August 18, 2007

Fireworks Festivals

On Thursday some friends from work and I went to the Jinguu Fireworks Festival. This is a large fireworks festival that takes place in the middle of Tokyo, near Yoyogi Park and Jinguu Temple. They put up about 10,000 fireworks. The four of us left work and walked over from a nearby train stop, parking ourselves in a big parking lot with a few thousand other people.

Of course, like all festivals in Japan, or in fact, just any old time in Japan, we've got to have beer. There are no problems with public drinking in Japan; vending machines that sell beer are common. I was once surprised when on the subway, at about six o'clock, a salary man returning home from work popped open a beer while on the subway. We also picked up some snacks on the walk to the park at some of the stands set up conveniently to sell this kind of thing.

I enjoy fireworks, but there is definitely a different aesthetic when it comes to Japanese and American fireworks festivals. It isn't exactly true to say that Americans like things big, fast, and furious while the Japanese prefer to take things more slowly, sending up the fireworks one at a time for individual appreciation, but it isn't too far from that either. I also think that Japanese fireworks shows go on for a long time, usually about an hour long. I have a hard time sitting on the ground for that long, but that's just me perhaps.

After the fireworks, we stopped by a Yakitori place and had a great dinner. (None of this is helping me lose weight at all.)


Two days later, on Saturday night I planned to go to the Setagaya Fireworks Festival. To tell the truth, I wasn't looking forward to another fireworks festival, especially because this time I would be going alone. There were two main reasons that prompted me to go: first, I had just purchased a Jinbei, (甚平) a kind of traditional Japanese casual outfit, and I don't think I'll have many chances to wear it. Sure, that's a minor reason, but it is a reason. The major reason is that I live in Setagaya, and pay resident taxes in Setagaya, and they are expensive. Really expensive. So if my county is putting on a show, fireworks or otherwise, I'm totally going to go and see my tax dollars at work. So I went!

This fireworks show is only about seven minutes away from where I live by train, or about a forty minute walk at a slow pace. I take the train up to Futagotamagawa, which I consider a fairly small, uncrowded station. It was jam packed. One of the great things about festivals and fireworks shows is that you see lots of people wearing traditional Yukata and so on. That is always fun.

On the walk down to the river there were lots of little stands set up selling foods and stuff. I picked up some meats on a stick -- Japanese people love all sorts of foods on sticks, I'll write about that sometime -- and bought way too much. This one place was selling pork, chicken, and beef on a stick, with either salt or sauce flavoring. I bought one of each, and in the end only was able to eat three of them. Man, my eyes were too big for my stomach then.

I walked about a third of the way home from the starting point, sat down, and watched the fireworks. I must admit that they did a good job. They had some funny smiley-face fireworks and also a few cute cat ones. The cat ones were pretty hard to make out, but they had a hint of whiskers, and little pink triangle ears, so if the angle was right on the explosion they looked like cats.

After the fireworks ended, I decided to walk the rest of the way home, and got to Baskin Robbins in time for an ice cream - the first in about a month. I've got to be careful, this could become habit-forming.



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