Since we have the container house in Abasto, eight years ago, we have been hearing about a Japanese party that is held near here. We always find out when it has already happened and we say: well, next year. On Saturday, after weeks without rain, after the weather turned on and off without incident, he left. A heavy, abundant rain that I hope will last until Sunday but is short-lived and ends almost an hour after it started. After a while, while the afternoon light is turning to what I call the most beautiful light of the day here, the evening light, I receive a message from Raquel: are they there? We are going with Sandra and some friends to a Japanese fair.
Come on. About five hundred meters before the entrance, the road full of cars at the pace of men looking to park and people on foot, who have already parked or arrived by bus. In the distance, lighted paper lanterns shine.
The festival is Bon Odori, in the Buddhist tradition a celebration to receive the soul of the ancestors. In Japan it takes place between July and August, in the summer. Here, where it has been held for twenty years, organized by the Japanese community of Colonia Urquiza, it is usually the second Saturday of January. As soon as we entered, the property is surrounded by food stalls, clothes, stuffed animals, sales of sleeves… there are many people looking, buying, walking. In the center, a tower or yagura and adolescents, most of them women, who play huge taiko drums over the songs that sound on a track and that resemble songs by Rafaela Carrá or Nino Bravo. We also go around, we meet our friends, we buy beer and food.
At one point we heard through the loudspeakers the invitation to join the dance. One of the boys, the only one who is a regular at Bon Odori, tells us that the best part of the party arrives: everyone dances around the tower, advancing in circles while continuing to dance following the choreography. According to tradition, the music should be upbeat and people should stay upbeat all night to welcome the spirits. Later I read that on the first day of the celebration a cucumber symbolizing a horse is decorated so that the ancestors arrive more quickly and, at the end, an aubergine representing an ox so that they return more slowly to their world.
We join the dance: hundreds of people are already moving following women dressed in beautiful kimonos who are leading them: little steps to one side, to the other, arms to one side, to the other, then up, then down, a little step back, clapping , another ahead and everything like that. I don’t have the gift of coordination so I get caught up in a clumsy and clumsy dance, but I have fun and I sweat like crazy because after that rain there was a horrible steam. Many wear plain, short or long silk kimonos with beautiful prints; masks; cosplay. We sit down to rest on some long benches that are shared, some also brought tablecloths and sit on the dance floor during the interval. We drink sake. The few times I had before, it was with Lai: she warmed it up and served it in porcelain cups. Hello, spirit, welcome.
This year there will be no fireworks, which were one of the main attractions of the festival. It doesn’t matter, the crescent moon looks like a cat’s eye against the clear sky, the paper lanterns are still burning, the living and dead spirits glow.
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