We went to the town's festival on the ninth. There was much dancing and eating. It was hard to get pictures because everything moved so fast and there were always people getting in the way, but I got some little video clips I'll try to edit into something coherent. My students were amazed to see me there, but then they're amazed to see me in the grocery store so it doesn't mean much. The girls were all very cute in yukata. We watched about twenty schools perform their own versions of Soran Bushi, each a little different in choreography, costuming, and the arrangement. Maybe I'm a little sentimental but I never get tired of it. There was one version in particular that made it a swelling, triumphant almost-ballad that I would give a lot to find on CD.
We visited Nikko. That was a full day's touristing and resulted in almost a hundred pictures so I'm not sure how to organize them into posts for best viewing. For now, I'll procrastinate and instead give you a small day trip we took to Ooya.
A half-hour outside of Utsunomiya, there is a quarry that provides a pumicey stone that many of the buildings in the area are made of. There is a temple built inside a natural cave, inside is the oldest Buddha carved from rock in Japan. There is a 27-meters-tall statue of Kannon, the goddess for peace. It's all in a smallish area and can be seen in a couple of hours, but it has such an ambiance of age and history and worship to it that at one point my breath was taken away. You can't take pictures inside the cave, but mama bought some lovely postcards that she's sending to some of you.
We loved the expressions on those last two, resigned and happy.
I climbed up to the top of Kannon for the view.
Spot the tiny mama in that one.
She does have a placid expression, but it was only made in the 1950s so somehow it's not as endearing.
Last night we took a long train ride to Sano to see a Daimonji. They clear a patch on the hill and set a fire in the shape of the kanji character big, "dai" 大. It's pretty impressive. Tomorrow we head to Sendai, and I'll get to see a concert of my beloved duo.