BOOM-Boom-knock. Broke the silence of our home. Was it the sound of the taiko procession making its way through the streets again? Boom-boom-knock, the sound came again. No, not taiko, someone was at the door.
It was Mark with an invitation to head back to the mountain. Our neighbors Justin and Mayumi were gathering a group to head to a park near the mountain. This park is ringed with cherry trees and spot lights to illuminate them in the darkness. That plan was to go hang out in the park drinking sake and enjoying some night blossoms.
We first headed to the grocery store to stock up on snack foods and alcohol. Then it was off to the park. But we did not make it there in a timely fashion. We walked through the streets and near the shrine next to Logan's school we could see, and hear, that there was something happening.
We walked through the still night air. Our peaceful evening stroll was interrupted by the BOOM-BOOM of a giant taiko drum. We could hear it in the distance and as we grew nearer we could see the crowd of people gathered to practice for the matsuri that would be happening in a few weeks time. Most of the people were dressed in their regular clothes; it was a bit weird for me to see students out of their uniforms. There were a group of men all dressed in traditional firefighting clothes, including antique helmets, and special chest plates. It was really cool to see the old way of dressing. But it raised the question of why dress like old time firefighters?
We found our answer soon enough. There were handmade pillars of gathered rice stalks and other dried plant material that towered into the air. They stood twenty feet tall at least. As we grew nearer we could see the torch reach up into the air and ignite the top of one of the half dozen or so sheaves. To the soundtrack of the booming drum the first of them began to burn. The heat radiated and the fire illuminated the dark night. If the booming of the drum was not enough, buried in stalk were firecrackers. As the pillar burned the firecrackers popped and burst punctuating the drum beats.
We stood and watched the fire and marveled in the opportunity to see such marvels. We went over and watched people drumming on the drum, others were watching the fire. We stood witness to the spectacle for a time, but then it was time to mosey along.
We continued up to the park at the bottom of the mountain where Justin and Mayumi were already waiting for us. We all sat down on a ledge at the back of the park and watched the flowers and listened to music that burst forth from the "dollar store" speakers hooked up to Mayumi's ipod. We had not sat for longer than ten minutes when the lights very unceremoniously shut off.
We sat in the dark and talked the late evening away. It was nice and peaceful to visit and commune with our friends and neighbors.
It was fun but bittersweet at the same time. A few more months and most of us will be leaving this place and going different ways. It is amazing to think that we have been here for almost two years now. Even more amazing is the fact that we will soon have to leave and return to start a new life in a new place. We are nervous and excited that another chapter to our adventure filled life will begin when we relocate to Colorado after we get back. We are nervous about what the future holds, but are confident that what ever is in front of us will be an exciting adventure.