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It was the weekend of festivals! I went to two, Takasaki Matsuri on Saturday night and the Kiryu Matsuri on Sunday.

First, the Takasaki Matsuri. I went along with Keisuke to learn to use the train system. We missed the first one, so we went out to get a quick bite to eat at a curry place, then caught the train to Takasaki, which takes only about 15 minutes. The trains normally only leave once an hour, though, so it is a little difficult to time it. Once you got to the station, though, lanterns lead the way!

“Takasaki Matsuri”

I was honestly surprised at the amount of people in Yukata (traditional cotton robes, often confused with Kimono). From what I’d heard and read, people were bemoaning the youth of Japan and their disinterest in anything traditional… but I’d say around 40-50% of the people, male and female, could be seen in Yukata at both festivals. So… I guess there is a revival of some sorts? Or what I’d read was exaggerating, which is equally probable. Either way, it was really cool to see!

A rather artistically blurry photo of two girls in Yukata walking in front of us.

And a large group getting something fun to eat!

Speaking of eating, there was a TON of stuff to eat, which I really liked! At the Takasaki matsuri, I had a snow cone and some Takoyaki, or octopus in balls of batter. The Takoyaki wasn’t bad… I liked picking out just the octopus and eating it though, since the batter wasn’t cooked through.

We also got to hear a bit of traditional Taiko music.

A few of the JETs here do Taiko, some I’m going to tag along and try it out during their next practice! There is a big Taiko performance coming up in Fujioka I’m exited about too, featuring the biggest drum in Gunma! I love Taiko, especially how it reverberates like a heart beat right through you. You can feel the beats in your bones! Which reminds me, I need to ask one of the taiko players, Scott, if they either a) sell a CD at the performance, or b) can recommend me some good ones.

One last note about Takasaki, is that they spent thousands of dollars on their fireworks! We were there for a little less than 3 hours and they never stopped! Keisuke and I were like, “oh, cool, the finale!” …and then they started up again. So we’d go a little later, “oh, THIS must be the finale! Nice!” …and then 5 seconds later, it would keep going. It was awesome, but really surprising!

Now, on to the Kiryu festival, which despite the lack of fireworks was more fun I think! It is a lot longer by train to Kiryu because we had to go to Takasaki and change lines, so all in all it took a little over an hour to get there. I went with Keisuke again, and met Amy at the festival, who is leaving in a few days, sadly.

Amy was wearing a pretty yukata, and so Keisuke and I decided we each needed to get one before the Isesaki Matsuri at the end of August (supposedly the best of all of them!) Just as we had decided that, we spotted a Kimono/Yukata store open and thought, “what they hey?” And lo and behold, I found an absolutely gorgeous yukata for a little over 50USD while Keisuke was looking around. I think the store people were enamored with foreigners, because no sooner had I picked it out, then I was dressed up in it like a doll by the shop people, complete with obi and geta. Not only that, they gave me an almost 20% discount for some inordinate reason. I seem to get that a lot wherever I go in Japan, since that isn’t the first time I’ve been given free things and discounts just for being there. So I now have a yukata. It was definitely meant to be! And pretty cheaply too, around 85USD for the entire set. (And mom, before you get on me about saving money, since my rent isn’t due until after I get paid, and I haven’t had to furnish my apartment, I still have most of my money left. So nyah.)

Keisuke took pictures of me dressed up, so I’ll put those up as soon as I get them. Meanwhile, here are a few from my apartment:

The whole set, yukata, obi (the red thing), and geta (shoes). The pink things (if you can see them) are used to tie the yukata together under the obi.

A close-up of the fabric.

A close-up of the obi.

And matching shoes!

The obi is a different type than the stiff ones, which can only go one way. This type is really flexible, so you can tie it different ways, or if you have a stiff obi, it can also be added onto the stiff obi with a bow on top, so it is versatile! Mary, you wanted one, right? Do you have any specific colors in mind?

Anyways, Yukata shopping aside, some sights of the Kiryu festival:

The main square of Kiryu and the dancing line that surrounds it. The dance looked really fun, so I took a video of it to see if I could learn it before Isesaki!

A beautiful mural in front of a shrine set up on one of the side streets.

The back of one of the portable stages with musicians spread through the city

I ate Yakisoba (fried noodles) and a chocolate covered banana this time! YUM! After getting home from Kiryu, we decided to celebrate Amy’s leaving with karaoke!

Reading the screen, I can’t remember what I was singing!

Amy and Keisuke pose for pictures!

It is now pouring rain, which is a good excuse to continue organizing my apartment. I know I keep promising pictures, but its still pretty messy. Hope everyone is doing well back home!