Posts Tagged fireworks
Today was a fantastic day!
I got to spend the day with The Penpal, which was a lot of fun. In the evening her parents took us out for dinner. After parting ways with the family, I met up with most of the local NOVA teachers and staff for a double birthday party for myself and Dom. Numazu summer festival was in its second day so we headed out for fireworks and street beer. The staff were kind enough to get me a happy birthday senbe cracker.
Like all summer festivals in Japan, Numazu festival saw the main streets lined with small stalls selling food, drinks, and toys for the kids. One of the stalls sold a giant inflatable cola can with straps so you could wear it like a backpack. After a few drinks I thought that this would be a fun souvenir. I wore it around for the rest of the evening, which led to random people sneaking up to try to hit it or sumo wrestle with me. I am definitely not built to be a sumo wrestler!
After fireworks we went to the new karaoke place across from Numazu station. It was a big chain karaoke that also had a comic cafe, internet, and movie rental rooms. It wasn’t as cheap as Uta Club, our usual karaoke place, but it did have a free ice cream bar!
Usually karaoke ends a night out, but instead we all stumbled down the street to Farao cocktail bar for some delicious but totally unnecessary cocktails. Usually the bartender is impeccably dressed in a suit that would put James Bond to shame, but tonight he was dressed for the festival in a yukata. I think we ended up getting friend pricing that we used to get when my roommate Palmer was still living in the area. Farao cocktails are delicious and incredibly strong.
At some point I ended up stuck in a drunk conversation with one of the local students; a single mother who had a reputation for “interacting” with some of the other teachers. Being happily engaged, I tried my best to get out of the conversation, using the secret “help me out” signals that I learned in my fraternity days. The signal was passed down from one generation of frat boy to another, and I had used it with great success on a night out in Winnipeg.
Since none of my coworkers had been in my fraternity (or went to my University or had grown up in Canada), the signal unsurprisingly had no effect at all. Eventually one of the other single teachers walked by. I grabbed him and brought him into the conversation before excusing myself and making a graceful exit.
After another cocktail I walked home slowly to finish off my long, full day of fun and adventure. Today was likely one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had!
Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier. Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.
I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.
The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.
We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.
It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.
Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.
I swapped the day off so I could go see fireworks in Kamakura with The Penpal. One of her friends lives in the area and invited us out.
Like the other fireworks shows I have watched this year, this show was nothing short of amazing, even thought it was a bit cloudy which affected some of the visibility. My personal highlight was a giant Doraemon head which was made up of several fireworks, which would have taken a lot of planning. Japanese firework shows are serious business!
After the show, tens of thousands of people tried to use the train station at the same time. It was PACKED. The station staff was giving directions with a megaphone informing everyone that the train was very busy, and which lines were going in which directions.
When we finally got on the train it reminded me of my nights on the last train out of Shibuya. The Penpal and I were pressed up against each other, which under most circumstances would be a good thing. However, we were also being crushed on all sides by strangers, and the temperature was approximately 6 million degrees and humid. It took some of the fun out of the situation.
The Penpal and I stayed the night in a hotel in nearby Fujisawa, both so we didn’t have to worry about returning to Numazu late, and also because it was good to get some time together.
July 30 was the first day of Numazu festival and was Dom’s birthday as well. After work I met up with The Penpal and we went to watch fireworks with about 100,000 other people. People filled the streets and one of the major bridges over the Kano river. It was hot and crowded, but the show was amazing!
During the summer festival, the streets are lined with small food and souvenir stands. Many of the stands are run by yakuza. I am not sure why exactly the yakuza run the food stands, but I can only assume it’s a public relations stunt like when the Hell’s Angels raise money for charity. It is a unique experience buying yakisoba or ice cream from a gangster with his insane tattoos peeking out from his yukata.
After the fireworks show, the Penpal had to go home, and I stayed out to party with the other English teachers.
I would have taken pictures, but at some point I dropped my camera on the concrete and it no longer works.
Tonight was another fun night out with Azeroth and friends.
Azeroth was friends with Koalako, one of the students at Mishima NOVA. I had taught her many times before, and she was always a fun person to talk to. Koalako lives in Atami, a nearby city built on the side of a mountain on the ocean. Atami is a terrible place to try to ride a bicycle, but a great place to see fireworks, and is famous for its many hot springs.
I met up with Azeroth, Koalako, and Koalako’s friend (that Azeroth was interested in) in Mishima. I was just finishing work and they had already had a few drinks. We all got on Tokaido line for the 12 minute ride east to Atami. In Atami, we drank beer while walking down the steep roads towards the waterfront. Azeroth, being the classy guy that he is, stopped to pee on the side of the mountain while the ladies and I were watching the fireworks. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
We caught the end of a fantastic firework show, with colours reflecting off the ocean. After the show was done, Koalako got a call from her parents. They had never met anyone from outside of Japan before, so they invited us to have some beer and snacks at their local pub. Azeroth and I are not known to turn down beer, so we were on our way.
The pub was a traditional “snack” style izakaya. The room itself was small, with several tables facing a long bar counter. In total there was probably seating for 25-30 people maximum. It was a small mom and pop bar that catered to a small group of regular customers from the area. The atmosphere was cozy and friendly, especially because we were the guests of some regulars.
Koalako’s parents were very friendly and outgoing. They greeted us and then started ordering an impressive display of izakaya food and beer. All of the beer was in one litre bottles. The women at the table took turns filling up our small glasses every time there was any space in them. Azeroth and I didn’t pour any of our own drinks. When you are drinking from small glasses that are instantly refilled, it is very easy to lost track of how much you have consumed. Naturally, this led to only one possible outcome: karaoke.
Mama-san (the female owner) brought over the microphones and the song list. There were only about 8 English songs in the whole book. The selection would have made Canadian AM radio proud; Elvis, Paul Anka, Ritchie Valens, and for some reason, Celine f**king Dion. Since we were being treated to our beer and food, Azeroth and I did our best to entertain our hosts. My Elvis and Paul Anka were passable (despite not knowing the songs well), but my version of “My Heart with Go On” was epically awful. Azeroth was laughing the whole time at making the Canadian guy sing Celine Dion. However, he did bail me out half way through the song as we turned it into an over the top duet.
After more beer than I can count and some good karaoke thanks to Koalako and parents, we noticed that it was getting dangerously close to the last train of the evening. Koalako’s father was worried that we would get lost walking to the station, so he got mama-san to call us a taxi to get us to the station. We thanked our hosts for the fun evening, and protested as Koalako’s father made sure to pay the taxi driver in advance as we were leaving. Koalako’s father is great!
The train ride home seemed about 6 times as long as the ride there, and the walk back to our apartment took forever, owing mainly to the fact that we were unable to walk in a straight line. The evening was a lot of fun, but I am not looking forward to the next morning.
(2015 Update) This is a greatly expanded version of my post from 10 years ago. I added in a lot of detail and mentioned that Koalako was a student, something that I smartly omitted the first time around. I ran into Koalako’s father when I was visiting Japan in 2013, and found that he was still as friendly and outgoing as ever.