Monday, 2 September 2013

kushima, cape toi fire festival and monkey island

Hello lovely fam and chums! This evening I want to finally share some pictures from our road trip to see the Cape Toi fire festival. (It seems that in Japan there's some local festival happening almost every weekend and I'm determined to attend as many as I can.) Just as umeshu had consequences last weekend, this weekend I was delayed by the after-effects of shochu from our all-you-can drink welcome buffet here in Miyakonojo. Paired with a typhoon, they make for the ultimate lazy weekend. But I'm pulling my self together just as we did last Saturday, when we packed up the car and began speeding down the highway to Kushima, a tiny city near the coast south of Miyazaki. 

These pictures really don't do the view justice. Round every corner was turquoise blue water or mountains blanketed with cedars. 

Soon we left the coast road through the trees, on the look out for monkeys.

After a quick re-group we headed seaward again as dusk fell. 

We wandered down a road between abandoned brutalist hotels covered in ivy to find a bustling green with a stage, food stalls, and a massive wooden stake, naturally, all perched on the cliff tops. 

These pictures are barely even edited! It felt more like Hawaii than Japan.  

We also got to enjoy a taiko performance (I've tried but failed at adding a video, watch this space). As with last time, the performance affected me strangely intensely. It was a group of teenage girls so immersed in the moment, drumming and shouting with perfect synchronicity and ferocity. This tiny kid ^^ played the cymbals and a miniature drum of her own, in perfect time of course. I later found out she is 3 years old! Doubly excited for my own taiko class this Thursday now.

After several bentos and cups of flavoured shaved ice, we settled down to the main event: the fire! We gathered to watch locals dance and process around the totem - kind of like a maypole dance - with tall wicker and fringe head-dresses.

Soon came the main event: dozens of young men stalk around the totem, swinging balls of fire on ropes and trying to set the tree atop the stake alight. 

This went on for about forty minutes, with the MC calling something that sorta went like "Tumtakitada-tadakiwa! So-re!", whereupon the audience took up the chant. It means something along the lines of "Reach higher, fire!" 

Eventually, the tree caught fire and was toppled with a crash to the ground. 

And the night ended with fabulous fireworks! But, hell is other people's amateur firework photos so enough of that. A bunch of us crashed at a local JET's place, stretched out on futons in her long tatami room, curtains billowing in the breeze through the porch screens, and the night loud with crickets from the fields. 

The next morning we headed out to meet the people who camped on the beach, and were greeted with this...

Safe to say I spent a fair amount of time paddling and gazing around in delighted surprise. 
This is Rui. He is, I learned, fuafua (fluffy).  

However, we soon decided that a trip to the island you can see behind me up there ^^ was in order. Kojima Island is famous for its monkey population, the subject of many studies. We found someone to shuttle us over in his boat for a tidy 1000 yen (swimming was out due to rip tides) and were greeted by this guy! 

The island was incredibly peaceful, the air and green water the same temperature as our skin. The monkeys went on with their business right beside us, so long as we didn't show any aggression by making eye contact. A tiny old lady who got on the boat too bossed us around in Japanese and sat on the rocks overseeing everything like a wrinkled island empress. 

The monkeys were so human! Their facial expressions were just so clear to read - this baby looks like any kid who has ever had the tangles brushed out of their hair. 

 Communing with nature!

Our new best friend demanded a picture and went on to relate how she broke both her legs 10 years ago - when she was 68 - and shared her snacks with us. Amazing. 

Reluctantly we said goodbye to the monkeys and piled in the car for the drive back north to Miyazaki shi, complete with a rendition of the Moulin Rouge medley

We rounded it off with a strip to Sushiro. Nico keeps tabs on the tea... 


Guess who won the sushi-eating contest?
Can't wait for my next trip, but for now it's time to focus on this whole being a teacher business. Any tips for feeling more like Sophie-sensei and less like a gap-yearing fraud?!

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