Yamaguchi City Weekend: Lanterns, Chopsticks and Hikari Under Fire!

I’m back! It feels like it has been a year since I have been in my apartment. I posted last Thursday… I think… I had kenchou all day Friday in Yamaguchi City. Friday night I went to Shimonoseki with Callie and Tiffany, and the three of us went on an out of this world adventure to Space World in Kitakyushu all day Saturday (har har). We left just in time for me to catch the last train (JUST barely made it!) back to Hikari for the night. And then I left Sunday morning for Oshima Island English Camp and just got back this afternoon. *deep breath* Whew! It has been a busy few days. I’ll have posts on English Camp and Space World soon, but first – here’s a picture post about the rest of my weekend in Yamaguchi City!

The Pagoda aside, this weekend is fondly dubbed “Under Fire.” Everything we did and the festivals we went to… all happened to involve fire.

The first night – the Welcome Party from AJET (Association of JETs):

Welcome Party! This was after kenchou on Thursday night. Callie and Tiffany met a few Japanese girls in the bathroom and they hung out with us the rest of the night! This is a group of us hanging out after dinner.

Welcome Party! This was after kenchou on Thursday night. Callie and Tiffany met a few Japanese girls in the bathroom and they hung out with us the rest of the night! This is a group of us hanging out after dinner.

Friday (or Saturday?) night we went to dinner at a Yakiniku place. Yakiniku is Korean BBQ and definitely my favorite food I have found here. We sat on the floor, traditional style, although they did have a few booths. This is us grilling!

Friday (or Saturday?) night we went to dinner at a Yakiniku place. Yakiniku is Korean BBQ and definitely my favorite food I have found here. We sat on the floor, traditional style, although they did have a few booths. This is us grilling!

From the left - me, Christina, Brent's wife Akiko, Brent, Tiffany, Callie - after our delicious meal!

From the left - me, Christina, Brent's wife Akiko, Brent, Tiffany, Callie - after our delicious meal!

The weekend we stayed in 'Guch City (August 6-7) was the Lantern Festival. On our way to dinner, we got to see people setting up for the festival. We stopped to take pictures here, and when I looked up I realized one of the lanterns was on fire!! I had to capture it on film!

The weekend we stayed in 'Guch City (August 6-7) was the Lantern Festival. On our way to dinner, we got to see people setting up for the festival. We stopped to take pictures here, and when I looked up I realized one of the lanterns was on fire!! I had to capture it on film!

The Yamaguchi Tanabata Chochin Festival (Lantern Festival) is over 450 years old. Somewhere around 100,000 lanterns are lit and hung down several main streets in Yamaguchi City, making the streets look like it is surrounded by a river of blood. From what I can find about the history of the festival, it, too, is commemorative of the Ouchi period; the Ouchis used big lanterns to honor their ancestors. Today, paper lanterns are used to symbolize this and remember the dead throughout Yamaguchi City. (picture from Tiffany or Callie)

The Yamaguchi Tanabata Chochin Festival (Lantern Festival) is over 450 years old. Somewhere around 100,000 lanterns are lit and hung down several main streets in Yamaguchi City, making the streets look like it is surrounded by a river of blood. From what I can find about the history of the festival, it, too, is commemorative of the Ouchi period; the Ouchis used big lanterns to honor their ancestors. Today, paper lanterns are used to symbolize this and remember the dead throughout Yamaguchi City. (picture from Tiffany or Callie)

In the above photo, men (in super short shorts!) gathered to lift the huge lantern. They carried it… somewhere… and said things, before carrying it away. I can’t find too much information about the festival itself… I read some things that say Lantern Festivals, in general, come from the Chinese Lantern Festivals, which often are done during the Chinese New Year. It makes sense that, especially in Yamaguchi, this festival would have Chinese influence, given the closeness of the Ouchis with China.

Me, Callie, Tiffany and Christina -- hanging out at the festival. It was beautiful to see, even if we didn't know all of the meaning behind it! This was my first Japanese festival (of many, many, many I am sure!)

Me, Callie, Tiffany and Christina -- hanging out at the festival. It was beautiful to see, even if we didn't know all of the meaning behind it! This was my first Japanese festival (of many, many, many I am sure!)

Me, Callie and Tiffany with snow cone tongues!! I can't remember the Japanese word for these snow cones... but they are SO popular here - they are at all the festivals, and the flavors are plentiful and much stronger than in the States.

Me, Callie and Tiffany with snow cone tongues!! I can't remember the Japanese word for these snow cones... but they are SO popular here - they are at all the festivals, and the flavors are plentiful and much stronger than in the States.

The next afternoon, after the pagoda, we set out to find lunch.

This is a typical meal I order at a Japanese restaurant. The big bowl is tankatsu-don - breaded, fried pork on top of rice. This one has onion and slightly cooked egg on top, too. There is also miso soup, some pickles and something I can't tell what it is from this angle. It is served with tea. This is generally the only kind of thing that is not fish. There is also gyudon (beef bowl) and chiikin-don (chicken bowl). Unfortunately, it's almost always fried... but I suppose that's what I get for not eating fish!

This is a typical meal I order at a Japanese restaurant. The big bowl is tonkatsu-don - breaded, fried pork on top of rice. This one has onion and slightly cooked egg on top, too. There is also miso soup, some pickles and something I can't tell what it is from this angle. It is served with tea. This is generally the only kind of thing that is not fish. There is also gyudon (beef bowl) and chiikin-don (chicken bowl). Unfortunately, it's almost always fried... but I suppose that's what I get for not eating fish!

And, my first Asian victory - I can eat with chopsticks!!! Salad, massive pieces of tankatsu - you name it, I can probably eat it with chopsticks!

And, my first Asian victory - I can eat with chopsticks!!! Salad, massive pieces of tankatsu - you name it, I can probably eat it with chopsticks!

The next day… Blast to the Past!::

The next day, the four of us waited at the Yamaguchi train station to head home. Our train ended up being very late (really, really unhead of in Japan), which was awesome... because we got to see this genuine 1919 locomotive!!!! For a few minutes, I completely believed in time travel. When the whistle blew, we all had to cover our ears and still we winced in pain from how loud it was. We watched coal burn and smoke pour out (awful for the atmosphere- great sight for us!). You can buy tickets to ride these trains... they are expensive and slow, but I hear the experience is incredible.

The next day, the four of us waited at the Yamaguchi train station to head home. Our train ended up being very late (really, really unhead of in Japan), which was awesome... because we got to see this genuine 1919 locomotive!!!! For a few minutes, I completely believed in time travel. When the whistle blew, we all had to cover our ears and still we winced in pain from how loud it was. We watched coal burn and smoke pour out (awful for the atmosphere- great sight for us!). You can buy tickets to ride these trains... they are expensive and slow, but I hear the experience is incredible.

I got off the train in Hikari and walked to Nijigahama Beach for my second Japanese festival – the famed Hikari Fireworks Festival (Hanabi Festival)

Before the fireworks show started, I had a great view of the lights in the ocean after dark. These lights are set up on the weekends all throughout the summer at Hikari Beach.

Before the fireworks show started, I had a great view of the lights in the ocean after dark. These lights are set up on the weekends all throughout the summer at Hikari Beach. Throughout July and August, firework festivals go on in nearly every town and city in japan. Because Hikari's show is over the water, it's very popular and people come from all over the area to see it!

Throughout July and August, firework festivals go on in nearly every town and city in japan. Because Hikari's show is over the water, it's very popular and people come from all around to see it!

Right as the fireworks show started, it began to rain. The mixture of the rain with the sound of the explosions, the smell of the used fireworks and the sight of the colors lighting up the foreign sky left me completely awestruck. I wrote this in my journal, in the dark: "There can be few things better in life than sitting on the beach in the rain watching fireworks light up the sky. This moment, right now, is perfect."

At the festivals, it is custom that people come in traditional Japanese dress. Booths line the streets with festival foods (similar to what we would do at a fair or carnival).

At the festivals, it is custom that people come in traditional Japanese dress. Booths line the streets with festival foods (similar to what we would do at a fair or carnival).

Yamaguchi City was a great first trip. It’s a fun city… we still want to go back and explore the famous caves that are there and hike along a gorge that is apparently beautiful during cherry blossom season. My first couple of festivals were awesome, and even when I was clueless about what was going on, the atmosphere tells much of the story. It’s a fascinating part of Japanese culture; everyone coming together to celebrate their ancient history… and they do it often. The community, group aspect of Japanese culture often annoys me. It’s a constant struggle for me not to get frustrated when I ask a direct yes or no question and someone refuses to assert their opinion. When it comes to these festivals, though, I can see the beauty in the group mentality. It is certainly, in part, what makes it easy for them to celebrate something for 450+ years. Teenagers, young kids, adult and the elderly, alike, take part in it and give their all to making each festival a success. They wouldn’t have what they have without everyone who has contributed to it before them and who will contribute after them and on and on and on. Do we have anything like these festivals in America? Food for thought.

Next post: To Infinity and Beyond at Space World!

source for history of lantern festival – http://hometown.infocreate.co.jp/en/chugoku/yamaguchi/maturi-e.html (not much information, unfortunately)

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~ by C on August 26, 2009.

2 Responses to “Yamaguchi City Weekend: Lanterns, Chopsticks and Hikari Under Fire!”

  1. Wow, that was GREAT! It sucks that I must sit here on my lunch break at work and read this! I honestly sat here, shut my eyes and I could feel the waves pulling me into the water and I could actually feel the coolness. Beautiffully written!

  2. I AM TIRED OF A MAN RUNNING MESSAGES TO ME BY THIRD PARTY, AND HE BOTHERS ME TO THE POINT. CAN YOU INFORM HIM TO STOP BOTHERING IN POLITE WAY, AND MAKE HIM INTO AN EXAMPLE OF A GANGSTER. I WAS BEING NICE TO HIM, AND NO ONE SEEMS TO GIVE ME GUN TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

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