Apr 17, 2007

Tanuki on the Shore: Stumbling Drunk Through Takamatsu

Tanuki are mythical raccoon tricksters with giant magic balls. This sunday, there was a tanuki festival in Takamatsu, and by total chance I ended up in the middle of a big public square where everyone was wearing racoon hats. Also, I ended up completely drunk and wandering around a bunch of castle ruins. It was cool.
Sort of on a whim I ended up going to Takamatsu this weekend. No real reason- I just felt like I'd hop on a train to Shikoku and see what was there. Takamatsu is a decently sized city, and I thought I'd give it a look. Hip Hop asked me what I was doing this weekend, and asked if he could come along.
We got on an early train, and moved south through all manner of rural hills and ricefields. I'm continually surprised by how much "country" Japan seems to have. Sure, it's crowded country, with towns every ten minutes and rice fields clumped together, but it's rural nonetheless. We passed over the Honshu-Skikoku bridge, and I was quite taken with my first real view of the Inland Sea. I'd been to the Inland Sea before, of course, but only at night. Here, though, I was able to take in the full size of it, see it extending out in two directions and dotted with all manner of tiny islands. It was as if Honshu and Shikoku were dissolving, and little bits of them still floated in sea.
At the tanuki festival, of course, there were all manner of food vendors. Hip Hop looked at me rather sheepishly and asked "Do you wanna beer?" I felt a bit reticent- it was only about twelve thirty, and I didn't want to slide into some sort of reverie of daytime drunken degeneracy. But, I think that tanuki would have approved of my actions when I said "sure."
I still think it's weird to drink outside, but it's all legal here, so I guess it's not a problem.
We sat down and watched some kids doing taiko, which I'd never seen before- the closest I'd come was playing a taiko-themed arcade game (which I did quite enjoy, I might add).
Taiko is fairly neat to watch. Granted, we were watching kids, but the mixture of drumming, choreography, and shouting all makes it very much a performance, not just music. Really- if you were to listen to a recording of taiko drumming, you'd be losing about half of the experience of it. The kids had some decent chops, but I'd like to see a proper adult taiko performance sometime.
After that, a bunch of high school girls did a "raccoon dance." They were all dressed up in ears, tails, and makeup, and had I been a pedophile with a fur fetish I would have been pleased with it to no end.
We stumbled from the square, and made our way to the ruins of Takamatsu castle. The ruins (well, mainly just the base of the castle) were situated in a rather pleasant traditional garden with all manner of rocky steps, stone lanterns, and arching trees. It was nice. Hip Hop and I stumbled a few times as we drunkenly walked over the uneven stone steps, but managed to avoid falling like idiots.
Now, I don't want to sound like a total degenerate, but...
I'm quite glad that I'm now living the sort of life wherein if I find myself drunkenly stumbling about a bunch of castle ruins after watching a bunch of dancing girls dressed up as raccoons, I think that's more or less normal. I mean, it's not like I do that every day, but that's the sort of thing that being over here is all about- gallivanting around and doing random stuff like that.
We got some Udon (a Shikoku specialty) and looked at the Inland Sea for a while as we sobered up before catching a train home. I had a social engagement in Kurashiki later that night. There, I contented myself with oolong while everyone else got tipsy, and I splayed out in the wonderful sensation of knowing I'm somewhere else.

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Kori the tomorrow lady said...

I recently had a chat with some one about why Americans (specifically more than Brits or Aussies) drink more in Japan than they do back home. I mean, it's certainly true for me as well. And one thing we came up with was the public acceptance of it. Open containers on the train, in the street, of course at festivals... even in a cab they've never bugged me about drinking.

I think public drunkenness is also tolerated so much more here. at all hours and even to ridiculous extents. businessmen in proper suits being sick on train platforms or completely passed out unconcious on the train no longer suprise me. (not that I have ever done either! ... at least in a suit) and now THAT is degenerate.

a little afternoon stumble sounds down right innocent.
I love the moments when I realize my perception of society has been skewed.

wish I could have been stumbling around with you!

(though I wouldn't encourage any pedophilia, fur clad or not)

Eric said...

You should have got one of them Tanooki Suits. Then you would be able to fly. Did you get the 1-up behind the eastern most castle wall? That should be enough Mario jokes for a while.

Sounds like fun! I always figured Japan was more socially conservative than the US, and that may still be true in general, but nothing can hold a candle to our Puritanical drinking laws! How DARE you think of drinking on a sunday? That's the Lord's day! (Actually, I think all the no-liquor-sales-on-sunday laws have been repealed finally, but until the 90s that was still widely true in New England.)