Karaoke and Matsuri

Well, it’s actually been a really busy weekend after all that. First Karaoke, then Matsuri (festival).

I stayed a few extra nights at Simon’s place (the Australian in Takayama) so I could see the festival. Saturday night we went out drinking to a bar that was located in the sort of place you wouldn’t expect to find it. I think it was a word of mouth place. Anyway, lots of Gaijin (Westerners) go there. A bunch of English, Irish and some other Brittish Isles girls and two Japanese blokes turn up to have a drink. We start talking, and before I know it, I’m being dragged off to a Karaoke club. Now, Karaoke in Japan is not the usual drunk blokes at the pub belting out Jimmy Barnes tunes to a packed place. In Japan, you rent a room that has a Laser Disk device that you enter the number of the song into, from a huge list from a book of both Japanese and Western Songs. Simon and I did Men and Work’s “I come from a land down under” and the others did the usual mix of ABBA and so on. It was a late night in the end, go home at 4:30am. Simon had to leave early (2am) because he was on float duty for the festival the next day.

As for the festival which was Sunday and Monday. Takayama Matsuri is one of the best in Japan, which was why I was glad to see it. It involves about 12 large carts, usually about 300 years old with very detailed ornamental Shinto imagery on it, being pulled around the town. There was also marches of people in Shinto Priest gear and all that. These things were about 2 by 3 meters wide/long and at full extension about 4 meters high. They had about 10 men at the front pulling 3 or more on the sides and back. They were very, very heavy. Anyway, they looked very impressive. They seemed to just fit around some of the streets they went down, and were pulled very carefully by the workers. At night they put lanterns on them and pulled them back to the start of the festival, and then went off and parked them in the special warehouses for another 12 months. Simon was the first Westerner to pull a float (well, the first anyone remembers) so lots of Japanese people wanted to get a photo with him in his special gear. There was another Westerner in the parade of Shinto Priets, which whenever they stopped, would pull out small chairs to sit on, and the Japanese would queue up to have their photo with him. The night time floats also had kids sitting on top of them, singing and playing traditional flutes.

After the late night of Karaoke on Saturday, Simon had left early because he was a float duty (well, he left at 2am.) Anyway, being a bit hung over, from about 9am on Sunday (the first day of the festival) he was given lots of Sake, Sake and more Sake. Takayama is famous for its Sake, which was pretty good really because on Sunday, we all drank lots of Sake. But Simon probably had the most. After the festival was over and the carts were placed back in their warehouses, more people brought Sake to the crews, and food as well. But the end of the night, Simon, I think, was a little well saturated. And on Monday, he did it again. It was a great experience.

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