Part 3: The Festival / Part 4: Oyster Farming / Part 5: Camp Life
After the devastatingly beautiful floating lanterns, our team was eager to hear what we would be doing to help out with the happier side of the festival the next day. Some teams would be carrying mikoshi (shrines that can be carried), some would be fund-raising.
It turned out we were to clean the portable toilets and the cars used for street clean-up and food delivery. That took us most of the day, and we arrived at the festival in late afternoon.
Nowhere in Japan has been as welcoming as the people of Miyagi, and even in post-tsunami Ishinomaki, this still holds true. We stopped at a number of street vendors, and bought fried buns with oyster stew inside (Kaki stew pan) and tortilla hotdogs, which came with free yakitori. We got samples of mikan juice, and the promoters were happy to pose with a carton for us.
We even found a place that sold the freshly-ground, freshly-roasted hot coffee we’d been craving. Taku of Kigokoro Cafe runs a travelling coffee shop and he’s now doing a tour of Tohoku. He offered us free coffee, but after we insisted on paying, allowed us to donate instead. Awesome guy, and if you can read Japanese, you should check out his resumé.
On the outskirts of the destroyed section of the city, a hospital was handing out kakigoori (ice shavings with syrup). I thought I was over kakigoori, but I’d never had it with condensed milk before. It was delicious, but they refused payment. Once again, everyone was so nice.
One of the highlights of the afternoon parade was a mikoshi made of tsunami debris. Let me repeat that: A tsunami took thousands of citizen’s lives and destroyed half a city, so the residents made a shrine out of the debris and paraded it through the streets. That is one hell of a ‘f*** you’ to any natural disaster that dares show its face here.
On a sour note, a ton of so-called “Christians” decided to show up and tell us that the tsunami was our punishment and we needed to repent. By the time I’d seen the fifth or sixth blank-eyed little git holding their obnoxious yellow signs with their stupid loudspeakers reciting their views in Japanese, I was begging my team leader to let me break protocol and Have Words with them. They never made eye contact, their lips formed into an immovable pout and there was not a shred of kindness — Christian or otherwise — in their eyes. How dare they.
Once the fireworks started, however, their Bible verse was drowned out with music, camera shutter sounds and commentary from a nearby loudspeaker. Thank God.
There were fireworks donated from all over Japan, which exploded in the shape of of cats, hearts and spirals. They reflected off the water and one side of the Mangattan manga museum. Very beautiful and inspiring. Unlike the previous night, there was no noticeable absence of light where buildings used to be and no visible wreckage, so it was very easy to think of this as being like any other summer firework festival in Japan.
As we left, from the crowd I delivered a swift and decidedly weak kick to one of the sign-holders and lost my moral high ground. He never even noticed.