Monday, 15 August 2016

A dancing fools festival

Date: Sunday 14th August 2016

Weather: Sunny and very, very hot.

MP3 track of the day: Headlight  - Monkey Majic

I was struggling to stay asleep for the last hour before my alarm was due to go off. Ten hours of sleep had proven a little too much. Still I felt good and so, at 5:30am when my alarm went off, I got up, got wash and dressed, packed and read my emails before hitting the free breakfast buffet once more. After filling my stomach, I picked up my bags from my room and vacated the hotel. The time was 7:10am.

Though I had to go south-west, I started by heading north. Fukui is famous for it's beautiful coastline and so I wanted to see as much of it as possible. One I hit the coast I then plummeted south along the coastal road. Once again I had planned well; it was a Sunday in the middle of a holiday where everyone should now be at home with their loved ones. This left this 'one lane traffic light free' road pretty much open and I was able to enjoy the view. I thought that it was a fantastic road however, on any normal day, all of these small fishing villages I found myself passing through would have poured slow moving traffic onto the road.

I breezed south down Fukui's coastline thinking that it looked just as pretty as anywhere else in Japan. I then went west, still hugging the coast. This took me across Kansai, missing all of the big cities. Again traffic wasn't too bad and so I kept a steady pace.

Once I'd gone west enough to be parallel with the bridge that would take me to Tokushima, I dived south along the '178'. I'd decided to keep north for as long as possible to avoid all the major cities and it seemed to have done me well. Now was the tricky part; the part of my trip which I'd been dreading. I had to join the motorway in order to get onto the bridge that would take me across to Shikoku. Not only that; before the bridge, three separate motorways came together in a jungle of concrete and junctions. One slip up and I would be going the wrong way. One slip up and it would cost me extra cash.

To avoid missing the correct junction, and therefore spending more money, I decided to change my 'plan of attack' for this bridge. Once close to it, I decided to meander my way through some local roads near to where the three motorways met. Sure it took longer however, it also meant that I joined the correct motorway and that I wouldn't have to look out for junction signs.

Everything went well and I found myself crossing the largest suspension bridge in the world. As I started to cross I looked down to my left to see where, eight months ago, I had gone to take photos of this bridge. I kept driving checking out the view and this amazing bridge. The sky was bright blue with a few white clouds. The water too was crystal blue with some serene islands dotted around. All was well in my world.

This is where I made the biggest mistake of my journey. This bridge took me to an island preceding Shikoku. Once here I had two choices; I could either stay on this highway all the way to Tokushima (costing more but being quicker), or I could take the free local road which went down the eastern coast of the island. This would take longer however, it would allow me to see the island and save me some cash. I therefore opted to take the local road.

Ninety minutes it took me! Ninety! Endless traffic lights and extremely slow drivers put all the nails in the coffin for any enjoyment I might have had looking around this island. I was utterly thankful when I made it to the southern point of the island. I then rejoined the highway to cross another bridge which got me onto Shikoku. The bridges had cost me £25 in tolls to cross … about the same as I'd spent in petrol getting from my home town to Fukui (800km) … Now can you see why I don't use toll roads in Japan.

As a present for persevering though the above island, I kept on the highway until I entered Tokushima. Festival traffic was already building. I decided not to head into the centre of town. Instead, I went to the western edge to look for parking. Sure it was a much further walk to the festival however, I needed to leave the city from the west to get to my hotel tonight. I found a '£4 all day' car park and the owner helped me buy a ticket. I was lucky to have found somewhere so cheap; as I walked towards the centre of town, prices climbed to £15.

After stopping for dinner I then went to the festival. I didn't need any directions … I just followed the constant drumming. This festival celebrates Obon; the celebration of the dead. Groups consisting of dancers and musicians formed up around the city. The musicians consisted of mainly drums keeping a beat for the dancers. The dancers consisted of men and women however, it was the women I'd come to see. Dressed in beautiful Yukata, they wore a half-moon hat upon their heads. All dancers sat in a circle chanting “The dancing fools and the watching fools are equally as foolish. So why not dance?”. It would appear that groups of dancers got up from this circle at random. They would dance until they got tired, where they would dance back to the circle, sit down, and other dancers would get up to take their place. The dance moves were interesting; it's difficult to describe but their arched arms represented foolishness and death in one go.

I really liked that the organisers had spread the festival all over the city. This meant that everyone could find a place to watch a group (and as all groups were doing the same dance, it didn't matter which group you watched). There were seats you could pay for and food stalls everywhere. I wondered around checking out the city of Tokushima as well as the festival. Once I felt that I'd seen all of the groups and a lot of the city, I looked at my watch; 8:00pm. I had been here for three hours and there was another two and a half to go. I hate leaving things before they are finished however, as the dances would just be repeated again and again for the next 150 minutes, I struggled to find a reason to stay. In the end it was my tiredness which made the decision for me. I watched one last group dance the night away before I retired to my car.

The drive to Takamatsu – where my hotel is – wasn't too bad. There was one car which went really slowly - when 'double yellow lines' were present - causing a huge line of cars. Once there were places to over-take, he started to speed up. I hate this type of driver; if you want to go slow … go slow. If you want to go fast … go fast. Don't annoy everyone (I also don't understand why someone would do this as surely, it's not much fun for them or the people behind). As I steamed past him I gave a few gestures to express my appreciation however, in the dark, I'm sure that they were wasted.

I got to my hotel and just went to my room. It looked okay however, I wasn't that interested. I put my bags down and collapsed on the bed.

Toodle Pip!

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