Messy night in Tokyo and Setsubun festival

The last weekend in January was fairly peaceful apart from a completely adulterated Saturday night of drinking. At first I was not really up for going to Tokyo to do anything as I had finished work around 8, meaning that I had to get my act together to make it into Tokyo while the night was still young, but of course I did not do this. I faffed around and did not get in until about 10.30. I had arranged to meet Cam with one of her friends that had come over from England, although my phone credit had run out and was completely unsure how to top it up. I tried to find a phone shop. All shut. It tried using a pay phone. No answer. So I thought it was going to be a wasted night until, fortunately, luck had it that we stumbled across each other outside a karaoke bar in Shibuya. Cam, Ryan her music industry friend and Gaz, the visitor. I was yet to have a drink, however the others were well and truly sloshed.  Gaz was a real character. What I saw of him may have been inaccurate to his true personality because he was completely inebriated, but still he showed no inhibitions of being careful what he said and did around everyone, despite being in Japan for less that a day. It was pretty hilarious.

Nevertheless, we went to a bar, I ordered two drinks. At this bar drinks got smashed, people got mildly offended and dance moves got boldly shown off. After I caught up a bit, in an alcohol sense, we decided to try find a party/bar/club-night I had been invited to. We did find a place, but it had it a feel of exclusiveness that was far beyond anything I should be invited too. However when asked by the doorman who invited us, there was apparently someone inside with the same name I gave them. Doorman: “Fraser from Nike?” Me: “errr”. Luckily Ryan speaks great Japanese and we discussed for a while if this could be the “Fraser” I was talking about. But I think my frankly obvious uncertainty about everything put the doorman off letting us in. In the end we gave up and got a taxi back into Shibuya, then went to an all-you-can-drink izakaya, which certainly allowed me to get on the same level as everyone else. Here Gaz was not shy to experiment playing with everything on the table, using bowls as hats, sending chopsticks flying and drinking tentsuya, which is meant for dipping tenpura in and can not imagine is very thirst quenching. After destroying that place we went to another bar where all sense seemed to drift away. By this time it was really late, places started to close and we were all unintelligibly drunk. This is when I ended up loosing everyone. With no working phone, I decided to just get home. I some how managed to get the first train back towards Kazo, most of this is really a blur. I fell into a drunken sleep on the train thus I ended up at the end of the line, somewhere in Japan but I had no idea where. Eventually tracing the train line, I got back to Kazo in the early morning of Sunday. Therefore I spent the rest of my Sunday, as a Sunday should be, as a day of rest.

I had not been that drunk for a while and my hangover seemed to drag on through the beginning of the week. It apparently weakened my immune system as my hangover then turned into a bit of an illness, therefore making my week uneventful. When the weekend came I still felt a bit weak and thought I would give it a miss going out drinking or something similar. Instead on Sunday I attended the Setsubun festival being held at the temple in Kazo, Fudoka temple. Setsubun is celebrated for the changing of season into spring when evil spirits are banished and good luck spirits are welcomed to cleanse and bring new life. Somehow this is linked to the throwing of roasted soya beans, so in a sense Setsubun can be called the “bean-throwing” festival. At Fudoka temple, food stands had been set up everywhere, selling Japanese treats such as “karage” (fried chicken), “yakiniku” (grilled meats), “takoyaki” (octopus balls), grilled squid, and even the not so Japanese-like treats like chocolate coated bananas. Although most people were huddled up close to the temple waiting for the main attraction to start, the throwing of the beans.

Everything started with a procession of kimono clad men and women entering into the temple, which was then followed by some fairly ominous sounding drumming and singing resounding out from the temple, presumably reciting prayers and rituals. When the music subsided the Oni appeared, the devil like creature that is to be banished by means of this ceremony. The Oni was brandishing a large flaming torch, running around the edge of the temple waving it around everywhere. Teru said that it was meant to be cleansing to get ashes on you, but realistically it looked rather dangerous spreading hot ashes all over a temple completely made of wood, but I think that was why there were so many firemen around quickly stamping them out. When the Oni’s flame was out people from inside the temple started to come out onto the surrounding platforms to commence the bean throwing, which not only consisted of beans but also, lots of Japanese type snacks and little messages. People were going crazy to catch as much as they could, some even had brought along bags and baskets to hold high in the air to increase their chances. Some large packs of rice crackers where being thrown with quite a force and were hitting people in the face. Nonetheless everyone was enjoying themselves. Everyone loves free stuff. This went of for quite a while as waves of people kept coming out of the temple to throw their goodies to the unrelenting crowds. When everything had been thrown traditional Japanese drumming groups from different parts of Kazo area started to perform, each trying to out beat the next.

After we had seen enough at the festival Teru invited me back to his parents place to have some tea and do some of our own bean throwing. Each household in Japan on Setsubun is meant to throw beans out of the doors and windows shouting “Oni wa soto!” (Devil get out!) to rid your house of evil spirits, then beckon the good spirits to enter by throwing some beans inside your house shouting “fuku wa uchi!” (Good luck get in!). So we had some fun doing this throwing beans everywhere, which Shunsuke thought was hilarious. We then repeated the same ritual upstairs to cleanse Intersect SFL. Teru then made us some soya bean tea, as also traditionally you should eat as many soya beans as years you are old, but Teru said its easier to drink tea when you get old. Still we did not hold back munching on a few. Therefore I ended that weekend with a complete contrast to the previous one, a completely uncultured meaningless adventure to something with a great helping of Japanese substance.

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