Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Firework festival in Tsuchiura

About twelve days ago two of my Dutch friends visited me, Edwin and Sjoerd. Together with them, we experienced some funny trips, and what I'm about to tell you is one of them. Annett has written about our trips to Kamakura and to Akihabara and Asakusa on her blog.

On Saturday we visited together a huge fire works festival/competition in Tsuchiura, just 15 kilometers to the North-East of Tsukuba. It was supposed to start around 18:00, but when we came there at 16:00 it was already crazy. We read somewhere that almost a million Japanese gather here every year to attend this big circus. When we stepped out of the bus, we were, like on most Japanese publics events, greeted by the many stands with yakitori, yakisoba, chocolate coated bananas and all kinds of sea foods. After walking around about an hour, we finally found a decent place to sit down that was close enough to the toilets, because we wanted to drink some beers.

Actually the first thing I did was going to the toilet, because at that point the queue was only a couple of meters long. This is obviously not very long for five toilets, especially not if you take into account that they had to do for the circa 1,000 people we shared our field with.

When I came out again I must have done something wrong, because the wind blew it shut and it locked itself, and then there were only four toilets left for the whole field. Nice one, monsieur George. However, I did my duty. I informed the nearest police agent, who, as a consequence, started a series of attempts to pick the lock. When I saw him taking care of it I got myself the hell out of there, thereby escaping the slightly unfriendly eyes of the people in the queue.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem entirely trivial to pick the lock, because after several attempts the police agent gave up. Apparently not realizing the scope of this, he did also not inform the rest of the crew that we had a situation here and didn't call for the necessarily backup. Evidently, the number of toilets per human was carefully calculated in Japanese units, not incorporating slight deviations caused by clumsy Dutchmen: we could see the queue grow by the minute.

At this point I started to get slightly paranoid, and had a creepy feeling that the 1,000 Japanese were all talking about that annoying foreigner that managed to lock the toilet from the outside. Luckily Sjoerd was willing to stand up and take some pictures of the queue in my place, because I had made myself as small as possible. Of course most Japanese had no idea about what was going on, and we saw Japanese people knock on the door and listen what was going on in there all the time...

On top of that it started to get very cold, and we had, once again, not taken enough clothes with us. Moreover we were worried about how we would get back, because at some point the million Japanese would want to use the same roads as us (we couldn't go by bike, because Sjoerd and Edwin didn't have a bike here). We therefore decided to leave at 19:30, half an hour before the end of the fireworks. After waiting half an hour at a bus on Tsuchiura station, we decided to take a taxi, being assured by the taxi driver that it was not impossible to get to Tsukuba. We got, however, completely stuck in the traffic, and we had to pay the taxi driver, get out and walk back to the station. There, as luck would have it, we were just in time to catch a bus that went to Tsukuba.

We understood that this was going to take some time (and we all had to pee so badly...), so we sat down on the floor of the bus - not a very Japanese thing to do :). An old Japanese man had sat down beside me. Just when Sjoerd en Edwin were bad mouthing the Japanese in the bus for not standing up for this man, the man collapsed and didn't respond at all anymore. This was very scary, I thought he had died just there next to me. Panic in the bus, the bus stopped aside of the street and opened up its doors. When his family tried to drag him out, he all of a sudden stretched out an arm and responded again. Probably he just lost his consciousness, but it might also have been something worse. They called an ambulance and the bus was on its way again, and we arrived, after a bus trip of an hour, finally in Tsukuba. I had an enormous headache when I came home...

For more pictures, see Annett's picture page.

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At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Wicher said...

Georg, you naughty boy! You must the most severe pain in the Japanase butthole!

But, anyway, very nice to hear stories about Sjoerd and Edwin visiting you! I long being there :(. Nice pictures on Annett's site.

All to you: have a great time!!

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Georg Muntingh said...

Thanks a lot Wicher for your encouraging remarks! ;)


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