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Photography Trip to Japan #14: Sound and warmth of Takojima at Letters from Japan

Photography Trip to Japan #14: Sound and warmth of Takojima   1 comment

Posted at 12:08 am in Japan Photo Trip, Japanese Cultre, Suzu

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I have never experienced anything like this before in my life. I am not even sure if my description of the event will do any justice to it. Nevertheless, let me say one thing at least: spectacular.

I am talking about the Takojima Festival which takes place in Suzu once a year. This is a two day festival where 16 lavishly decorated lanterns are paraded through town in a dramatic processional. They are accompanied by drumming, the sounds of many flutes and bells, and the voices of people from all over the town, both young and old. This is a visual as well as auditory experience that you cannot recreate elsewhere. It simply is a sensory overload.

These lanterns have ornate curves all over and are coated in black with lacquer from Wajima. Each lantern is managed by the 16 different neighborhoods and each has a different elaborate drawing in the front and back. During a conversation with a local man who has been documenting the festival for many years, I learned that the construction of one lantern costs about $100,000. But those are just numbers, and the monetary value is not the way to appreciate something like this.

Kids in front of lanterns, Photo by Jeri

These large lanterns march slowly throughout the narrow streets of the town all day long and late into the night. The views of them, especially at night, are simply spectacular. They are all lit up and almost glow like fire against the deep dark sky in this small fishing town at the edge of the Noto Peninsula. Everyone is wearing very colorful Dotera, festival robes. Some actually just tie the robe around the bottom half of their bodies rather than wear them traditionally. They stitch many small bells to their robes as well. The sounds of the bells are everywhere. People are talking and whimsically drumming through the night on the lantern platforms. The kids are also sitting and staring in awe at all that surrounds them.

I have heard of this festival before, and even saw it on a DVD. Quite frankly though, they just could not do any justice to it. You just have to be there and experience this event with all of your senses. If you stand in front of this 16 ft tall lantern carried by about 30-40 people dancing along with simple and yet moving rhythm, you will feel the vibe, excitement, and joy of the people. It will surround you and you will just want to be part of this whole excitement.

What is amazing is that you can be part of it. People in Takojima will bring you into the whole experience, and they do it very well. At each household, everyone is having a party in their living room and they inviteĀ  whoever is available into the front of their houses. Some people will just walk in for a quick break and/or drink. Beer, sake, shochu and any seafood you can think of are offered for the occasion.

Literally, if you are walking in front of a house, people will grab you and bring you in to their party, feed you, and offer you any kind of alcohol available. If that is not enough, they will take you to another party across the town. There does not seem to be room for even the politest “no” in this situation, and you just have to take everything they offer. What is amazing is that they are not just doing this as a part of formality, but they are truly sincere about it.

We experienced the warmth of the people in Takojima during the festival. It was a totally serendipitous experience that is unmatched by anything we have experienced so far. This was, without a question, one of the highlights of the trip to the Japanese countryside.

Party table, Suzu, Photo by Tom

Written by projectbasho on September 16th, 2008

One Response to 'Photography Trip to Japan #14: Sound and warmth of Takojima'

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  1. i love coming back to this post and listening to the festival. oh all the things you recorded, this was my absolute favorite.

    lauren

    11 Oct 08 at 6:06 pm

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