Four Yukata Girls and One Jamaican   Leave a comment

Japan, I’m starting to discover, is a place that love fireworks and barbecues. It is summertime, and the days usually end with the sky a milky pink-white, with an armada of clouds slowly scrolling across the sky. After a great trip to Tokyo and Osaka on tour with my cousin Beniton the Menance and Maxi Priest I’m more open to heading to different places. I’m meeting up with Emily and some friends to go to the Kajima fireworks.

 Emily wants to meet at seven thirty to catch the fireworks, which start at eight-thirty. Since it will be a thirty minute drive to get there, it sounded like a good plan. However, Emi ended up calling me at ten minutes past eight to go, and it seemed like I’d miss the meat of the show. Still I went. Emi waved at me from across the street at Zaza city where we met up, adorned in an attractive Yukata. A Yukata is a traditional Japanese dress worn for these kinds of occassionas (not to be confused with Happis worn during Golden week).

The drive there is quiet, sprinkled with light conversation from Emi and her friends in the car. The fireworks are in Hamakita, just outside Hamamatsu city. As we near Hamakita, I can already see the flash of fireworks in the sky. A loud boom echoes through the air. I can just imagine the screaming crowds jostling to see what was happening. Emi was excited, more excited that I normally see her. “There is where my elementary school was.” She said, pointing towards a small building we drove past.

I tried to imagine Emi as a child, with the small smooth face, bone straight hair and endless energy. For her fireworks were a normal part of her life. She had invited me to no less than four viewings in a month and a half.

 We met up with some other friends of hers, all dressed in Yukatas and found some parking. We had a good walk to the river. Every fifty feet or so, I would see a firework explode in the sky, the boom sounding like quick thunder. Behind me, Emi, her friends and the other Yukatagirls walked and talked, smiling each time another firework exploded.

 Hamamatsu isn’t a very metropolitan area, and more than once I saw a few people looking at me for long stretches, wondering who I was. We were walking on the main road, which eventually diverted onto a small dirt path leading to an intersection below an overpass. We walked pass some tall grass and then came back to a normal sidewalk. There I saw several thousand people, many of them in Yukatas walking around. There were dozens of stalls sell food, fireworks and liquor. It was a frantic mess of lights, voices and bodies.

I made sure to keep and eye on the girls near me, because the Yukata girls around looked startlingly similar, with their hair in buns, walking with a similar, practiced gait. A few more people glance at me now (I think at this point its impossible for them not to, I am the only black person I have seen thus far in a crowd of thousands of Japanese people) and we walk up a hill. It is densely packed, but as we near the top, I can see the outline of the river below, and hundreds more people sitting around there. A structure on a small field is setup, and a voice says something over loudspeakers.

“They are going to show the final fireworks.” Emi tells me, darting to a spot with a good view. I stand where I am and take in the last of the fireworks, which are magnificent, brilliant and beautiful.

One the last of the glowing particles faded into nothing, the crowd stared moving. The group of us–four Yukata girls, one husband and wife and another friend of Emi’s who wasn’t wearing a Yukata, decided to eat some Chinese food afterwards. I groaned inside a little… I don’tnormally like the mixed outings because most people order beef and pork dishes, but we all chip in for the final bill. But I didn’t drive there, and it didn’t really matter. It was only nine o ‘ clock or so.

I met the other Yukata girls, Yuka and Emily who were also regular Salsa dancers. They were both very thin with mischievous eyes. I like something about Emily, who had a thin, long face and a bright smile. We snapped a picture by the car before heading to the restaurant and headed off.

I had never eaten Chinese food in Japan, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it really tasted that Chinese. I figured out a way to get enough chicken and shrimp dishes to survive, while chatting and laughing with the group. It was a good outing, and I was glad to take in the
fireworks as a start to my Friday night. Hopefully next time I’ll reach earlier to another such outing, and be able to see more of the stalls and mingle with the crowd.                                  

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