This is a new feature I am trying out, where I take my books places to see. As an introvert, reading is a mostly indoor activity for me. But sometimes those books need to see sunshine and beautiful places, so I will try to take some good ones to some beautiful places. And Japan is a beautiful country indeed, with a blend of futuristic and natural in harmony. This time, for Soundless, I wanted to visit places that resonate with sound. As I was reading the book, I was interested in how the protagonist Fei, who being deaf all her life, suddenly gains hearing, and find the experience a trial but also an adventure. The two places I visited with the book last weekend were Kawasaki Daishi and the banks of the Arakawa, for the Adachi fireworks – both places with sounds that Fei would love to experience.
I must confess, my main incentive for visiting Kawasaki Daishi was the Furin market that was being held in the temple complex. Fuurins are wind-chimes that are ubiquitous in summer here in Japan – often while passing on the streets, or entering a store, I can hear the sweet tinkling sound a wind chime and immediately look around to spot it. Because these chimes are not just beautiful in sound, but also in art. Most are spherical glass bowls with a single glass rod, but there are also metal and wooden ones. The glass ones usually have painted flowers onto them, or beautiful abstract designs.
At this market, fuurins from all over Japan were displayed, and it attracts a big crowd of people, and a large number of people taking pictures, which made for a very difficult shoot with a book, a bag, and a camera in hand.
Also, I got tempted to buy two wind chimes, one for myself (which I later realized I couldn’t even hang from my balcony as I have nothing to hang it from) and one as a gift. Then I was juggling a lot of things, dropped my lens cover once, and had to cut myself off soon because I had to get going if I wanted a spot for the fireworks.
Outside the temple, the Nakamise-dori (street) is overflowing with shops selling various knick-knacks, sweets and yes, fuurins, too. Unfortunately I couldn’t hang around much here, since I had already lost plenty of time in the day.
Now, there is one thing you should know about fireworks in Japan – you need to get there early, grab a spot and lay down your sheet. It is literally a picnic before the main event – there are people spread out all over every good vantage point and locals usually get there earlier. So reaching even two hours early is pretty late, as I knew but did nevertheless. I was resigned to leaning next to a guardrail and watching the fireworks but policemen were ushering people to the far side of the banks, which is a bit away from the main site, but has a good view nevertheless. The river side is mostly a baseball field, and the embankment is grassy, so there is plenty of space; but it is all packed nevertheless, which tells a lot about the magnitude of this firework festival. The Adachi fireworks, though pretty young (38 years and running), still draws a large crowd due to the fact (in my opinion) that it is the first of the large fireworks (it has 12000 fireworks) that start off the summer in Tokyo. And the people are definitely pretty excited, with so many people wearing yukatas – honestly, I was staring away at all the pretty girls with their gorgeous hairdos, flawless make-up and pretty yukatas. Having worn it once for a few hours, I appreciate the dedication they put into wearing it for a whole evening and still looking just as pretty afterwards.
So, plopped down in my spot, I took out Soundless and continued with Fei’s adventures as she descends her mountain, sees a new world, fights the system, while I was enjoying a dramatic sunset that was threatening a storm that never came.
As 7:30 rolled around, test shots were sent into the sky, and finally the fireworks started. AND IT WAS AWE-INSPIRING, as always. This wasn’t my first time, but I was wowed all over again. There were the usual globular fireworks, the shower like ones, often synced with music. Frozen fever is still alive in Japan, with one of the firework shows synced to ‘Let it Go’, and there was the grand one, in which they have a suspended line of fireworks.
The crowd was enthusiastic and wild, with frequent cheers and shouts of ‘sugoi’ raining all around.
But it ends in what feels like a pretty short hour, and then you realize how big the crowd is when it is all exiting the riverside to get back to the station. The road is blocked during this time, allowing for a literal legion of festival-goers to head back, and the walking speed is slow, often coming to a standstill. Even back at the station, the police have their hands full ushering the crowds onto the various lines that converge at Kita-senju station. Getting back is definitely an exercise in patience, but with such great memories of the evening, nothing could get me down! And that was my exhausting, but filled with wondrous sights and more importantly, sound.