Japan loves a festival.
Saw a dog? Have a festival. The Trees changed colour? Have a festival. A young, soon to be, war lord is sent to live in your city after being usurped by his brother? Oh you bet there’s going to be a festival.
And with that Joetsu dedicated 2 days to their adopted son, Uesugi Kenshin. Fighter, Poet, and if wikipedia is to be believed, “extremely skillful administrator who fostered the growth of local industries and trade.” Suck on that, Trump.
Known as “The Dragon of Echig”o and the equally bad-ass “God of War”, he is remembered for 5 big battles (maybe 6) but also for being an alright guy, who when his higher-ups blocked access to salt for their enemies, he said “Nawh son, give them boys the salt”.
But you also have access to wikipedia and can read about him here, I’m going to write about the festival I got to see.
DAY 1 – LET’S DANCE (PUT ON YOUR ARMOR AND DANCE WITH STICKS)
Saturday was the warm up to the big boy, with some school marching and brass band exhibitions, a bit of stick dancing by children and adults alike, and the usual access to long chips (which I will detail at a late stage) and chicken karaage, the best thing to happen to chicken since they shrank from their dinosaur form.
Then things got a bit weird. After a well played rendition of “Under the Sea” from the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, the unmistakable drum beat of a 70s hit started.
After that shock had passed, one of the booths had a “try on some armor” display, which as foreigners, we were herded to mostly against our wills.
After this, people were not allowed to remove the swords from their scabbards.
DAY 2 – KENSHIN’S BIG HOOHAA
After leaving early to get a good spot for the big parade we were hits with throngs of no one lining the streets, literally tens of people spread along 3 blocks. Previous years thousands of people attended, but those years were also ones where music and movie stars played the roll of Kenshin. This year the CEO of a non profit paid for the privilege to sit on a horse in the sun. This was the first year a woman played the roll of Kenshin, so I’d expected a few more onlookers.
With the masses no where to be found, we wandered off to find the fun, only to get split up due to me looking through a camera and the wife not noticing. And as is the way with Us and foreign countries we were both seized upon by the locals to be made part of the festivities.
This guy liked the foreign folk. See below. Couldn’t get rid of him.
After we carried the big wooden house (Mokoshi) for the local chaps, the Samurai parade started. This was the business we were out for, the meat and potatoes, the sushi and rice if you will. And it was pretty Disney.
Lord Kenshin herself finally rolled round and made an appearance in front of the Coco’s restaurant, the traditional start of all battles in Japan.
And then she disappeared for a bit, and I ate more karaage, and drank a lemon creme beverage and walked to a field for the battle reenactment.
In the end, Lord Kenshin won, as was expected by the bookies, and he did some horse related business and then it was over. Rather suddenly.
Overall 4/5 Garys. Could have been more karaage.