So there we were–hundreds of visitors waiting and soaking in the rain, not knowing whether we were going to see one of the most eccentric festivals in Japan or go home having witnessed nothing. The police were talking to us through their megaphones. Were they telling us to go home? No one knew. Some gave up.
Those who stayed were rewarded. Because after two hours of waiting, the fires were lit. The police cordoned off the street and asked us to walk on a narrow space alongside the houses. I didn’t know where we were going but being led like a herd of sheep wasn’t the best way to take photos. I went against the flow.
“Saire! Sairyo!” Men with exposed bottoms paraded the huge torches along the street. “Saire! Sairyo!” Children carried smaller torches–sometimes unsupervised. They went around and around chanting those words and I shouted it with them. But it was only after coming home that I learned what it means: Festival. Good festival.