塩江蛍祭りとキャンピング – Shionoe Firefly Festival & Camping

Every year my town hosts the Firefly Festival and people flock in from the city to enjoy it.  It takes place alongside picturesque Koto River, right beside the onsen village.  A lot of people playing, fish, and swim, and the orange light cast from the food stalls in the waning hours makes for a perfect Japanese summer scene.  The festivities have got a real small town feel and the whole thing offers me a great opportunity to interact with my local community and most of students.  I am off the clock for this event, but I was throwing out high fives and such with little kids throughout the entirety.

The evening view, one of my Shionoe summer favorites

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The main entrance, home to the games food stalls where I was working

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This year, on account of scheduling conflicts I was unable to do the drumming I did the last two years, but I was instead able to work at a food stall.  The people at the gas station were in charge of it and asked me to help out.  I was definitely pleased to yell out at passersby and entice them to buy chicken on a stick.  The work itself was awful though: smoke was inundating my eyes, and the heat coming off the grills left my skin gushing.  On the plus side though, beer was bottomless and I could eat the skewers as well.  I was at one point criticized for not consuming enough.  I worked for about an hour, and got the hang of everything eventually.  All my friends were arriving at the festival so I cut my duties short to make sure that they knew what was going on.

焼き鳥いかがですか!?美味しいですよ!!

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The past two years I have invited friends out to take part in the fun by hosting a small house party afterwards, but this time around I sought to plan something a bit more worthwhile.  Rather than the same ol’ shindig that has us sleeping on the floor and swimming in the river, I booked a spot for us all to camp nearby.  As we got ready for the next stage of the night, I spent about two hours in constant contact with everyone to make sure that everything happened that needed to.  The passenger to driver ratio was awful and certainly not aided by the traffic and confusion.  In the end, I was able to arrange for about 30 people to get to the campground and start a late BBQ.

Not the greatest shot, but it at least shows the scene

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In addition to my nearby friends making the hike, there were also a few special guests as well.  My college buddy Spencer and his girlfriend made the 5 hour drive, a few relative strangers came all the from Osaka, and then I had three girls from Poland staying with me.  Some time around midnight, I said a few words of thanks that people made the effort to join me all the way down in such a remote and poorly connected place to be a part of my final Shionoe party.  From there, the troopers stayed up and took part in a rousing game of Buck Buck while the fools slept and left.  I had been talking about this game for ages, but there was always something that got in the way of it happening, usually weather.  Well, there was nothing to stop us this time, so we had ourselves all a fantastic Buck Buck session.

”BUCK BUCK #5 !!!  (BUCK BUCK #5 !!!)”

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Most of us slept in small bungalows with nothing at all in them, but we had a couple of classic tent campers as well.  About a third of the thirty went back home, not wanting to stay and several more of us stayed up to play.  As per my Shionoe tradition, swimming did take place.  By swimming I of course means wading, and some others stood below the falls.  It was an expected but appropriate end to the night.

Spencer and I, men.  Not sure why Zima is still sold here

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The next morning we spent a good deal of time cleaning our chaos, and also dealing with the guy in charge of the campground.  He was an extremely soft-spoken elderly man who carried himself as if a child.  I have never met some one in Japan like him, definitely the odd type of character who would be running this place alone in the middle of nowhere.  The first group of people that showed up at the campground had to deal with him, and joked that he was just the start of a horror film.

These were the falls, quaint

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Everyone seemed to have a great time, and such confirmation seemed included in every guests’ departing words.  I was definitely pleased that it all worked out, but at the same time pretty beat.  This was just one more ‘last time’, but it was the best event I’ve ever put on over here, so at least I went out on a high note.

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