Saturday, December 06, 2003


Where to begin, so many high points, but since that's where I left off I'll start with the train pulling in, adding to the mobs already thronging the small town of Chichibu on the second day of the festival, which would climax several hours later that evening, so we wandered the old narrow streets as the day darkened. The stands were already filling around the big circle ringed with tall flags topped with sakaki branches, where all the floats would wind up after coursing and 'bowing' through the neighborhoods well into the night.

The town was like a honeycomb already all lit up, folks coming in from everywhere, with song-and-dance acts at the station; halls and streets in front of stores (like this old-time geta store with the tall black-lacquered high-class geisha geta in the window) and houses full of food stalls (everything from squid to crepes to chocolate bananas and candy apples), game stalls (everything from shoot it to ring it to guess it), novelty stalls (got me an Atom Boy button), sweet stalls (whose star attraction among the taiyaki and the hot-sugar craftsmen was definitely the Korean troupe who were making "Dragonhair" sweets with white sugar 'dragonhair,' and something tasty-looking like treacle spun into the middle, their own hair dragonhair white from the sugar dust and in all their blur they couldn't make the sweets fast enough to sell hand over fist the way the growing crowds wanted). We wandered on.

At first we tried to figure out where might be best to stand to view the floats when they started rolling from in front of the shrine full of screaming children, but there were so many good places maybe it would be best choose one and stay there before it got too crowded, we tried that a few times but started to get pinned in place and couldn't stand not seeing all the great stuff that was going on everywhere else-- there was only one night to take it all in, and at times like that you have to make your move-- so we wound up seeing the whole thing from everywhere, there are lots of cheering and drum-flute-song noisy floats wandering the streets and country folks are great folks to watch festivals with...


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