A few post back I had mentioned I was looking into getting a new camera in order to take my photography to the next level and eventually turn it into a career. I finally found one that I like. I purchased a Nikon D40 from the selling pages. I am still playing with it but I absolutely love it. I apologize in advance but my posts will have many more photos in them than I use to do. Including this one.
The day after I purchased my camera, Jeremy and I traveled down to Yuda Onsen for the Byakko Festival. It was only about two hours from base. The festival is based on a legend that 800 years ago a monk happened to witness an injured white fox dipping his hurt paw into a puddle. When the monk dug into where the puddle was, he unearthed a golden Buddha and a hot spring started to bubble up. The white fox is the symbol of the city.
We were surprise that it was a small little street festival. There were a few different vendors. Jeremy had to get his usual squid on a stick. I got my usual festival food of taiyaki (the fish shaped pastry I mentioned previously in another post). There was also vendors with games or toys to buy similar to what I use to see in the States.
As Jeremy and I walked around we noticed a stage where there was various types of entertainment. I quickly ran to the front when I realized that Japanese Belly Dancers were about to take the stage!!! I absolutely love belly dancing and honestly thought I wouldn’t see it here in Japan. It was wonderful to watch the dancers. We both loved the Japanese fans they used that had long colorful clothe attached to them. I think I took about 400 photos of the dancers.
After the show was over, Jeremy and I were able to meet the lead dancer (the one in yellow). We were able to explain in broken Japanese and English how much we loved the show and loved being in Japan. She seemed really happy to talk to us. Later as we were walking around she ran up to me and handed me a paper bag that had two more taiyaki in it. She said it was for me and Jeremy before giving me another hug and running off. I was really touched by her generosity.
Jeremy and I walked back through the festival. In the middle of it, there were a few kids and adults playing with Devil Sticks. I remembered playing with those as a kid. They are two sticks that used to flip, toss, balance, and do other tricks with a baton. There were some very talented people playing with them. The gentleman in the picture saw me taking pictures and put a little show on for me and Jeremy.
Jeremy wanted to try out one of the many foot onsens located in and around the festival. We were quite surprised to see many children using the onsens. Jeremy stuck his feet in and was surprised to feel how hot it was. He could barely keep his feet in for more than 30 seconds at a time. The children on the other hand didn’t seem bothered by the heat. I didn’t try it out because earlier in the week I had accidentally cut the bottom of my foot. The irony of me not being able to use the foot bath discovered by a white fox with an injured paw because of a hurt foot was not lost on me.
Once Jeremy had had enough of the foot bath we went back to watch another show on the stage. It seemed like it was a band consisting of two guys and a woman. Once they started playing, Jeremy and I became really confused. The guitarist was really good. As was the drummer. The female played the piano much like a toddler would- slamming randomly on the keys. At the end of the song, she began shrieking and screaming. Then she switched places with the drummer. During the second song he sang while playing the piano decently. The female sat at the drummer swinging a vuvuzela around and swaying back and forth like a drunk person. It was the weirdest band we have ever seen.
At this put it started to get dark and people began preparing for the parade. Various people started to put together the float that would be carried in the parade. There were also monks walking around giving blessings in exchange for a donation. Jeremy and I both made a donation so we could receive a blessing.
As we made our way to the street we passed various street performers. This included a group of women who played large Japanese drums.
The parade itself mainly consisted of people walking down the street with lanterns or torches. We were surprised to see so many really young children carrying large lit torches and dressed little white foxes.
The festival was amazing. It was the first festival we have been to that we were the only white people at. Being away from base and away from people like us and people who were use to dealing with Americans on a daily basis, allowed us to dive into the Japanese culture more than we really had in the past. I don’t know if it was the color of our skin or the fact that they saw me taking so many pictures that day (I had taken around 1000 by the time we left) that caused them to open up to us but we appreciated it. Everyone we met that day was beyond kind and even though we didn’t speak the same language, we felt like we were able to communicate and make new friends. Jeremy and I are already planning more trips like this in the future.