Ise and Local Summer Festivals (Komono and Yokkaichi)

Hello again!

September flew by a little too quickly, and there is no way I will recap everything in here, but I will do my best to write about some highlights from the end of August and a little through September! :)

On August 22nd, I attended a festival in my town! :) It was my first Komono festival (which is funny because I am going to one today!).

I went with Ashley, Justin (two new ALTs in the area), and our friend Cara (an ALT who has been here for three years now)! It was a very nice festival, and it got me so excited for living in Komono. :)  A lot of Cara’s students recognized her and it made me so excited to meet my own students! At this point, school hadn’t started for me and the students had yet to meet me. There were all kinds of booths with delicious food and drinks, and a little farther in there was a large area where people were dancing to a taiko drum beat. I believe the dancing is called Bon Odori, and it involves preset dances that Justin and I tried to join and follow along with.  Apparently he learned about one of the dances, and the movements represent working in a mine, maybe? So from what I understand, you do the movements for mining (digging), carrying what you’ve dug forward, wiping your sweat, and pushing your car forward, and then… letting it all go. I’m not sure but the dancing was fun! :) Lots of laughing and messing up and looking around to see what other people were doing.

The festival booths!
There were lanterns lit across the river and they made the symbol for peace, I believe?
My friends Ashley and Justin! :)
The dancing!

A woman making giant takoyaki, which are balls of dough with octopus pieces inside (and sometimes other delicious things)! :) They are usually smaller than that.

The next day, on the 23rd of August, I first went to Ise with one of the teachers I work with, and then I met up with friends to watch fireworks in Tomida, an area of Yokkaichi that Ashley lives in! :) It was beautiful!

First off, Ise was gorgeous! It is a city south of me in Mie, which houses a very famous Shinto shrine called the Ise Grand Shrine (and some smaller ones).  The teacher I went with is also very nice and loves to laugh, so I had such a great time. :)

Some nice paintings in an underground passway.
A really busy and cute street leading up to the shrine entrance.
We stopped into a fish shop with samples and they were handing out these to eat… and I ate the whole thing, eyeballs and head and all! First time. :O
This guy was frying the cutting the fish! They kept asking me if I thought he was cute hahaha.
And then we started to take pictures with everybody in the store. But these people were so nice! The fan was apparently left behind by a customer so they just gave it to me hehe! And I am still holding the fish here!
Standing in front of the first gate to the shrine! When passing through a gate, you’re supposed to bow first. Also, you’re not supposed to enter through the middle because that is where the gods walk. :o
As with the shrine at Nara, there was the same purifying basin. This is me washing my mouth ahhh! Didn’t do this at Nara!
Then… this really interesting dude with an iguana let me hold his iguana. The little guy had a bandana and everything. It was such a weird moment but why not?!
This is the dude! Marching to the beat of his own drum, which is SO MUCH more of  a big deal in Japan than it is back home.
Eating a Matsusaka beef croquette thing. So Matsusaka is a city in Mie and they are famous for their beef.. and people around here argue that it is better than Kobe beef. Since I have no idea what Kobe beef is like (been too long since I’ve had it) I guess I agree because it is pretty delicious!
Matcha shaved ice! Kinda like Rita’s but with green tea powder. Inside were these things called Akafuku mochi, which is a pounded rice cake surrounded in red bean paste that’s kinda hard enough to stay together. They are a specialty of Ise! Sorry I didn’t get a picture of them!

Then, that same night, I met up with Ashley and Justin and watched the fireworks show while eating festival food! :)

Wish this was brighter and clearer but the two ladies in the lower left hand corner are wearing Yukatas, which are kind of like a summer version of a kimono!
We got these really delicious potato spiral things urgh. We tried to find them at other festivals but were unable to ahh!

On the 24th, I went to another Komono festival, but this one was smaller, and with no dancing. They basically closed off the streets around the train station and had different booths. One of the booths was a little trio of musicians that somehow pulled me into singing Amazing Grace with them… which was so embarrassing hahaha. But I met a very nice young Japanese woman who told me her family loves foreigners and last year hosted a Russian family!

Isn’t my town cute omg. :’)
Trying to read the Amazing Grace lyrics off my new friend’s phone!
Omg so there were all these little exhibitions and I’m not really sure what they were for or who they were by, but these are little replicas of our town mascot, the Komoshika. :)
This is the Taiko group we joined! I look nuts but it’s all good, they’re such nice people!

Afterwards, I saw a Taiko performance with Justin, who went up to the group afterwards and asked about joining. So now, Ashley, Justin, and I have been practicing with this group once a week, and will soon be playing in a festival (I think!?). Moral of the story is always ask! You never know what will unfold… So now the trick is to build up the courage to do more asking and less avoiding! :P

 The rest of August was pretty nice! I was preparing for starting teaching in September, and doing a bit of exploring of my new home and the surrounding areas! Highlights include eating Domino’s pizza out of a box with Ashley and Justin, in a public park at night while it was raining, being eaten alive by mosquitoes and surrounded by stray cats, and then seeing the Attack on Titan movie (which… I do not recommend very highly unless you want to have nightmares of titan babies crying and eating people).  I also went to Hamamatsu, but that will be in a different post!

 So that’s that! Sorry this was so late! September is coming up next! :)

 A

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