Just another day with 3310…

Yet another roommate field trip! This time the crew was Jenay, Karoline, Nana, and me. The event: Kurama no Himatsuri – Kurama Fire Festival on Thursday, October 22nd.

We started from our apartment at around 3:30 p.m., which was half an hour earlier than planned. It was a good thing we decided to leave early because when we got to Demachiyanagi (the last stop on the green line), the train station was packed.

From Demachiyanagi we went to Kurama, which is at the other end of the red line. Wonderful. Well, at least we all got some study time out of it. 3 of the four of us had Japanese speaking tests the next day at around 9 a.m., so going out the night before until really late seemed like an amazing idea of course.

About 45 minutes or a little less than that, we arrived at Kurama. Once we got out of the station, we followed the huge crowd to a long hill with some sort of shrine at the top. This road was lined with unlit torches that looked like baskets with chopped wood in them:

So we were pushed into a little niche behind a not-yet-lit torch while listening to the guards yelling something like “Please keep moving up hill. The fire will be hot and dangerous”… or… something… The whole yelling at the same time on megaphones wasn’t really effective. As we were standing and waiting for the festival to begin (because we honestly had no idea what was going on), a man that was standing behind our group started talking to us randomly. I’m not sure what he was talking about because I was concentration on how not hungry I wanted to be. In the meantime, Jenay decided that she wanted to go to the bathroom, so she shoved her way down the hill away from us. We were left standing there, still puzzled as to the goings on around us. Jenay then texted me saying that she had a better view from where she was and that she probably wouldn’t come back up the hill, so we decided to join her. When we tried to move only 5 feet ahead of us, we were immediately stopped by the current of people heading in the opposite direction as we were. The random guy standing behind us actually offered to lead us down the hill. His creepy behavior actually motivated us to shove through the crowd. Little did I know, the man was actually following behind our little line and apparently we lost him along the way, though I’m not sure where or when since I didn’t know he was following us to begin with.
After plowing our way down the hill, we made it to an area that wasn’t as packed. We stayed there for a little while to watch as families carried torches on their shoulders and yelled at each other in a call-and-answer type fashion. It surprised me that even little children were carrying torches that were bigger than them. There were actually groups of children carrying their own torches without the supervision of an adult. But the overflow of people and constant yelling of the guards quickly trumped all thoughts of a tipping torch and panicking children, and we were swiftly corralled to the other side of the road.

Karoline, Nana, and I went back to the train station to try and meet Jenay. After what felt like a really long time that included many a text message and phone call, we finally met back up with Jenay and she finally could go to the bathroom. After she came out, we decided to go around the other side of the station instead of going back the way we came. So we went down another hill and walked downhill past houses with a torch out front. When we thought that there was nothing else to see, we ended up stumbling upon some men getting ready to light then carry torches that were about 3 meters, about 10 feet, tall.

We got our fill of giant torches and fire and decided to walk back up the mountain. At this point we were also tired and hungry, so our stomachs drove us to walk back uphill. After expressing a certain interest for ramen noodles, we tried to return to an area where we thought sold this delicious soup.

This ramen isn’t the best ever, but it’s still ramen and super delicious. 
This picture was taken at Hirakata Park on Oct. 25, 2009 :]

On our way up to the train station, we passed a stand that sold sausages and we contemplated buying some then and there sure to our hunger. But we decided to press onward and we were almost at the station when a guard stopped us and told us we were not allowed to pass. He also said that in order to go back to the station, we had to go back down to where the tons of people were and push our way through them. Fantastic. It made no sense to us since we were essentially at the station already when he told us to turn around and go the other way. 
Once again we had to go against the current, which basically meant taking advantage of our gaijin (foreigner) status to push through the crowd. We tried our best to say, “gomennasai” (sorry) and “sumimasen” (excuse me) as much as possible, with little to no response from the stagnant crowd. It wasn’t an easy trek, but we finally made it to the station, found out the restaurant was closed, and ended up going to a gift shop instead. We then had to wait in a line that zig-zagged past a huge face with a giant nose about 10 times before we could get on the train. 
 
When in line, there was a group of boys that flaunted their delicious hamburgers and snacks every time we passed them. Ok, so they didn’t flaunt their sandwiches at us, but we were so hungry that the mere sight of food triggered reactions of complaints of hunger.
I’m not sure how much time passed until we got on board a very crowded train car. When we finally got on, our struggle wasn’t over yet! Not only did we have to endure a 30-40 minute train ride, but we had to do it standing up. Now what may seem like a trifling experience is actually a very enduring one because after hours of walking up and down and uphill and being hungry, the ride seemed like it took forever. We were at stop E17 and needed to make it to stop E1. At each stop, we wished that some people would get off the train, but that wished was unanswered. If anything, more people got on. The reason being that E1 (Demachiyanagi) connected to other lines, so everyone stayed on the train. So we played human bumper cars for a little while as we swayed with each turn, only supported by the foot, leg, or body of the people standing against us. 
When we finally made it to Demachiyanagi and boarded the green line to Hirakatashi, we were more than thankful that we could sit down in an uncrowded train car. During the ride, we studied some Japanese, but mostly checked our keitai (cellphones) for text messages.

 Finally, Hirakatashi! We got off the train and ran to the nearest convenient store to buy nothing other than FOOD!! Onigiri and some kind of meat bum. Yummmm! We enjoyed our food as we walked to our bicycles. We had to bike home from Hirakatashi, which is a 10-20 minute bike ride depending on which direction you go. On the way to Hirakatashi there is a lovely hill that bikers can fly down beside traffic. On the way back home, the lovely hill turns into a long hill of death and only taunts the tired people unmotivated to climb it. After the big hill is a clean ride back to the Seminar Houses.
We made it back, tired as ever, but satisfied at our adventure for the day and ready to take on the next roommate field trip.
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October 25, 2009. Uncategorized.

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