Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Sumidagawa Fireworks

So on July 30th, Jeff and I went to Tokyo for the fireworks. We left shortly before 5, hit the expressway, and got to Tokyo by 7. We won't do this again. One Japanese source (she will remain unnamed) advised us to go early in the morning since all spots would be taken by about 10am. This source was wrong.

We got to the park around 8am. One side of the park was already crowded with mostly empty blue tarps, and a few groggy people who had obviously (and unwisely) spent the night. The view of the river was also blocked by a large, ugly fence and various other barriers. So we decided to try the strangely quiet other side of the river. We plunked down our mats on the unforgiving concrete and promptly fell asleep. But alas, we were woken at 9:30 by well-meaning cops who informed us that for some unknown reason, we could not stay seated in that area... sigh...

So we trudged all our stuff back to the other side of the river (remember how much I packed?) and we found a spot in the midst of the gazillion blue tarps to once again plunk down our little mats. The spot was under beautiful trees. Nice for napping, but not so good for fireworks viewing. It was about 10am. It was unbelievably muggy. I was tired. Jeff was suffering from a horrible sunburn. The fireworks didn't start till 7. It was a very long day.

Then, at about 5:30pm, after walking through the crowds and scoping out other increasingly crowded areas, Jeff and I decided to ditch our day-long guarded territory and squish between two other couples to enjoy an unobstructed view of the fireworks. Unfortunately, by the time they started, we were both so exhausted we were ready to call it a night.

Moral of the story? The Japanese are small people and they know how to squish. Go to over-rated events at the last possible minute... and squish in. They may not like it, but they'll be too polite to say anything about it!

The best part of the night was the aftermath. One million people leaving the riverside at the same time. It was incredible, surreal. Policemen on platforms with lightstands shining down on them, belting out directions to local train and subway stations. Dozens of policemen making massive crosswalks out of giant, closed roads, simply by using a bit of team spirit and yellow rope. Policemen stationed every ten feet, answering questions, keeping control. Food vendors trying to sell their last bits of yakisoba, shaved ice, and takoyaki. And were there any problems? Any riots? What do you think? The biggest ruckus I saw was caused by a drunk foreigner who refused to cross at the crosswalk and then blubbered profanities at the policeman who tried to keep him from doing so.

It was certainly an experience.

And the fireworks? Oh ya, they were good.

Next time we'll go at 6.

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