07 August 2010


Fireworks!  It is a Japanese tradition to hold fireworks shows usually at their major rivers during summer.  Tonight was Atsugi's turn, at the intersection of Sagami River with two other smaller rivers.  As I mentioned, there was one in Tokyo's Sumida River last week, and tonight also at Edo River, I think.

Before that...  My day started a bit early today, at a little past 8am.  I did my laundry and finished before 11am.  Then I packed lunch and went to the office.  I ate ginisang giniling with pechay and with semi-hard-boiled egg for lunch at 12:30, and then attended a seminar at 1pm, where a presentation was given by the most senior PhD student who is to graduate by end of September.  He presented his research thesis/dissertation, of course, and the intention was to get public opinion, thus this "open" seminar.  At a little past 2pm, the graduating student finished his presentation, and shared some snacks with all of us, while the professors continued to deliberate his thesis.

Then, it was back to the office for most of us.  For me, though, I didn't do any school work - just work.  At around 5pm, me and my "kuya" (Filipino for "big brother," but in this context a more senior student assigned to take care of you) went to see one of the professors who was apparently still busy with his earlier meeting.  We waited until a little past 6pm and scheduled meetings with the professor for Monday instead.  During that wait, my "kuya" and I exchanged stories about our home countries - the Philippines and China.

We actually had to be at Sagami River by ~6:30pm.  But we left our apartment probably around 6:30pm already!

On our bike ride to the hanabi venue, we tried a new route this time.  It was a slightly shorter route, but with a steeper downhill part that ends abruptly in an intersection -- dangerous!  Anyway, we were all safe.  I don't usually ride my bike on very steep downhill slopes (and uphill of course) and so as usual, I walked my bicycle downhill.

Then straight along relatively flat terrain we went, but then at one point we were not sure which direction to go.  We noticed that an unusual number of people were walking in the same direction, and so we thought where everyone was going is were we should be going as well.  We were right.

Then we noticed that people were all WALKING.  So we decided to park our bicycles somewhere and started walking ourselves.  There were so many people already, and some streets were closed to traffic.

Along the streets, we noticed that some people were already camping out on the sidewalk, seated on mattresses or beach chairs, and taking some food and drink, some even selling food and drink along the sidewalks.  There were a lot of police, traffic guides, and crossing guards that helped ensure the hundreds of pedestrians are all safe, and cars are properly diverted.

Then there was a little bit of a choke point where some stalls started to appear, lined up, selling the usual Japanese street food fare at these summer fireworks events like cotton candy, takoyaki (literally "grilled octopus," but it actually one small cube of grilled octopus meat wrapped inside an egg-based ball together with some veggies and mayo - yummy!), yakisoba (literally "grilled noodles;" they look like pancit canton with less sahog and with a sweetier taste - yummy!), yakitori (grilled chicken - yummy of course), furankufuruto (a Japanese-style frankfurter), some shabu-shabu-like street food fare, okonomiyaki (literally means "anything you want, grilled" but in this non-restaurant setting, they look like a sandwich of different veggies between two pancakes - very different from the one you would get at a restaurant), drinks of course (beer, water, sports drinks similar to Gatorade, soda, juice, shaved ice drinks), ice cream on a stick (which obviously you have to finish quickly - not a problem during summer), suteiki (Japanese-style "steak," this time served in square-shaped pieces on a stick), ikayaki (grilled squid), sakanayaki (grilled fish), and I think that's it.  We would find there are many stalls selling the same thing, but I think each stall is owned by one family, and so their fare would have slightly different taste from the other.  So, some would look and taste yummier than others'.

And then those hundreds of people were apparently just the newly arrived.  There were thousands of people, and I would guess there were at least 10,000 people there.  And that's just on our side of the river.  Apparently on the other side of the river, there are even more people, and even more food stalls.  On our way, we heard "booms" already - hints that the fireworks had already started.  Indeed even from far away, we can already see the action starting.

We walked, and walked, and walked, until we decided we were close enough to the action.  Along the supposedly walkway, some people have sat in a row and so we thought joining the bandwagon and sit there.  And sit we did.  Thankfully, one of my fellow students brought some junk mail that we can sit on.

There were plenty of people in yukata, a traditional Japanese clothing usually worn indoors (nowadays, you can find some in hotels), or during summer.  On women, you would think it is like a kimono but it is as you can see less formal.  There is also a version for men.

And then the fireworks.  There were different colors, of course.  And smiley face shapes, heart shapes, maybe some hiragana (Japanese) characters, Saturn (planet) shapes, mushroom shapes, zigzagging fireworks, flower and butterfly looking shapes, the usual en grande finale in some presentations, and I forgot what else.  Having watched two International Pyro Olympics in Manila, these were normal to me already and in fact, lacking coordination with a certain song as background music, to me, was something missing here.  There was some loud speaker on but usually there was just some announcement by some lady after each 1-minute or so fireworks showcase.

By around 8:15 I think we started moving again, with the intention to get out of there before everyone does or else it's going to be a stampede!  Well, no, that won't happen here but well, we just wanted to avoid the sardine-can-like crowd.

On the way out, we tried takoyaki balls (500 yen for 6 pieces), yakitori (100 yen per stick), and yakisoba (500 yen per pack).  Expensive!  Takoyaki is just 400 yen for 10 pieces at the convenience store.  And instant yakisoba is just 100 yen and probably tastes better than the ones we got.  But of course, these are all cooked fresh, and it didn't really matter during this festive event.  Overall, this was part of this hanabi experience.

And then so we found our way out of the crowd and got back to our bikes.  It was probably 9pm already.  And then here they go again.

"Let's pass by the (out-of-the-way, back-deep-in-to-the-multitude-of-people) supermarket first before we head home."  What?  Why not just go tomorrow to the supermarket that is just 10 minutes away by bike from our apartment?  "It's boring to go there."  What is so boring about that?  And so he wanted to drag all three of us companions of his along, out of the way from our route home, and back towards the crowd that we just ran away from.  I think he was just tamad to go again to the supermarket tomorrow, and for his tamadness he wanted to drag us along with him.  "My fellow Indian friend said I have to buy chicken now, for tomorrow, and that the supermarket here in downtown closes at 9:30pm.  So I have to buy now."  Hmmm, I think I see what's going on here now.  Someone is being a puppetmaster, another a puppet.  One is more senior than the other.  Match A & B with 1 &2.

Well, no, not me, man.  I told them I'll go ahead and head straight home.  Hitori de (by myself).  It was the first time I rode by bicycle by myself between downtown Atsugi and my apartment.  It was fun.  It was also the first time I tried the route we usually take going downtown, the opposite way around.  Fun!

But, wait.  I haven't drank anything yet!  On the trip, "thirst came," as these Indian fellow students of mine would say, meaning "I felt thirsty."  And it was a little bit warm.  It's summer, you know.  And so when I got home, my clothes were drenched yet again.  And I drank sports drink and nearly a liter of water.

Overall, this is a very nice day, and very nice new experience.

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