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Luminare

A final thought from Hiroshima from my recent two day trip.

With two days to spend in Hiroshima my girlfriend and I used one day on Miyajima and the other visiting the A-bomb museum and the various memorials in Peace Park. All of which I have written about before.

The night of our second day we wandered down Peace Boulevard to look at the “Dreamination”. Basically Christmas Lights.

I don’t know about other countries but in Britain we have a big tradition of municipal Christmas lights. Every December cities up and down the U.K. tart themselves up in illuminations and then hold a fairly naff ceremony with a local celebrity to switch them on. Thus done the cities are transformed into a festive winter wonderland. Well not quite, but it would take a scrooge of epic proportions to object to Christmas Lights. For one month of the year the same old streets and tired shop fronts transform into something a little bit more interesting and fun to look at. The whole experience of just being in a city is subtly altered for the better.

I have fond memories as kid of being driven around the city centre with my Mum, Dad and two brothers with Christmas music playing on the radio looking at all the lights and pointing out all the strange shapes they were in. Snowmen, stockings, wreaths, presents, bears, Santas, candy canes and most memorably in Leeds the Santa parachuting down the side of an office building.

The “Dreamination” reminded me a lot of Christmas lights except that

a) They had nothing overtly to do with Christmas
b) They were up in November
c) They were confined to one (admittedly rather long) street
d) They were on a pedestrian level and pedestrians could interact with them rather than merely looking at them.

a) Can’t be helped considering Japan doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas, b) is a sad indictment of our consumer capitalist society but c) I am prepared to forgive because d) more than makes up for it.

Strolling through the lights is a much different experience to driving past them looking up. Strolling arm in arm with your long time girlfriend in weather that is cold but not too cold and looking at and playing with lights is another experience altogether and a very fine one at that.

Most of the lights were still there to be gazed at, obviously but a few of them provided an opportunity to get inside the lights and pose for photos.

Most notably this carousel.

And this train which I dubbed the Galaxy Express 999.

One day I need to see that anime, if only because at karaoke with my fellow teachers one of my JTE’s sang it once.

My favourite of the lights was this awesome looking phoenix. Not very Christmassy but very cool.

Incidentally Kobe also has it’s own Christmas lights-esque festival. The Luminare. I wrote about it last year. The Luminare has its appeal but frankly I’m much more a fan of the idiosyncratic but varied lights of the Dreamination than the beautiful but repetitive lights of the Luminare.

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Sorry for missing Thursday’s post last week guys.

I’m going to defend myself on two accounts okay. Firstly I spent last Thursday sending Christmas presents and to most of yuo that read this that manes you directly benefit from my lack of blogging. Secondly I typed up a bonus post yesterday but my internet decided to go screwy and eat my typing.

Anyway as an added bonus to go with the rest of today’s post I HAVE A TELLY! This means I now have access to the gloriously insane world of Japanese television. As I type this my TV is on for the first time and I’ll be keeping you all updated on whatever madness comes on screen.

Already in the time it took to type that the news showed a “handball” game. A sport I wasn’t sure actually existed.

So what have I been up to then. Well on Sunday Night I went to go see the Kobe Luminare, the biggest and most famous festival in Kobe. They started it in 1995 to honour the anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It consists of some really elaborate and orante Christmas lights which were donated to Kobe by the Italian government. Really they’re just a set of glorified Christmas lights but they’re quite famous and as I live in Kobe I thought it would be a shame to miss them.

And I’m really struggling to type at the moment because I’m very distracted by some kind of Yoga-themed game show and….
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DOCTOR WHO DUBBED INTO JAPANESE!

This is truly surreal. The guy doing David Tennant is utter crap but the voice of K-9sounds exactly like the original, and Rose just sounds….odd.

Anyway back to the Luminare.

So firsly I have to stress that I had to queue.

… and queue

….. and queue. For a long time.

And it wasn’t just that I was queuing but that we got herded like human cattle all around the city in a big loop. It was the city wide equivalent of when you go to a theme park and think that you’re nearly at the ride. Then you turn the corner and realise you have a whole room of zig-zagging barriers to get through first. It even had those barriers.

One thing the queueing emphasised too was quite how many people in Japan. I’m always aware that Japan has a lot more people living here than in anywhere I’ve lived before. Hell whenever I need to cross the road in Sannomiya there are always close to a hundred people waiting to cross at the same time.

However that’s nothing compared to the crowds whenever there’s a festival. Simply put you don’t realise how many people live in Japan until they all try and go to the same space.

Anyway I didn’t much mind the wait. This being Japan plenty of enterprising people were selling things in the queue and I bought a coffee to warm my hands and settled into a gentle wander. Enjoying the brisk air and the lights and sounds of the city.

Besides there were plenty of sights on the way.


Sorry for the poor quality pic. You can just about pic out the Anchor that’s been set up to look as if it was some kind of giant anchor on the mountain.


And this would be one of my favourite shop names in Sannomiya.

And when I finally got to the lights well….

I thought they were worth the wait.

I stand by my statement that they’re just glorified Christmas lights but they were worth seeing all the same. They are gorgeous, and I love the way they seem to float in the air without any visible means of support.

What did surprise me was that the Luminare was more than just the lights and actually had a proper festival attached.Now festival in the Japanese sense usually means 10 billion stalls crammed into one place selling an enormous variety of food. The form seems to be to eat constantly whilst looking at whatever visual attraction is the excuse for the festival. So not wanting to break with tradition I set out to get fed.

Amongst the foods on sale (alongside the game and toys stalls) were yakitori (various kinds of fried food on sticks), kebabs of various kinds, inuyaki (flattened fried squid on a stick), barbequed corn, noodles, doriyaki, sweet potatoes, hot dogs on sticks, lots of sake, some beer and some coffee and candy strawberries, a bit like toffee apples but with strawberries, which to me seems a bit of a waste of a strawberry frankly.

Being me I opted for the takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and they were gooooooooooood. I also had some taiyaki. A bit like doriyaki this is anko in pancakey style dough. But unlike doriyaki the dough is shaped like a fish and it’s fried first. I also had some tasty little pancake balls which were incredibly addictive.

Suitably fed I had an amble over to the so called “event stage” and watched a female choir do accapella versions of Christmas songs. They were actually pretty good but as it was a Sunday I had to dash off and get some sleep.

Anyway this was mostly an excuse to show case pretty pictures so I hope you enjoyed them.

And on the telly is the fucking DONDAKEE transvestite. Apparently he’s won some kind of award. If I haven’t mentioned this annoying git on the blog remind me to because he is the bane of my existence.

Oh good he’s gone and been replaced by….I think another transvestite. Have I accidentally tuned into some kind of fetish channel?

And on that note, goodbye.

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