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Full Circle

Day 41: Nagasaki

Nagasaki, Japan 
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Okunchi Festival. Float hauling.
Michael Palin - Full CircleWhen we reach the Suwa-jinja Shrine our Treasure ship is hauled into the arena, amid much cheering. There are some foreign tourists in the crowd. I think they must be British, because one of them catches sight of me in my kimono and red and white bow and performs the wildest double take I think I've ever seen. After the ritual presentation of our float to the Shinto priests, the children sing and play and enact a short drama. Then we all stand back and let the frenetic display begin. This consists of hauling the fully-laden float backwards and forwards across the arena as fast as possible. It's flung one way, then the other, raced to the brink of a steep stone stairway, wrenched to a halt then turned laboriously back again. Teeth are clenched, eyes rolled and bracelets of sweat are sent spinning through the air. The boat keeps moving as long as the audience keeps cheering, and the more passes it makes the more successful they're deemed to be. An added hazard is the presence of half a dozen television crews, not including our own. I get clouted on the side of the head by a video camera and at one point Mr Takashi has to race into the arena to retrieve his flag which has become coiled round a TV cable and is scything its way through the crowd.

The rest of the day is a considerable anti-climax. Thank God.
Nagasaki, Japan 
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Okunchi Festival. Schoolgirl percussionists await their fifteen minutes of fame.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 41
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Nagasaki
  • Book page no: 67

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  • Around the World in 80 Days