The Lion Dances Tonight.
Two weeks ago we found out that there were festivals going on in the mountains west of the base, the same ones that we had explored the week before, so we went up not knowing what to expect. When we finally found the place we were supposed to be the dances had already started. The people there were so nice they welcomed us and ushered us to the center of the action. They served us sodas and beers and seemed to be quite happy we had come. When the dances ended we agreed it was the coolest thing we'd done in Japan so far. One of the men gave us "lucky flowers" that he ripped right out of the decoration and someone motioned that we come with them. Suddenly we were part of a parade that cops were diverting traffic for and our small group all walked up to a house on top of a hill.
We were asked to stay and were given beer, sake, and vegetables from a local woman's garden. (Best okra ever.)
Once in got dark, more and more of the town started showing up. Andy befriended a man from Fussa that gave us a play by play in English the whole time which was awesome. Amongst the many things he told us, we learned that the town itself was 1,000 years old, that the dance had been going on for three hundred years, and that anyone's best guess as to how the Japanese knew about lions back then is that a photo from China probably made its way over. Pretty soon the dances started again. The same three guys danced all day. It looked exhausting. Andy commented to his new friend that the dancers were certainly going to sleep well that night and he found it hilarious. One man and his sons played flute all day, and I thought the poor man was going to pass out towards they end. He was shaking for most of the last dance, but he finished!
The town came and laughed and drank and had a grand old time and we we so lucky to be a part of it all. It probably was the coolest experience we've had in Japan. We felt completely included in this little community. And thank you to the police man who bought us beer all night. We had an amazing time.