Fireworks

Summer Festivals in Toyama-Ken

When I think of summer in Japan I think of two things: heat and festivals. I’m a much bigger fan of the latter but at least I’ve now adjusted a little to the humidity. And frankly, now that it’s started getting cold again I feel myself missing the heat. And I already feel nostalgic for festivals even though I have another season in store for me next year. Festivals vary in their purpose and meaning but there are a few essentials found at almost all of them: beer, food stands, and games. If it’s special it’ll have some sort of fireworks, dancing, or floats being pushed and pulled around. Families come and hang out, fanning themselves with the plastic advertisement fans handed out by companies and kids run around with shaved ice. There’s a sense of occasion but everyone is pretty casual at the same time. I went to a lot of festivals this year but that only comprises a small fraction of the dozens that take place in Toyama.

TOYAMA FIREWORKS

On August 1st every year, people come to a river in Toyama to watch a big fireworks show. We had to wait in line for shuttle from the station to the river, and the whole area was super crowded, especially in the surrounding streets. After the fireworks we did Purikura and I ran into tons of students.

TAKAOKA TANABATA

Tanabata festivals are held all over, but this was my first time being to the one in Takaoka. There wasn’t anything too unique about it, but it was pretty big and I ate some good food.

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UOZU TANABATA

Honestly I’m still confused about what exactly this festival is, and there seemed to be only about one hundred people there. Some people carry a float around the streets of Uozu and are followed by these costumed demons and a crowd. These demons chase kids around to scare them but it’s considered lucky if you shake their hand. I shook one of their hands and he reached over and stroked my head after. I hope that’s good luck.

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UOZU TATEMON

My last blog post was about this. This is my favourite festival that I’ve ever been to and so much fun. We got to wear happi and help pull the floats. This year was extra special because we organized for more ALTs from different cities to come and join. In total we had about 20 foreigners pulling together and at the end of the night got interviewed by the local news station. It was really nice to have everyone come to our city and I felt such municipal pride being able to host everyone in such good spirits.

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UOZU CHUOROKU

This took place the Sunday after Tatemon and it was a nice way to relax. There was a big parade of dancers down the centre street in Uozu. There were different groups of dancers – some actual organized dance teams but most were local businesses or organizations that joined together. It went on for at least two hours and I saw a few people I knew dancing! I also got to see my school’s brass band play.

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KAMIICHI OBON

This was the first festival I ever went to in Japan! We watched the dance performance and then went to watch the fireworks and fires down by the river.

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KAZE NO BON

Kaze no bon is Toyama’s biggest festival and a huge tourist attraction. The images of its dancers are everywhere and have become a symbol of Toyama.

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Japan in Twelve Photos: A year in review

Twelve months have gone by faster than I thought could be possible (time flies, and all that). Looking back at all the pictures I’ve accumulated brings me back to so many great memories and experiences I know could only be possible in Japan.  I’ve pulled some of my favourites in a sort of visual memory of the past year.


August: Obon, Kamiichi

I left from Toronto arrived in Tokyo // sweat alot // drank 2L bottles of water sitting on my tatami floor. Obon happened and the office was empty. I went to a  festival in Kamiichi Town, went to a beach party and (sortof) climbed Tateyama.

 

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September: Osu Kannon, Nagoya

I started to figure everything out a bit more. I started teaching and meeting students. I took my first trip, going to Nagoya. I have this very distinct memory of being half awake and watching the Japanese Alps from the bus window as we drove through. I spent a lot time after school helping students prepare for a speech competition.

 

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October: Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

While my family was eating Thanksgiving dinner I was in Kyoto for the first time, eating burnt Ramen and visiting a cat cafe. I went to a Halloween party and to the speech competition. I learned that Kit-Kats are given for good luck.


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November: Kurobe Gorge 

The seasons changed later than I expected. I went up to the Kurobe Gorge in a rainy, cold, and fantastic train ride up the mountain. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan.

 

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December: Maki-Chan in Japan

In December my sister visited Japan. We went to as many places as we could from an English camp in Toyama to Nagoya, Tokyo, all over Kansai (Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), and finally Maibara. It was strange to suddenly have a piece of home in Japan. I went about 4 weeks without classes and missed it a lot.

 

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January: Hakuba, Nagano

I shivered at work and shivered in my apartment.  I went to Nagano to go snowboarding and loved every minute of the breathtaking mountains.

 

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February: Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

It was cold. The third years finished classes. I went to Kanazawa21 and and saw an amazingly cool exhibition and ate lots of ramen to keep warm.

 

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March: Dohtonbori Osaka

The school year ended, and it was really sad. My first fully-fledged trip to Osaka was incredibly fun, I ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. Omiyage was weirdly difficult to find. I saw sumo. I lost a contact lens. It was great.

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April: Sakura at Matsukawa River

Cherry Blossoms lived up to their hype and more. Outside my school, around the river, in Osaka, and in backyards, these trees were so soft and pretty I felt like I was in a dreamland.

 

May: YG Concert in Tokyo 

Golden week was four days of pure awesomeness, the most “Tokyo” experience I’ve had, by going to a concert, the robot restaurant, and getting swept up in the energy of the city.

 

June: Uozu Port 

It became summer, like fully summer with high humidity and blue skies. I spent a lot of time getting sunburned and riding my bike around. I don’t mind the cold winter, but summer is the best for exploring  the city and feeling re-energized.
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July: Tatemon Festival 

TECHNICALLY this photo is from August but I’m using for July for the sake of relevance. I participated in the Tatemon festival, which was an absolute blast. High energy, lots of people, and a really wonderful culmination to the long season of festivals and fireworks of the summer and to the year in Japan.

Land of the blazing sun: Summer in Japan

How have I not made more puns like this?

My brain must have melted in the heat of summer.

It’s hot here. A heat I’ve never experienced before. The temperature itself isn’t so bad, averaging about 35, but the HUMIDITY wraps you in in its arms and hugs you until you feel like you’ll never breathe fresh air again. I’m being dramatic, but I’ve never seen so many sweated-through shirts than here. And yet, I still see men in full suits. Women with pants and long sleeves.

I went to a baseball game and and spent three hours in the open sun and subsequently spent the following week with a burn and potentially a minor case of heat stroke. Now I have a farmer’s tan that I’m weirdly proud of.

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Troopers, these Brass Band members and Baseball players. I don’t know how no one fainted.

The staff room at work is not so bad. The air conditioning is usually on and there’s always several fans going. It’s a good thing classes have now ended, because the full wall of windows and close proximity of forty students turn the classrooms into incubators. Students arms stick to their worksheets and they roll up the legs of their uniforms. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for them to concentrate all day.

But still, all of these heat and humidity brings out so much life around us. The rice fields are so green and lush looking!

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I went to an English camp and spent two days with some of the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever met! They were so eager to participate and I had a lot of fun. My little workshop was about Art, so we talked about different types periods of Art History. Students could pick their favourite painting from a set of images and write a story or their opinion.

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Interestingly enough, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (the one in the middle) was the most popular one chosen!

The summer means it’s almost time for the new teachers to arrive! It’s been a few weeks of goodbye events and dinners. It’s sad to say goodbye, particularly because many of the friends I’ve made here are from many different countries making the chances of reunions a little less likely. We’ve spent some time in arcades, taking classic Purikura  photos.IMG_8226

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My new little friend.

One of the best parts of summer is all the festivals! It seems like every weekend there are one or more festivals around the prefecture. They’re always fun, tons of food, entertainment, and families! Last weekend I went to the festival in Namerikawa that had a great fireworks show at the end!

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Festival ice!

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Fire dancers!

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Some creative firework shapes: upside down heart!