Sunday, December 12, 2010

Luminarie

Pictures from the Luminarie festival in Kobe:

This is a festival of lights that takes place every year around Christmas (not to be confused with Hanukkah - the other festival of lights that takes place every year around Christmas).

Where as one celebrates the retaking of the temple in Jerusalem and some really long-burning oil, this was started after the Hanshin Earthquake as a way to perk up the city after the tragedy. Because nothing makes you forget about your lack of housing and water like some Italian made bulb-festooned woodworking.

However, that isn't to say that the whole thing isn't insanely beautiful - like something from a picture book.

For about 10 days, the lights are put up in an area around City Hall. The two main parts are the 'tunnel' which leads to the main venue, and the 'carousel' which sits in the center of the park by the city hall (I have no idea what these two parts are actually called).

This is the tunnel:



as you can see it is a series of gates placed over a street and stationed about 20 - 30 feet apart.



And this is what awaits at the end of the tunnel. I would say it was the light at the end of the tunnel but that would just be lazy writing. So I will allude to it instead as I just did.

moving on

There are two ways to get there:

1) The proper way - As this is all just placed in the middle of downtown there is a giant hour-and-a-half queue starting at the train station, zig-zagging around a number of blocks and leading through the tunnel of lights to the circle of lights.

This is all well and good except that a) The whole line up has the charm of a forced death march with constant whistle blowing and police on bullhorns shouting (politely) about moving forward and waiting at lights and not jumping the line. They even form a blinky-baton human wall that stretches across the street at intersections. and b) it is winter at night and very cold.

All this is to control the throngs:

video

And if all that doesn't sound like fun you can always get off one station earlier, walk underground for 10 minutes and pop up right in the middle of the event.

But either was is fine.

As this is a festival, there are lots of 夜店 (Yomise pron: Yo-me-say) which are food stalls selling a variety of portable dishes like Yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), Kara-age (deep-fried chicken chunks) Kobe steak on a stick, fish-shaped cakes called Kasutera, hotdogs on sticks, Takoyaki (chunks of octopus in small balls of dough topped with mayonaise, sweet sauce, and dried bonito flakes - way better than it sounds). These little stalls wind all over the park around the lighting display giving the whole affair a very "welcome to Asia" feeling.



Kobe Steak!



Yakitori!



Humiliation!

Here are some more shots of the whole event:


In the center of the "carousel"


video

Panorama of the interior







Furu Pote: How do we not have these in America - It is French fries in a paper bag. You pour a powdered flavor on top and shake the bag to mix the flavor in. Here are the flavors presented at this stand (from left to right)
Barbecue
Soy Sauce and Mayonaise
Nori and salt
Aforementioned Takoyaki
Curry
Salt (ok - I think this one doesn't count)
Kimchi

Other flavors I have seen around Japan are: Mustard/Mayo, Black Pepper, Spicy Chili, Patte.

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