[The American Years]

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Greetings from Japan, where large trucks have 3 blue-green lights above the cab. One light comes on if the truck’s speed is higher than 30km/h, two lights on if above 60km/h and all three lights are on when the truck is doing more than 90km/h (60mph). Other drivers can gauge distance and speed of the oncoming truck. Smart!

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So let's start with a few photos from the general goofing off that goes on around here. Zane and his architecture attempt. Leave it to him to make a structure out of blocks that has no straight line. Tormented genius? Nope. I think we need to torment him some more.... Veronica woke up one weekend morning saying she wanted breakfast in bed. Her staff stapped into action. "This is not a drill people. Get the Barbie plate.... No! The Hello Kitty! Flowers! We need flowers! Ok, smiles everyone smiles!"

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Summer festival season is in full swing over here. I will try to capture bits of it for you. It's not something I ever had a good window on as a visitor. It is quite a spectacle.

There was a festival last month which was our first exposure to the season. It was down in Minami Chita on the tip of the peninsula which frames Nagoya bay. Minami Chita, directly translated means “Warm Breeze Through Hades”.

I will try to explain this festival. To save my typing, whenever you see (*), please mentally insert the phrase “for no apparent reason”.

The festival centers around four giant wooden and paper fish (*). The fish are hoisted by teams of drunken men and paraded around in a circle (*), narrowly missing the bystanders who are kept save by a rope and a team of policemen in hard hats blowing whistles. The men carrying the fish are not totally concerned about the safety of the crowd, because they’re too busy not dying of heat stroke. It was hot there. Serious hot.

To keep them from becoming exhausted or dead, the fish-carrying men take many breaks in between fish carrying events, and drink something from a long bamboo canister. I made friendly with some of the boys, and they shared a drink of it with me. It’s either watered down sake, or mercury-laden bay water. Either way it was delicious and refreshing, and made me want to carry huge fish(*).

Anyway, after going taking turns running the fish around in circles (*), the fish are lined up and one by on run directly at a building (*) which holds a small shrine. Luckily the building and shrine are protected by a wooden structure resembling an early AFL football goalpost. But the fish, and the men laboring to animate them, are not going to be stopped from going straight at the building. One by one, the teams run their fish directly into the goalposts (*), basically destroying each one in turn.

You’d think by the 3rd fish they would see that the goalpost is impenetrable. Blame it on the drink in the bamboo tubes. Truly I think there is a prize for the team which crushes their fish the best.

After the fish smashing, the fish are taken back, repaired, and readied to be taken somewhere else to do something else(*). I think at the end of the day, whatever is left of the fish finds its way the ocean(*), but we couldn’t last that long. We had all the fish fun we could have for one day. And we truly did have fun. They serve cold beer at Japanese festivals. Did I mention?

A slideshow of the goings on.

Those are styrofoam fish teeth that Zane has as souveniers in one photo.

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Deceive the rich and powerful if you will, but don't insult them. -- Japanese Proverb

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