Is there fire yet?
Nope! But there are pre-fire activities!
Anyway, at this point Toby and I split up. There’s a ropeway–cable cars, basically–strung through the mountains on the island, and while I sort of wanted to see it, because you get some awesome views of the Seto Inland Sea, there were too many steps and too much uphill walking for my arthritic feet and knees to handle, so Toby did that and I walked around town. We figured it would give us something to talk about,later, which is always a problem when you’re traveling in each other,s company 24/7 and end up staring at each other in silence at dinner because you both saw and experienced the same things and thus have nothing new to discuss.
Anyway. This post is about what I saw.
Turns out there’s part of the ceremony that none of the websites talks about. During the day, the crews of men who’ve spent some months beforehand building giant torches to burn haul the things onto their shoulders and jog about town. The shopkeepers run out of their shops with little packets–I assume full of money–and give the packets to one crew member who jog slightly ahead of the torch, holding a bag for of similar packets.
The thing is.every time someone gives them a packet, the crew has to stop, haul the torch upright, collect the packet, all bow and chorus “Thank you!” and then carefully lower the thing back down on their shoulders and set off at a jog again. I think the shopkeepers were taking a perverse pleasure in making them stop as often as possible, because sometimes they only made it a few feet before the next packets was pressed on them.
As they jogged, a pacekeeper in front blew a whistle twice in succession, then the men would chorus “Yoi! Yoi!” Near the end of the afternoon they were seriously flagging and less enthusiastic than earlier.
The first couple of pictures are colored a bit oddly because I accidentally set a filter on the iphone’s camera, but it actually seems to work.
Here’s a picture of the sea looking out to the mainland.
And here is a deer trying to figure out if I’m going to feed him or not.
There’s a Hello Kitty for everything in Japan, and this is the one for the big torii gate.
Here’s a set of stairs that I was so not going up.
Toby and I had arranged to meet next to a map of the island. I got there first, and soon noticed that I wasn’t alone. To set the scene you should know that for the first few days of the New Year street food sellers set up stalls around the area in order to feed the hungry crowds that descend upon this sacred site, and while some of them had already set up by the time we got there, others were waiting. One of them had his booth materials stacked behind the sign, with a tarp thrown over pile.
I was not the only one who noticed them.
Hmmmm. What’s that deer doing?
Oh ho ho! There’s a bag of sugared pineapple in that box! I had an umbrella, and banged on the leg of the sign a bit to try to startle the deer, away, but it was useless. Telling the deer not to do it was useless also, perhaps because it only spoke Japanese.
It worked diligently at opening that bag for a while, and eventually got through, but then the damn thing only ate two pineapples and left the bag lying there! It then left, I guess to go find a paper map somewhere for dessert.