Friday, August 18, 2006

Fireworks: a tangental narrative, with Video!

I'm always amazed at the ability of the Japanese to take something everyone knows and loves and manage to make some drastic improvements.

Today's exhibition of Japanese improvement is a bit strange, because I think that this improvement was made a few hundred years ago, and we just haven't managed to catch on yet. That's right folks, we'll be taking a look at how the J-folk set off fireworks.

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The first area of improvement (over Canada, anyway) is a pretty straightforward one: making fireworks legal, seemingly whenever anyone feels like setting them off.

What a brilliant idea.

I happen to live near a river, where gobs of high school and university kids are eager to blow off steam (and perhaps the occasional hand?) by shooting roman candles out over the river. From my perspective, I happen to enjoy sitting by the river anyway, and the prospect of a free fireworks show just makes things better.

Now, that said, the J-folk have also decided to make an upgrade to the whole "public holiday" thing, and have taken the fireworks show to the max. All around Japan are fireworks festivals where the municipal governments throw some serious bucks into a fireworks show for everyone to enjoy.

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I've been to two shows, one in Yokohama and one right near my home on the Tama River, and both were mind boggling. For two or three hours, they fire amazing gunpowder art into the sky for the enjoyment of the masses.

The explosions were amazing, and they even did things like change colours and patterns after exploding...

...or change directions!

Of course, even more amazing is the fact that the fireworks people (fireworkers??) have managed to scuplt amazing shapes - like glasses, faces and hearts - rather than simple round explosions.

Unfortunately, they still haven't mastered getting the image to appear in any particular direction.

Maybe next year.

Of course, the simple explosions are nothing to scoff at either - the best way to make a round exploding ball compete with a picture of a Japanese cartoon character?

Easy. Make it F'ing huge.

It's really quite great. Thousands of people from the local area converge on the fireworks (usually near the water from what I've seen) and snack on eel, fried noodles, and (in our case anyway) drink a whole whack of wine.

And what, pray tell, could make this better?

Sweet Robes. That's what.

In Japan, it's traditional to wear a "Yukata" when going out to watch fireworks. While these were traditionally bedroom attire, they have been thoughtfully repurposed into the best chillaxing gear since the toga. Want to know how cool they are? Let me use a simple rhetorical question:

What if Hugh Hefner was a Samurai?

Yeah. Yukatas are that cool.

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From the left:
1) a whole lot of interested fireworks-watching j-folk
2) my new co-worker/protege/rumoured lover, Andy
3) my iron-fisted, overbearing boss, Lucy, who totally reads this blog and is going to be F'ing pissed that I introduced her as such.
4) my very best Japanese photo pose.

That night, my good buddy and King of All Props David managed to somehow bring The Hef, a Samurai and Harvard University all together. Here he is posing with Goshiko, who has repeatedly asked not to be named here.

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After the 'werks were all finished, we hit up a local izakaya for some yummy seafood.
Dave and I enjoyed some yummy bite sized soft shell crabs. They go crunch.

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It's good to be on top of the food chain!

At the end of the night, I got picked up. Whee! David.

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Best thing to come out of the evening: a new phrase.

Go Go Gaijin (noun!)

ps: Goshiko gets to be Penny.
pps: Inspector Gadget always said "Go Go Gadget (spy tool name). Much like the bumbling Inspector Gadget, I am always willing to put my dignity on the line for your amusement.

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