Jennifer, Shane, Lara, Dawn and a host of our other friends went town to the town of Chino, where they invented the slacks, to see the Ombashira festival. This was kind of a big deal. There are several shrines in the area, all of whose dieties require logs to be hauled from the top of a nearby mountain by hand every 6 years. The logs are pretty big, maybe 20 meters long and they're hauled by thousands of people yanking on these gigantic ropes and pulling the logs over hill and dale to get to the shrines. The highlight of the festival is when the logs and all of their riders, yes, the logs are all ridden from their starting point to the shrines, crest the top of a hill and then proceed to ride down the mound of dirt with much fanfare and clicking of cameras. There are 4 such events held over the course of a month or so, and the one we saw was the first of the 4. Unfortunately for us, it was not the one we were hoping for. We were hoping to see some blood and guts. We witnessed them riding the logs down the shallowest of the inclines. The stories we had heard however, were all about the steepest log ride, the one where people get maimed and killed. In the photo links (not my photos, those aren't developed yet) the ones from 4/3 and 4/4 are the ones most representative of what we actually saw. However, the event we really wanted to witness was the one in the second set the 4/10 and 4/11 set. If it weren't such a drag and expense to get down to the town, I might be more inclined to do so and witness the later festivals.
While the smell of American festivals is unmistakably that of frying food, beer and maybe marijuana, the smell that universally pervades Japanese festivals is that of frying squid. To get a representation of it, I suggest that you chuck any mollusk in the fire and watch it sizzle, the smell will be almost the same. It's got a wang to it.
THe evening however, was capped off in fine style with NEW YORK STYLE PIZZA!!! One of the local gaijin owns a restaurant that serves more or less authentic American and always delicious foods. For 1500 yen we were treated to an all you can eat pizza bash and a free drink. It was super. I had 7 pieces of some of the more delicious pizza that I've ever eaten, which may be be somewhat related to the fact that I haven't really been able to eat much pizza recently. Anyway, I've rarely been so content with a meal, and so bummed to have to stop eating. Therein lies the problem with buffets, the lack of leftovers.