From August 2015
One of my favorite festivals in Japan is Oi Town’s Super Ogase. Last year, the 20th anniversary, it was cancelled due to a typhoon. Bummer!
Since last year I saw that they accepted volunteers to help spin the fire giant fire torch. So, I had planed to do it this year. Around June, I had emailed the festival committee about joining. They accepted my application and told me to wait until mid July. Come mid July and I haven’t heard back, but finally I did and got the information on what I had to do.
The festival was August 8th. On the 7th we had to come and go over what we will do on the 8th and on the 9th we were asked to help clean up.
On the 8th. There were a few other foreigners who signed up, but this was also their first time participating.
Actually, that Saturday I had to go to school for a junior high school open class. JHS students came to school and tried out different classes to see if they liked it (students choose and test into high school in Japan). I went to that in the morning and in the early afternoon I spent time with Joy and Orrie. In mid-afternoon we went to Oi so I could sign-in and get ready. At this point I was really starting to get nervous. What did I get myself into? Can I fit into the shoes they were supplying? I managed to fit my size 29/30cm feet into the too small of shoes. Yeah, the small shoes don’t go so well with a ingrown toenail… Well, a couple shots of sake and a shot of vodka helped to solve the issue with pain.
Once I was in my proper attire, I found my way to the place where all the volunteers were suppose to meet. Luckily, I saw friends who came with us and then Joy. I was really hopping Joy was going to get to see me all dressed up.
We had to wait around this area for sometime. Once all that was finished, we were told to walk down to the water. Now, we had to collect torches from guests who had purchased them. We, had to collect them and then pass the torches to the people next to us. The torches were thrown into a bin in the water. I was at the end and had to get the torches directly from the people. I think I surprised a few people, since they were probably not expecting to see a foreigner.
After that was the main event! This part gets kinda hard to remember. We had to hide behind a black cloth as the guy leading us spoke. After that, giant sparkler fireworks went off and we ran towards that and then poured water onto ourselves. Now, we had to left the 1 ton torch. Some people were pulling on pulleys, while other, like me, were underneath pushing it up. At the same time, the torch was being light on fire. I don’t remember how long it took, but it seemed to take a very long time to get it up. It really did seem like an eternity. At this point, water was being sprayed and my group was getting ready to be the first to spin. We ran for it when we were told it was OK to start. There was fire above us and salt water was being thrown on us. I don’t know how many times we went around. Once finished, I got a bucket of water and was throwing it on the next group. Eventually, it was our turn again. There was so much energy under this torch. It was so easy to get caught up with it, not like that was a bad thing. Once the torch burned for so long or to a certain point of being burned, it was knocked over. This is when the fireworks started. 10,000 fireworks in total! This is the biggest fireworks display in the region. Now the everyone was celebrating the torch falling and water was being sprayed for no particular reason. So much water. All salt water from the bay. Still the energy from this was so intoxicating.
After about 40 minutes of fireworks, it came to an end. We walked back to the nearby hotel from where we got ready. Returned the clothes we got and the baths were available for us to use. Wasn’t expecting that, I was thinking I would have to go home wet. I got cleaned up and there was even a single clothes item drier, so that meant I could dry my underwear.
What a night to remember. If I got the opportunity to do this again, I would do it in a heartbeat. Maybe I can do it again in about 20 years.