atrociously baggy on your average 170 centimetre Japanese guy, and on me it's just right. Even fits in the sleeves!

Okay, last, and unfortunately least is the Balloon Fiesta, or Balloon Siesta, for those of us not willing to get up at 6:00 or beat the crowds at sunset to catch a glimpse. This, of course, is bitterness, since Charlene's pictures of the morning festivities are absolutely beautiful. But, I'll post what I've got and hope for the best.

That dot is a helicopter. The only thing airborne, since -- due to winds, I am told -- balloons took off an hour before scheduled.

Crowds and blue sky.

Concession tents.

Feel like yakitori, ice cream, or the mysterious French American dogs (フレンチ・アメリカン・ドック)? Otherwise known as FREEDOM American dogs. You can get it here.

This one's taken from the train to work a few days before.

But, because Misato asked for a shot of the balloon festival, I thought I'd try to create a virtual reality experience using my keitai, so you can feel what it's like to really be there.


stereoheads said...

Ballon Siesta... that one actually had me in stitches when you said it. The 'truthiness' is what made it slightly sad.

We should have eaten a FREEDOM American Dog. I'm still regretting it. Nevertheless, it was awesome to see you again! Hopefully my next visit we can do something a little more exciting. Damn those balloonists to hell.

Michael said...

Hey! Maybe check out a concert or go hiking or something? Come by any time!