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Sorry for the lack of recent updates… I’ve started school and been extremely busy!

The weekend before we left for the US was our city’s annual festival, affectionately called Fujimatsu, a mashing of Fujioka Matsuri. Once again, Kenji and I were signed up to help carry the mikoshi for the Board of Education. I was looking forward to another year of riding around on top of it, but this year the weather had other plans!

The day started brightly enough, though, as we drove on over pretty early to get ready, eat, and watch the parade.


The parade. The ladies in blue are Fujioka ambassadors; basically the prettiest young women they could find!


The kids mikoshi start earlier in the day, and boy was it hot! We watched for a bit, then headed over to where the mikoshi is held to start getting ready and to eat.


Here’s preparing for later in the day, by wrapping padding and red and white cloth around the bare wood of the mikoshi’s “legs”. While the guys did that, I went up to change and eat with the girls.


All together!


I also insisted on getting a jacket. Usually the girls don’t wear them, but I noticed last year as well as in pictures of previous years that, well, often the girls DO get them! So like last year I insisted, only unlike last year the girls were stark and traditional this year and didn’t go for the jackets. I was glad I did however!


A “rival” mikoshi from where we were changing


Getting ready to start


The mikoshi in place, we wait to watch the traditional Fujioka dance by all the obaachans. I want that yukata!


Posing with the giant fans. I don’t remember these last year! I carried a lantern like last year though!

By the time night started to fall, fat raindrops were starting to fall as well. We got as far into the festival as we could, covering the mikoshi, lanterns, and fans with plastic bags, but the weather proved too much.

At one point, it started POURING in a way I haven’t seen since one summer in Texas where we got some serious rain and everything flooded. It is a rain I have never experienced in Japan before. This wasn’t any wimpy rain, oh no. This was a storm determined to end things. We tried, but eventually gave up and gathered under an awning as best we could. I had ridden on the mikoshi for a bit in the rain, so I was absolutely soaked, and glad for the double layers. At once point, I went back into the maelstrom to grab plastic bags for the cameras, and found the majority of Fujioka holed up in the Piago grocery store. Dodging students and acquaintances and shedding water all over, I grabbed a few bags and went back out.

We tried to wait it out, but eventually authorities decided to cancel the rest of the night, so we took the mikoshi back. I got another chance to ride, but was disappointed it didn’t continue. Damn you Gunma weather!

Oh well, next year will be nice I hope! We cleaned up and went off for the night and prepared for the next morning.


Rain, plastic, and lanterns


Wet and cold, getting out of the soaking garments.

The next day was the dashi, and at first we were not going to pull for icchome like last year. For one, we no longer lived in icchome, and two, hadn’t been asked. I wore my brand new yukata, and we camped out at Kenji’s barber’s store again to watch the crowds go by, then at once point walked around and passed the icchome station… whereby Oyaji caught sight of us and asked us to help pull again this year. Well… alright! We were planning on leaving a bit early, as the next day we were flying to the US, but we helped for a little while, then left. The clouds threatened, but luckily didn’t pour like the previous day.


Clouds and crowds. My, it looks threatening doesn’t it?


Dashi


Trying to get the right effect…


Right before we left


Karaage yatai (stand)… I didn’t get much festival food this year!

So that was Fujimatsu. A bit different than last year, but still really fun, and one of my favorite activities to look forward to in summer!

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