Oh man – I’m WAY behind on the zero-to-hero tasks so I’m combining a couple of them here. Can a post be inspired by itself? Sure, why not. I’ve been thinking of doing more photo-intensive posts anyway, since people like seeing pictures and I like taking them excessively. I mean, why take only one photo when you can take 10? Besides, I had intended the secondary theme of my blog to be about my past and present travels, and I haven’t written anything on that topic yet, so…
Lately I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for my time in Japan, and have been inspired by some of the great Japan-themed blogs I’ve found, like Japan in 365 Days and Made By Steven. So for today’s post (combining today’s challenge with day 19) I’ve decided to share some photos of one of my Japan adventures. The Nozawa Fire Festival is held every year in the middle of January in Nozawa Onsen, a beautiful town in the mountains near Nagano (site of the 1998 Winter Olympics). I had the opportunity to go in 2012 since it coincided with our ski trip during MLK weekend, and it’s hands down the craziest event I went to during the two years I lived in Japan. To summarize: a bunch of 42-year-old and 25-year-old men build a wooden temple during the weeks before the festival, having earned that honor since the numbers 42 and 25 are considered to be unlucky. On the night of the festival, those men must then defend the temple from the attacking villagers, who come storming with torches, sticks of hay, and more torches.
We had gone with an Australian tour group, and our guide had been quite adamant in informing us that “this is NOT a piss trip!” and told us to keep far away and observe from a distance. Of course, being the silly tourists that we were, we chose not to heed his advice and got as close to the action as we could.
Good thing they were prepared, because the attackers came in force! The defenders fought bravely, but eventually their poor temple succumbed to the flames.
All in all, it was a ridiculous and fun night, and I even ended up with a headband that one of the 42-year-olds had given me as a souvenir. If you ever happen to find youself near Nagano in January, I highly recommend taking a detour to Nozawa Onsen. Also recommended: a ski trip! From Tokyo it’s a 100-minute ride on the Shinkansen to the Nagano station, and from there you can take a bus to the surrounding ski resorts . (Or you could drive, which is what we did. Be sure to bring chains!)