Tajima’s Gion Festival by Joel Conway

Tajima’s Gion Festival by Joel Conway
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One of the floats with performances.

The Gion Festival. The Webster’s dictionary defines it as “undefined did you mean the goon festival?” But according to everyone who lives close by it’s a festival to celebrate old traditions, whilst dressing up as samurais in kabuki make-up, enjoying the occasional beer and squid on a stick and showing off their homes.

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Part of the parade.

The Gion festival actually closely resembles a parade rather than a festival, with several small, carved wooden floats being carried by many chanting, colorful locals down the street throughout the day. Which is nice but it carries on relatively late into the night and being right outside my apartment, I soon incorporated grunting men into my personal relaxation time – but not because I wanted to or anything…

Here everyone is happy to say hello and try and convince you to attempt some of the festival’s game stalls or eat varying food stuffs. From shooting down small toys with a cork gun, being offered a balloon from a man dressed as Jibanyan or simply enjoying different fried foods there’s plenty for the festival to offer.

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As easy as I make it look, I did not win the lighter.

Though the prices may be a little expensive, it’s nice to let your hair down and shoot the breeze, figuratively and literally – turns out I’m a terrible shot and couldn’t win a thing at the shooting game. But my drive to win that one Zippo lighter made me spend around ¥2000


One thing I did enjoy was buying a large plastic bottle (that has some sweet flashing lights) filled with freshly blended pineapple juice, then proceeding to find the closest alcohol stand and putting in some tequila – though apparently the locals believe a shot to be three times bigger than the norm here – which was a welcomed experience.

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The walkway toward the temple, lined with handmade lanterns.

Following the festival from one end to the other eventually leads you to the town’s shrine and temple. For the Gion festival, Tajima goes the extra mile and plants many lamps and lanterns, lighting the path down; really giving off a traditional mood for the short walk through the temple gates, even with my glowing bottle of booze and juice in hand. It really was a nice experience and coupled with the relaxed nature of everyone there it was a lot of fun.

Standing in front of the temple.
Standing in front of the temple.

Believe it or not, Tajima’s Gion Festival is actually one of the largest outside of Kyoto, so if you are a fan of seeing something that’s large, but definitely not the biggest you’ve seen, then come on down and see my…town’s festival. It’s not really worth it but you will enjoy it if you give it a chance…the festival I mean.

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You should visit the festival, if only to see the balloon man.

Spelunking in Fukushima’s Irimizu Cave

Spelunking in Fukushima’s Irimizu Cave

Sometimes I forget I have phobias. When I’m at the top of a roller coaster, I remember that I hate heights. When I am rummaging around in my pitch black garage, I suddenly recall the fact that I’m terrified of the dark, and I sprint back into the house with my heart pounding.

A picture I pulled from this website. It is hard to tell if this man is posing or is stuck…

Now here I am wedged between two rocks, far below the ground when I remember how much I hate enclosed spaces. My ribcage scrapes across the rock until I can’t go any further, another outcropping rock pinched against my shoulder blade. And the crevice only gets narrower.

The guide peers back at me. “Go back and try again. Lead with your head and follow with your body,” He advises me in Japanese. Potentially getting my head stuck between two rocks with my arms pinned down at my sides did not sound appealing. I pondered whether to turn back, but my path of escape was blocked by my two friends. Instead, I suppressed the urge to panic and did as the guide instructed. I managed to slither through the rocks and tried not to think about how I would get back through the crevice.

This wasn’t what I expected when I went to Irimizu Cave at the recommendation of my friends. My experience with caves has been limited to metal walkways, high ceilings and clearly lit caverns. I suppose the required guide and flashlight should have been a hint.

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