Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fire is Photogenic

First, one shot of our local fireworks festival at the port. Did you know they have fireworks shaped like smiley faces, fish, cats, and crabs? Of course, I didn't get any good photos of those.

However, arguably my most favorite of local festivals is called okuribi (sending-off fires). During obon spirits of deceased relatives make there way back into households all across Japan. In order to assure they arrive to the correct house there is something called mukaebi (welcoming fires). At the start of obon you can find people everywhere standing outside their front gates at dusk stoking tiny fires inside fry pans. This, it is believed, will bring home the loved one, who when he/she arrives will find his/her altar decorated fancy-like with flowers and food, not to mention all the visitors that pay visits during this time.

Like any house guest, though, you don't want them sticking around too long. So at the end of obon everyone goes to great lengths to send their dear ancestor back to the other side. One way is by lighting floating paper lanterns and releasing them down a river. This you've probably seen on TV. I think I learned about it from Karate Kid 2. That is all nice and good. But after I pass I'm not leaving unless they send me home via okuribi.

Imagine an up side down broom. Imagine it big. Then imagine fifteen of them implanted up and down the beach. Next you have groups of men drinking beer, starting small bonfires and waiting until it gets sufficiently dark (and they sufficiently drunk). Once night falls someone up the coast launches some fireworks as a sign to say, Go! The men then light these ropes, start twirling them real fast and then wing them into the air. It's hilarious because most of the time they fly off in some strange direction and hit someone else. Well, when it's not a bystander it's hilarious. All these drunk guys screaming and running around. After thirty minutes to an hour a few land in or on the giant broom and it starts to burn. And boy does it burn. It's been pre-loaded with kerosene and bottle rockets.

Here's a picture the beginning of the festivities.

Here after the fire has begun to burn a little.

The audience is cheering, the men are calling out to each other, and then there's the unexpected excitement of a rogue bottle rocket shooting out sideways from the blaze and catching someone in the eye.

This guy down here is yelling for all the men to grab the ropes. There are four ropes holding the thing tight. This is when it gets fun.

They begin to shake them causing loads of ash, sparks, and flaming debris to rain upon us all. It is also very important they don't let the thing fall the wrong way as the bystanders are super close and no one has even attempted to tell us to stay back.

Here is a shot of one of the thing fixing to go down. We had one start to lean the wrong way and boy to see those guys sweat and scream and try and bring it back. It's so heavy that when it does go down at least two lines of men get pulled across the rocks. Painful.

Okay, if I do this right, there may just be a little video.