もみじ祭:竹明かりとパーティー – Autumn Leaves Festival: Bamboo Lights & Party

The mountains this time of year are ablaze with red, orange, and yellow leaves as the cooler fall weather sets in.  It makes the daily commute to work exceptionally beautiful.  Every year, my little town as a quaint festival to accompany the changing leaves and this time around I figured that I would invite a few people over to enjoy it.

On a Saturday evening, the festival kicked off in the southernmost area of Kaminishi at some remote park I had never heard of.  As we were waiting for all of my guests to arrive at my place, we noticed that it was set to finish in 15 minutes.  We tore up the mountain but were fortunate that it kept going for another hour or so.  At this park near the Oku no Yu onsesn, over 700 bamboo lanterns had been arranged and illuminated all over a river be.  They had a nice glow in the otherwise blackness of the forest.

Photo Credit: Mary Thanh Vo

There weren’t all that many people there, but I did see a couple of the nearby Kaminishi Elementary School’s students and one of my former teachers that had left the year before.  In addition to the flickering lights, the ambiance was enhanced by a rather talented wind quartet.  They certainly brought a touch of class to the event.  With all of my friends present, we matched the Japanese attendees in number and likely made the town as international as it had ever been.

Some of the Japanese people there were really chatty and friendly and even doled out a few free beers and coffees to us.  Huddled around a few fire pits, we listened to the music and chatted with our new friends for the better part of the hour.  Once the quartet finished their set, some of the folks we were talking to got out their bass & electric guitars and rocked out for a bit.  A number of us sang along with them to one number, and then the event was over.  The whole thing was as good as we could have hoped for and certainly better than any of us expected.  From here, we returned back to mine and then got the party started.  uHN tiSS.

Some of the lanterns were arranged into images and words.

Photo Credit: Mary Thanh Vo

There was no real game plan for the night, but all of the standard fare took place.  While Akane and I fed curry to the destitute, another crew spent an incredible amount of time doing guitar-backed karaoke, and then there were others battling with consciousness.  Of course, everyone was also enjoying a few drinks and their snacks.  In the entertainment category, we all started playing twister in the front room.  Despite being a bit cramped, we made it work.

Battle

Finally, at sometime around 5am we all made a trek outside to partake in the tradition of swimming in the river out back.  The temperature of the water felt something close to ice, but we were determined.  Stripped down to our skivvies, we navigated the slippery rocks to where we could fully submerse ourselves.  We had to gather the gumption for it, but once we had all gone under we scurried back to the house to enjoy a nice hot shower.  This too was a bit interesting, since we had about 5 bodies jammed into it.

Finally, we more of less carpeted my entire apartment with futons so people could sleep.  It was a great night and in some ways a throwback to some of my first events hosted out in here Shionoe.  I’m sure we will get another yet one on the books for the Firefly Festival in the spring.

Ryan and company rocking out.

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