Gathering in Joetsu
After our stay in Aizu, we went to Niigata and Nagano.
I have nothing to say about Niigata. It was very hot, Nadia got sick because of the sun, and my left leg and foot were still hurting from when I fell in Aizu. We visited the gardens and a temple, and after just a few hours we had enough and left for Nagano as soon as we could.
We were in Nagano because of its proximity with Joetsu, a small city in Niigata prefecture. The heat was too strong for me, so I didn’t really do anything in this place, besides going to the Net café and enjoying the location of our ryokan (inside a temple complex).
Joetsu, though, is another story.
Every year in this city is held the Kenshin Kousai, a festival about the famous warrior Uesugi Kenshin, and for 3 years now, Japanese rockstar GACKT is playing this role. Being a huge fan, as you might have noticed from earlier posts, I couldn’t miss a chance to see His Prettiness riding a horse in front of me, and I couldn’t miss a chance to take pictures of him either.
(note : most of the pictures in the following gallery are mine. The ones that are wider in length are Nadia’s)
This festival is in two parts : first, you get a ~ 1 hour parade in the city, and second, a ~ 2 hours battle reenactment in a field.
Everyone gathered in Joetsu very early in the morning to get a spot in the front. In Japan, it works that way : if you are there first, and mark your spot (with a chair, cover or anything to sit on), you can then leave and nobody will steal your place. So, everyone did that.
Everyone except us !
We had booked a hotel in Joetsu for the next night only, six months in advance (it was the only hotel of the area), but the night before we were in Nagano, and didn’t want to get up too early.
The festival was held on a Sunday. On Saturday, my friend went to Joetsu alone to visit the area and she came back knowing exactly how the city looked and where we should go to have a good spot. So, Sunday morning, we took the train and got to Joetsu around 1 pm. Of course, everyone was already there. We walked, until we found a place on the second “row”, there was someone in front of us. We sat down and waited. And around 3 pm, just before it started, they left because they wanted to go sit somewhere else, and we grabbed their spot immediatly.
Arriving after everyone else and still getting to the front ? Amazing. I have to say that it was one of the hottest days of that already hellish summer and that Joetsu is a shadeless town. Umbrellas were obligatory.
During the parade, a group stopped in front of us and wanted to offer drinks to us (beer, actually), and stayed there, using a fan on us. I really wonder how horribly sweaty we looked ! They simply wouldn’t leave ! I had seen 3 other foreigners on the other side of the street (one of them was an online friend of mine that I met later at the station), but I think, with them, we were the only ones there. Of course we were going to attract a lot of attention !
We did see my dearest god, we did take a lot of pictures of him and a few videos too, and it was already dark when we got back to the hotel.
To this day, I still remember this afternoon and evening as some of the best and funniest I spent in Japan. I will also remember the people of Joetsu in a very good way. Friendly, nice, curious and more open than in a lot of places. I regret not having been there this year.