A week or two back my area of town had a small bonfire celebration. It gives the people something to do. Since Japan has strict anti-gun laws, when people get bored they can't just go out and kill anyone they want. Not in Japan. Instead, people are forced to find fun things to do, such as socializing peacefully, celebrating, and having barbecues among other hobbies to fill their free time with.
Just to give you an idea of the scale, look at me in the picture. Yeah, the bamboo is that tall, amazing huh? Now picture an entire forest of bamboo and ancient trees, and that's Japan!
Since this is the year of the 'Razorback' Warthog according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, there was a large Ino-shi-shi (warthog in Japanese) float erected out of bamboo and paper mache. It was fun to watch burn.
Sayaka and I walked two blocks from my apartment to where the bonfire, or dondo in Japanese, was and we watched the dry bamboo go up in a glorious blaze of fire! The whole thing only took about thirty eight seconds to evaporate in a blaze of ash and smoke. The bamboo gets so hot that the moisture left in its hollow shell (bamboo is like a wood pipe -hollow on the inside) caused the bamboo to pop and explode with ear deafening force. It sounded extremely similar to mortar fire and gunfire going off. Ever heard a tank fire a round? Same sound (I can only imagine what a bamboo forest fire would sound like). Very frightening but none of the little kids seemed to care. Speaking of which, I was the 'showpiece' as many of my young elementary students decided to play with me and show me off to their parents. Look out Vick Sensei! They're on to you.
One of my favorite Japanese foods is Zenzai, or sweet red bean soup with moist rice dumplings. It may sound gross but it really taste good. Many gajin (foreigners) don't like this extremely 'Asian' tasting food, but it is one of the traditional Japanese treats that I thoroughly enjoy. When the old couple who were making the rice dumplings, or mochi in Japanese, they decided to have me pound the mochi too. The mochi much be kneaded into a dough-like gelantenous goo with a big wood mallet, which is really fun, but also tiring.
All and all, it was a fun day. These types of holiday events are one of the many reasons I love Japan so much.