We got back to Haruka's house and were able to warm up! Her mom then presented us with the best kind of midnight snack! Man, there is nothing quite like Japanese hospitality!
Dumplings and pickled veggies!
My fav, tonjiru (pork soup)...nothing beats this on a cold day.
Okay so after filling our stomachs with yummy food we rested a bit until midnight...then put our jackets back on and headed back out to the festival! The reason for this is, during the main parade the streets are way too jam packed. After the shrines are walked down the street they return to a big lot area where they wait for a few hours, people take pics, and they load them up and carry them back to their respective parking places for the next year. So midnight is the perfect time to go see the parked floats and take up close pics with them in a bigger area. Welcome to the main attraction folks...and the reason 300,000 flooded this tiny town...
*also I keep saying floats/shrines because I don't really know what to call them but you get the idea!
Basically the whole town shuts down for this event, even closing down the main train stations and reworking the wires.
Seeing all the Japanese men dressed in their traditional kimonos carrying lanterns made me feel like I was stepping back in time.
Mina told me that the men on the floats are chosen from their various districts and are picked to represent their area once in their lifetime! that's pretty epic.
These things weight 12-20 tons!! that's two elephants (I googled that) !!
Due to the weight of these things, they move suuuuper slow. Combine that with the amount of people and you get a very jam packed street.
The floats are very intricately designed with animals and characters crafted all along the outside. That's me, Mina, and her mom Yoko trying to not freeze ha!
How rad do these guys look? I want that Kimono print.
So at about 12:30/1:00am the men load up the floats and pull them back to their parking spots. In the pic on the left, the men are tilting the float in order to turn in to the right position. It took about 40 men just to turn it a few inches...and one guy even crawled under it to make sure everything was set right (dangerous!) The floats are too heavy to carry so they just position them properly on giant wheels and roll them down slowly.
All the people in headbands are volunteers who help guide the floats down the streets. I saw a lot of younger people helping, high school kids and college friends, which seemed like a fun thing to do at that age!
And fun fact...as of this year the Chichibu Yomatsui is now officially on the UNSECO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. That's pretty rad.
Sometime after 1am we walked back to Haruka's house but not before seeing this funny old man posing in front of the railway tracks. The floats were passing by in the background so him and his friends stopped to take a picture and they were laughing saying "this is a rare moment!" lol!
Back at the house we were guided to the big room upstairs where three amazingly warm and comfy futons were waiting for us!! I am not a night owl, never have been, so staying up until 1:30am usually isn't my favorite thing in the world...but for this specific event I was more than stoked to be out late where the party was happening! We were SO SO lucky to have stayed with Haruka and her mom and I am truly grateful for their hospitality and kindness!
one more post coming...