make a night of it
weill in japan: day 25
The third week of classes is over. Rather than do my pointless busy-work
homework, I relaxed for a bit today. Relaxation isn't all about standing
The day started with lots of sleep, waking up late, doing some laundry,
and other stuff I didn't take care of during the week. A friend of mine was
working on Saturday correcting English papers, but he gave me a call after he
finished up. At about 4:00 PM, we headed out towards the historic Asakusa
area for the first of hopefully a few festivals.
The matsuri (festival) season in Japan has just started, and I hope
to take full advantage of it. The Sumida River Festival in Asakusa attracts
positively enormous crowds. We arrived two hours before sunset, and
there were already tens of thousands of visitors who had placed sheets down
on the ground to mark their places. The trip to get to Asakusa was enough of
a warning: after taking the rail to Asakusabashi station, we had to transfer
to the subway. As the hordes of people -- including hundreds of women in
traditional yukata summer kimonos -- made their way towards the subway,
we were glad to see that additional ticket agents were available to handle the
overflow traffic. The subway ride to get to Asakusa station was easily the
most crowded train I've ever been on, with conductors pushing people into the
train to make sure we all could get there.
Despite all the logistical struggles, the festival was great. The fireworks
were second to none: 20,000 blooms launched from two spots along the Sumida
River produced stunning effects. I took a ton of pictures, and a few of them
actually came out well. Vendors along the streets sell beer, yakisoba, beer,
takoyaki (roasted octopus), beer, okonomiyaki (called "Japanese pizza" by
many), and all sorts of other refreshments. The prices are terrible: a small
container of yakisoba and a can of beer cost me ¥1000 (about $8.60) while
at any other place they would cost maybe half as much. Still, especially for
street-vendor food, the quality was very good.
Police were clearly in force at the festivals, primarily to keep crowds
moving and to maintain roadblocks. They also lead people in huge groups over
bridges, providing stunning unobstructed views of the fireworks display.
Last year, crowds caused injuries from trampling and even a bridge collapse
near Kobe, so police are taking no chances this time around.
Two more Saturday festivals will take place before I head back home, so I'll
need to check them out with some friends. Lessons learned: don't buy beer
from street vendors, bring a sheet, and arrive as early as possible.
It's frightening to think that just three weeks from today, I'll be
returning home. There's so much more to see, but at the same time I have
things like our Thursday midterm to worry about. I also need to give my
stupid survey to my host family, imposing the will of my professors on these
nice people. If I'm lucky, I'll get three out of the four family members to
Classes won't get me down. It's fun time.