(Mount Fuji in the distance seen from our campsite.) With the smell of burning wood on us this morning it is the best time to write about our first festival in Japan. The Japanese Fire Festival held in Fujiyoshida, at the base of Mount Fuji, is a 500 year-old tradition used to honor the Fuji Goddess and keep her from erupting. We think that is the meaning, but there are many intricacies of this ceremony to understand. At the main shrine in town, surrounded by 1,000 year-old cedar trees, are where two mikotishas (huge shrines that are carried on the shoulders of local men) are held; one representing Fuji and the other of the Goddess. These 2 ton floats are removed once a year and carried through the streets of Fujiyoshida. One expat we met said the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) carry the Fuji float and other teams of men wearing a different color carry the goddess. Before dark the teams gather at the shrine and drink a lot of sake from buckets, as if it were water. We think they do this to numb the pain of carrying these huge floats, it does create a spectacle. A swaying two ton float going down steps and through the streets packed with people. We learned very early that you don’t want to get too close. Now for the fire… once the ceremony at the shrine took place and the floats were lifted onto the shoulders of about 30 drunk men carried them to the city center and then fire runners carried a flame to huge, tree-like torches that were spread out in the streets all the way back to the shrine. These giant torches burned into the night as food vendors sold squid balls (not what you are thinking…squid baked with batter into a sphere shape), noodles, blue covered bananas with sprinkles, fish on a stick or anything else you could imagine on a stick. I enjoyed a purple squid on a stick that was grilled with a teriyaki sauce. There were games for children, drumming, fire spinning and excitement as these torches burn. The event is broadcast on national news and Andy made his cameo debut as he purposefully walked in to the background of a priest being interviewed. The festivities concluded today as the floats were returned to the shrine and another ceremony took place. Tired from a night of walking and eating we sit here in the train station drinking coffee and are ready for another day at another one of the 5 lakes neat Mt. Fuji. If you want to learn more about this unique festival please check out this link: http://www.city.fujiyoshida.yamanashi.jp/div/english/html/firefest.html
Since the fire festival we have made it to our next farm near Osaka. We plan to be here for 2 weeks and will post more blogs soon. I plan to do an entire blog about food soon!! I promise.