Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Minato Matsuri

Yesterday I, and 300-something-thousand other people went to the 64th annual Minato Matsuri (Minato is the ward, matsuri means festival) at Nagoya Port. We have festivals in America, but nothing of his caliber. There were stalls and parades and fireworks that I didn't think I would ever see. But then I came to Japan, where you can see many things you never thought would exist.


Chocolate bananas of all colors (I think the colors were more candy, not chocolate)

And make whatever jokes you like, but those bananas were delicious.

Pokemon lollipops
Third grade me would have died of excitement had I know these existed. Even almost-twelfth grade me had a small freak out when I saw them. Pure sugar and cute, fantastical creatures; can it get better?

This was probably the weirdest stand I saw, and there were quite a few of them, too.

I couldn't figure out quite how these stalls worked. I knew that you paid money and got a net, and for the first few stalls I was worried that somewhere along the way the fish got eaten. But no luck; the fish didn't get off that easily. Instead, they were lugged around in crowded, plastic bags by small children for several hours. Death may have less cruel.

My host parents and I, chocolate banana in hand, found a place to sit and watch the parade go by. Once again, this was not what I expected. I expected one or two floats and a few people in yukata. I did not expect yukata-clad men and women as far as I could see or taiko on every float.
With the floats came a rainbow of yukata, with everyone from seven-year-olds to seventy-year-olds joining in.

And then there was this guy.

The floats were all fairly similar, but they were also all very entertaining.

There was usually one or more shamisen players, and always a group of taiko drummers on top of, inside of, or behind the float, and they were usually very enthusiastic drummers.

It was also nice to finally see a girl pounding away at her own taiko drum in the sea of male taiko drummers.

Everyone was very enthusiastic in general.

But then there was this float:
I don't think that people were allowed to have fun if they were affiliated with this float.

Just to make sure that no one had fun, there were police everywhere.
They were also police in disguise. Many of the men in yukata had the big orange sticks and the whistles that the police had. They were very intimidating, especially when thy traveled in groups, which they did most of the time.

At the end of all of the parading and drumming and eating sugar until my teeth almost fell out, it was time for fireworks. With over 300,000 people things were a little bit crowded, but my host parents and I managed to squeeze our way in to a pretty decent viewing spot.

I had heard from many of the kids in my class and from my host parents that Japanese fireworks were better than other fireworks. I was slightly skeptical of the fireworks at first though, because the Japanese often act as though their way is better than everyone else's way even if it isn't, and that outside of their roughly 146,000 square-mile country nothing else exists. My host father has asked me if we have the following things in America: peanuts, shaved ice/snow cones, cucumbers, fireworks, and many other things that are not very uncommon. But anyways, back on topic.
The first few minutes of fireworks were nothing special. When the heart-shaped and star-shaped fireworks came out, I started to pay little more attention. Then came smiley faces, and some of the largest and loudest fireworks I have ever heard. The loudest fireworks resonated around the port so much that I felt it in my eyeballs, and according to the announcer the largest fireworks were 20 meters across. That's equivalent to approximately 66 feet, or a seven-story building, give or take a story. That's really big.

I tried to upload a video, but after leaving my computer to upload the video while I slept and waking up to absolutely no progress, there will be no video. Sorry.

Getting out of Nagoya Port was practically impossible, but once we finally did it after losing my host father once or twice (and my host parents were worried about ME getting lost) all I could think about was sleep.

Also, a quick word on shaved ice: If you add to much sugary syrup, it will make you want to vomit. So if you are ever at a Japanese festival and buy shaved ice from a stall where you can dispense your own syrup, use the syrup sparingly.


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