Tag Archives: fireworks

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

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Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

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…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

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Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

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Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

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Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

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On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

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And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

Lots to Do

In case you’ve lost track, the weekend has an impressive lineup of events including:

  • The first of three live music Saturday beergardens tomorrow evening at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura
  • A “machikon” beergarden atop a two-storey public parking lot in Tajimi to view the fireworks there on Sunday
  • A similar konkatsu (mixer) type affair at Secret Time Cafe on Saturday, where if you bring a date, there’ll be a special chance to enjoy Toki’s fireworks festival (not sure if it’s in their parking lot, but that would definitely be a nice spot); by reservation only. They’re still looking for takers last I heard
  • Something called Kokeizan Dining on Sunday, which sounds like a beergarden from one of Tajimi’s most scenic spots (advance purchase tickets required)
  • Neu Cafe, while itself closed after lunch Sunday, will be offering outside the shop draft beer, Okinawan food, curry, tandoori chicken sandwiches and more in the buildup to the fireworks
  • And of course Toki’s (Saturday) and Tajimi’s (Sunday) fireworks festivals with stalls set up all along the river (and Chuo Dori in Toki; Nagase Dori in Tajimi) all afternoon and evening; Tajimi’s festival is part of its Gozasse Natsu Matsuri

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These are just goings on I happen to be aware of. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.

A Twinkling, Screaming, Popping, Sparkling, Booming High Point of Summer

No, if you read the title expecting more, this unfortunately wasn’t last night’s date; It was Toki’s fireworks festival, also marking the end of the bon dances in front of Toki Station.

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Above, a mother-and-child (I think) dance performance entertains early-arriving onlookers.

The sign below seems to say it’s omelette yakisoba. Anyway, it was one big, pernicious, plopping pile of noodle that oozed and begged for a shutter-clicking. Other usual-suspect temptations offered on Yatai Way ranged from frozen cucumbers on a skewer to takoyaki, yakitori, and candied apples, crêpes, and chocolate-covered bananas.

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I’d think these vendors mostly manage to keep a slim physique by not eating their own confections hustling for your yen under heat-trapping awnings, setting up scaffolding from one town to the next with the greatest of efficiency.

People started grabbing viewing spots along the Toki River before sunset. In the background below is Ceratopia.

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It struck me, though I may be forcing the issue like a college sophomore eager to please a professor and his/her grand, sweeping assertions (or like a professor carried away with a fanciful sense of elegance), that fireworks (especially when you try to capture them in a photo) are another example of the especially Japanese-appreciated evanescence of life, embodied in a group-beheld spectacle, like the fluttering landward paratrooping of sakura petals, or, more privately experienced, but still by all, the brief burst of a locust’s life and its inevitable ignominious but unapologetic darting death.

Flowery language, I admit. But this is flower-fire, by way of translation. And I am a certified, frustrated, never-was (but never-fired!) professor of sociolinguistic anthropologicalistic expialidocious poppycock. Class (which was never really an issue anyway) dismissed.

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As a bonus, I even sniffed the faint scent of smoke drifting my way as I snapped pictures of the crackle and pop. Another quintessential fleeting floating world sensation…

Here’s Salt in Your Ear

A little reminder of home (yes, Virginia, Upstate/Western New York is covered surprisingly largely in cornfields), compliments of growers in Aichi.

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A little crazy on the salt, though this amount was intended for the whole circumference of the cob.

It brought back memories of dollar-a-(half-?)dozen, honor-system roadside stands, and shucking duties, husks deposited in brown paper grocery bags, on lazy summer nights of childhood and adolescence.

Don’t forget Toki’s fireworks are tonight. It seems like they start at 7:20 or 7:40, or maybe it’s the 8 o’clock hour.

High Times

A day in pictures at Tajimi’s biggest festival of the year.

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Making my steamy way from Tajimi Station toward the city library, I passed a long line of people, above, waiting to get into some kind of event in what’s normally the Toushin Bank parking lot. Unagappa peeked his head out, looking a bit overwhelmed thanks to a freak of juxtaposition and angle. I was reading that women prefer to be photographed from the left, and men from the right. I think Unagappa’s kappa cap looks better at a jaunty angle from his right.

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Lots of people brought out the yukata and jinbei to enjoy and be part of the festivities. There was no shortage of volunteers around to pass out fans. It was absolutely sweltering.

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Above, people started staking claims and camping out early on the north bank of the Toki River. Below, stalls on the south bank seen through a decorative kikuchi flower emblem on the railing of Showabashi bridge.

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Below, afternoon revelers cruise the stands on the south bank.

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A cotton candy engineer whips up a pleasing pink cloud on a stick, sheilded from too much sun by a sudare straw screen.

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Gradually more and more folks began to throng and swell the little river road as the sun set opaque light red…

…and then the fireworks began, as they say.

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Over the years here, I’ve gotten more used to fireworks, and learned more about them little by little. For instance, as long as you’re looking right at them, the noise isn’t so much of a problem (generous quantities of beer or spirits don’t hurt, either). I decided I like the more fine, detailed type than bigger, brighter light.

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As my workplace is an ideal viewing location, I’ve always just been stationed there with food and drink for the whole show, but this year I also walked a bit through the crowds on a path kindly cleared and maintained by police, getting a new perspective, and a welcome bit of self-generated breeze. There was enough actual wind aloft, blowing thoughtfully northward, to clear out the blackness and keep it from becoming one big cloudy mess. Viewers in the path of the detritus may have a different story to report.

As long as you kept moving, you weren’t actually blocking any one person’s view. Not sure how that works out ethically for individuals. A new twist on 赤信号皆で渡れば怖くない, perhaps.

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This year there was a coded message that the only intermittently audible announcements invited us to figure out. Also attempts at musical choreography, which some said they could do without.

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One last scene, reminding me of a nebula in starry space. The dark area corresponding to interstellar dust is the silhouette of a well-manicured pine.

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Thursday Night Fireball

The atmosphere along the Toki River in Tajimi grows undeniably festive…

…folks start to grab front row seats…

…mosquitoes start to grab folks’ arms…

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The rain has held off and Tajimi’s rescheduled fireworks are underway by the light of a crescent moon and (for us here) the antique lamp at Reverie et Restaurant, ably accompanied by local percussionists on the deck.

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Yukata-clad strollers and kids of all ages are enjoying the lightshow.  All in all, well worth the rain delay from Sunday.

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