Obon on the Kitakami

8/17/14

I stayed in Morioka to see the Obon festivities while Ryann headed to the coast to spend a couple of days on the beach. I checked out the seemingly unused shrine near my apartment, then finally meandered around Hachimangu shrine, where I shook a giant bell that didn’t ring, and went fishing for a fortune, and kept the fish (gold for me, red for someone else). I asked a father of two adorable little girls whether my fortune was good or bad, and he said it was good, so I kept it.

The street leading to Hachimangu was full of people and street vendors selling jewelry, second-hand clothes and pots, small plants, skewers of whole squid bodies, scallops and giant, warm, delicious oysters at $3 a pop (totally worth it).

At the tourist center, Boyfriend told me about his doubts about my feelings for him, how I’ve been acting distant, and that it doesn’t bode well for us long-term. I told him that I’ve had to stop thinking about my attachments back in LA to survive mentally here in Morioka. If I keep pining for everything I miss about home, I’ll be depressed all the time. Therefore, I’m letting go of my life in LA to make Morioka feel like home. It might be a temporary mentality, or not. Boyfriend appreciates honesty over gentle if false news, which is admirable.

I stood in line for an hour for jajamen, then rode my shitty little bike down to the Kitakami river to observe the Obon festival celebrations which had been pointlessly postponed one day (it drizzled all day).  Men carried floats called funeko nagashi (funeko is boat) shaped like dragons and covered in fireworks down to the river, where they coaxed them to travel relatively straight, and slower than the current. I was interviewed by a reporter who writes for the Yomiuri Shimbun (I need to bug him about the article), and laughed along with the other spectators whenever a boat almost capsized or something went wrong. The note I scratched in my little book between ship burnings reads: “For such an uptight country, these people sure think it’s funny when things shoot sideways by mistake.” This is in reference to the many fireworks (hanabi, small fireworks) that went off in the wrong direction, occasionally putting the boatmen and spectators at minor risk.

Two young brothers next to me were clearly discussing how the fireworks resembled something like a Dragonball Z battle, and the younger of the two enjoyed singing Happy Birthday with a different tune whenever flames started to lick the insides of a float, some of which had eyes and mouths that lit up. The finale, a white dragon float, blew smoke out its mouth, and had oscillating blue eyes that shone in the gathering dark while the dank weather closed in and coaxed out the cicaidas.

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About Toph Beifong

www.tigerlilytoph.com View all posts by Toph Beifong

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