The sound of thundering fireworks rang in my ears as I inhaled the delicious scent of soy sauce from the grilling squids and sizzling yakisoba. Hundreds if not thousands of people, dressed in elegant and decorative yukatas, shoved through the narrow strip of concrete by the river. The (almost) unbearable humidity, resulting from the weather as well as the perspiration of people, hung about the air midst the beautiful night sky lit not only with fireworks, but also with the helicopters of national news organizations covering the event.
Well I hope that put things a little bit into perspective.
In my family's hometown of Gifu City, there's nothing that screams 'SUMMER' more than a fireworks festival, or hanabi taikai in Japanese. This year's annual Nagara River Fireworks Festival welcomed a whopping 300,000 visitors and shot up over 30,000 fireworks in a single day. This nationally recognized festival hit its 58th year, and will hopefully continue to provide both local and far-away visitors with an authentic Japanese experience of the summer.
My family's tradition has always been to eat candy apples at the festival. There's nothing more nostalgic of childhood of an experience than buying a freshly dipped, warm candy apple after a long endeavor of a bike ride from home to the crowded vender's stand. The first bite brings about the scrumptious ensemble of crunchy, delicately sweet apple and perfectly hardened, sugary candy. Red-tinted, sticky lips are unavoidable, but the treat is the best way to experience the festival from its nitty gritty bones and marrows.
Yes, I got to enjoy a delightful dessert that I only get to truly savor in Japan. But in addition, the festival brought back sentimental memories of my past summers spent here. The annual progression of this festival has almost raised me and seen me change as a person over time. It doesn't feel as if so many years have gone by, but unfortunately I'll have to accept this reality (and the horrors of college applications). Including my time left here in Japan this summer, I've realized life moves on much too quickly. There simply isn't enough time for me to fulfill everything I desire.
The least exciting thing I can do right now is analyze the symbolical meaning of this festival like in a typical AP English class. So to put it into simpler context, lets just say my life is like a candy apple. A naturally grown apple, maybe with a couple scratches and bruises, in a giant field of other apples. It gets picked among thousands of others, goes on a long and tedious road of bumps, and finally lands at a vender's table. And last but not least, it's covered in layers upon layers of dense, luscious 'syrup'-- or the pleasant events and sweet adventures of my own life.
I've only been able to recognize this sweetness in my life NOW, and I think that's a pretty big accomplishment.
That's just another reason to embrace my Japanese roots and appreciate the diverse culture (and food) that this beautiful country houses.
Till next time, fireworks. And candy apples.