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Spalding Flower Parade memories came flooding back in Japan

I didn't expect to be reminded of Spalding during my time in Japan but one evening, memories of the Spalding Flower Parade came flooding back.

Whilst in Nagoya, we discovered a nearby village was holding its annual float festival. Arimatsu is a small village with an old town so well-preserved it's often used for period dramas. Visitors come to see shops selling tie-dye fabrics, created locally since the end of the 17th century.

On the first Sunday of October they hold a parade: Arimatsu Dashi Matsuri (Arimatsu Floats Festival). It's a 300 year old tradition of making a pilgrimage to their local shrine. Today there is a procession during the day and at night. We hopped on a train from Nagoya to check out the evening parade.

Floats (22866303)
Floats (22866303)

The train was full of commuters and the stops were just written in Japanese characters. I counted the number of stops until we reached Arimatsu.

After disembarking, other travellers dispersed in different directions. We were on our own, not knowing the parade route.

Thankfully we spotted the ubiquitous elderly traffic wardens with their light-sabres. As this was a public event, they took charge of the crossing to ensure pedestrians were safe.

Arimatsu floats festival (22865499)
Arimatsu floats festival (22865499)


We followed everyone else into a side street. Friendly locals were handing out sake so we accepted a glass, with smiles and a thank you - "Arigato!" - and continued our walk.

Our timing was perfect. Within a few minutes of arriving we could see dozens of glowing lanterns swinging in the distance. The three huge floats - 'dashi' - were moving towards us. They were ornately carved and lacquered. Right at the top we could see karakuri, mechanised puppets, being operated rather precariously by people sitting in the upper part of the float.

The dashi were dragged through the streets by local men dressed in their traditional happi coats. We could hear their rhythmic singing and, as they passed by, could see that it took a considerable effort to move the floats.

Occasionally the men stopped for a beer and a cigarette before taking hold of the long poles and moving on. Children excitedly held the ropes and pulled, believing their efforts were crucial to the dashi's ability to move.

At one point the lanterns became entangled with a lamp post - much shouting and laughter until the strings were free.

In the centre of the village each float was spun around its axis as the chants became louder. Sweets were thrown from the very top towards the gathered children. Everyone clapped and cheered.

As we headed back to Nagoya, I thought about the fun I used to have during the Spalding Flower Parade: cheering and waving as a member of the public or as a participant on the SADOS float. At least the town now has the Pumpkin Parade although we would miss it this year.

Being part of Arimatsu's cultural festival in Japan reminded me of the importance of tradition and the pleasure these events can bring to a community.

You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk

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