Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Natsu Matsuri in Koganei - August 2009"

I used to check out a local summer festival (natsu matsuri) every August that was held near my apartment, but for the past few years haven't done more than walk by one summer event or another without attempting to take part in it. But after editing some video I took at the 1991 Hibarigaoka natsu matsuri, I got motivated and spent some time at a similar event held in Koganei near Higashi-Koganei Station on the Chuo Line.

The nicest thing about it for me was that it was held on a field of healthy grass & clover. That might be the expected location for an outdoor festival, but every one (that I can remember off-hand anyway) that I've been to since my first experience at one in 1984, has been held on asphalt! Either on streets or in parking lots. So... the experience of the grass, which was nice to walk on, nice to look at, cooler in August than asphalt, and nice to sit on, was quite nice.

After walking around a little and feeling a bit out of place in my dated packaging and business clothes (among the yukata-clad women, children, and families with small children), I bought a beer, some gyoza, and a few sticks of yakitori (from three different food stalls), and as I began consuming those, I looked down at the inviting green grass, checked that my trousers were a darker color (so I wouldn't have to worry about grass stains), and gratefully sat down.

The combination of being on the friendly living earth (that didn't care about my dated external packaging and out-of-place clothing) and the beer & food got me into a much improved state of mind, and I relaxed and looked around. It then became a moment similar to those experienced during childhood summer vacation trips to the mountains, a stream in a valley, or some other pleasant outdoor place. (I should explain that having this sensation on a field shared with hundreds of other people was only made possible by the contrast of my typical mega-city life of always being in plant-less spaces and walking on asphalt and concrete, etc.) The other component of the moment was feeling that I was a part of the natsu matsuri. Not that I was doing anything in particular, but even just buying food and drink is partaking of the moment/event, and watching things in person is vastly different from seeing them on an electronic screen.

So... I looked up and noted a beautiful afternoon sky, with multi-color clouds... and looked over at the new station (they are rebuilding Higashi-Koganei Station as part of a track expansion construction project), noting the out-bound trains coming in at roof-line on the completed half near the festival (the opposite side of the station still has the in-bound rails on the ground).

The station. Something seemed very optimistic about it. A modern design and with more tracks to speed things up on the over-crowded Chuo Line. Thinking of car culture cities (and there are many of them in Japan too, by the way!), I felt grateful for the constantly evolving Tokyo train system. Mind you, I don't particularly enjoy myself on the trains, but they get me wherever I want to go in the city and I'm happy not to have to own a car.

The music - ranged from traditional to foreign (performed by locals), and the sound quality was okay, if a bit over-amplified at times. I found it was best to be either behind the stage, or at least at the back edges of the sides. Straight ahead was painfully loud for some of the performances.

As it grew dark, red & white lanterns strung up all over the grounds (radiating out from the center stage), glowed first against a very colorful sunset, and then against the night sky, with the moon rising behind the stage....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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