Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sakura Machi Festa 2018

The weather's been crazy the last few days (crazier than normal now). This has made it harder for the city to hold outdoor events. They'd been advertising the Sakura Machi (Cherry Blossom Town) fest for weeks, which is actually a combination of "The Lantern Festival of Cherry Blossom viewing", and jazz music. It was supposed to run from 6 to 7:40 PM on Friday, 1 to 8 PM on Saturday, and 12:30 to 4 PM on Sunday. The timing was a bit off, if the "lantern viewing" part meant that we were supposed to look at the blossoms at night, because the sun isn't going down until about 7 PM.

(Some of the lanterns.)

Friday evening, I had dinner at one of the restaurants in the Shiroyama Hotel, up at the top of the hill. That started at 6 PM, so I missed the opening ceremonies for Sakura Machi, and whatever it was they were going to have that night. When I got back to the apartment afterward at 9 PM, I decided to walk to the Kotsuki river to check out the event and see if they had a schedule up. And this was part of one of my complaints - the advertising posters only mentioned the headlining jazz performer, Keishi Matsumoto, and nothing else. When I got to the park, there was no schedule next to the stage, and I had no idea what I'd missed.

(More lanterns.)

At least, the event hadn't been cancelled - we'd had very heavy rain in the morning, which didn't actually taper off until mid-afternoon. Most of the food tents were already fully buttoned up, though two of the tents were in the process of closing up, and some of the lanterns were lying on the ground to protect them from the rain and wind.

I had to work all day Saturday, but my last lesson wrapped up an hour and 20 minutes earlier than it was supposed to, so I walked from the school to the park next to the Kotsuki, arriving just past 8 PM. As I was walking through the food court area, I could hear a jazz song playing on the PA system. The song ended just as I was about to reach the stage. The above photo shows the audience leaving as I got there. Sigh. Keishi is the guy that organized the Kagoshima Jazz Fest in Ten Park last year, so I know that his part of the line-up was good. Actually, they finally had the stage schedule posted, and I checked that out right away. There had been bands playing from 1 to 3, then from 4 to 8 PM. I recognized a couple of the names (Moses, R&R Steel Orchestra), but there wasn't anything I would have gone out of my way to watch if I'd had the chance.

The weather on Saturday, was pretty miserable, too. The sky started out cloudy in the morning, and there were near-storm force winds all day. The temps dropped almost 20 degrees, too. The winds wouldn't have been so bad, except they whipped up volcano ash, and people kept getting ash and grit in their eyes. Additionally, the wind ripped most of the remaining cherry blossoms off the trees.

The winds died down overnight, and the clouds were partly blown out by Sunday, although the air was still chilly enough to justify wearing a jacket. I'd taken a photo of the stage schedule, so I knew that there wasn't going to be any music this time. Instead, we'd have 2 stage plays by some theater group, and a "Saigo quiz" by a different group, repeated twice each. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect with the first group, so I just wanted a couple photos for the blog, and no video.

And sure enough, it was the same three actors that have been portraying Saigo, Okubo and Ryoma Sakamoto at these kinds of events for the last 2-3 years. The first skit was "The Three Great Men Go To A Convenience Store", which was a parody of the three men that were pivotal in the developments leading to the Meiji Restoration and the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Their second skit was "Meiji Restoration Rhapsody," another broad slapstick parody piece.

The crowds were light this time, with very few people getting food at the tables. There were maybe 50-60 people seated in front of the stage, and they cleared out pretty quickly after the candy was gone. At the end of the first skit, "Saigo" made a joke about how people in Kagoshima used to mark the starts of big activities by having a "happy rain" (ame), and how this group would finish their sketch by throwing out ame (hard candies). The adults scrambled for the candies a lot more than the children in the audience did. I stayed off to the side, and none of the candies came even close to me (which was ok, since I had a bag of frosted corn flakes in my backpack, leftover dinner from Saturday night when I didn't have time to eat anything more substantial between lessons).

A little farther down the park, the city had put up a booth where women could dress up in Meiji-era outfits. There was also a small archery range for kids, and a little outdoor tea house. These spaces were kind of ignored by the spectators.

There was also a recreation of a Meiji-era waiting room, for photo ops.

A different group of actors portrayed Okubo and Saigo for the quiz section. Each of the actors would ask questions that related to them, and the reward for getting the answer right was another piece of hard candy. The actors spoke in Kagoshima dialect, which is very different from normal Japanese, so I couldn't understand the questions, much less have a chance to answer them correctly.

The only part of the festa that I would have had an interest in was the jazz music on Saturday. I just hung around on Sunday long enough to get photos for the blog, then returned home for most of the day. Dai Hanya is coming up on the 28th and 29th, and the Kagoshima Music Festa will be May 12th and 13th. At least I have those to look forward to.

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