Karatsu Autumn Festival

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One of my best and most traditional experiences in Japan! Chi, a Japanese friend invited us to a traditional festival in Karatsu Japan on Kyushu Island. Of course we said yes and my sister and I were picked up on a raining morning with another American friend and Chi to hit the road. We were zipping along in seconds and I feel like in Japan the towns are so close but because the speed limit is always so slow and the roads are so narrow and the roads zig and zag it is always hard to get to where you are going quickly.

Karatsu is a town close to Saga and holds the biggest Autumn festival of Kyushu island every year. Karatsu is composed of 14 cho’s (neighborhoods) which each have a giant float made of plastic and lacquer. Each year someone in the cho is chosen to ride on top of the float and a big group of the young men and women and children pull the floats through the city with long ropes while they beat drums and play music. It was amazing!

Floats of Karatsu

Floats of Karatsu

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Before the parade started we went to a traditional Japanese house for dinner. During the festival which lasts the whole week, there is much food prepared to celebrate. A large fish is cooked under hot coals for 3 days time and there are just platters of everything. We came inside the house, removed our shoes, and were ushered to sit down at a low table laden with food. We were then given small bowls and dishes to try the food to our hearts content. One of the men even let us try on his silk robe that was embroidered with war fighters! He had already drank a bit too much sake. haha.

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When we left that house the guy in the silk robe followed us out and insisted that we come across the street to his home. We tried our hardest to politely decline but he wasn’t having it so off we went, up to his house, to the surprise of his family. They were very nice and passed around a soup for us to try with mushrooms, greens, and rice cakes. We didn’t stay long since our group had about 9 people and we had yet another place to get to.

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We headed back into the town and got a cab ride to a restaurant that one of the Japanese people knew the owner and it turns out we were ushered into the closed restaurant to be served personally by the chef. The chef’s wife also asked me to help interview her son in English for a class project. Of course I accepted.

By the time we tried all of the delicious foods he had prepared for us, I was completely stuffed. At this time the rain had started to pick up outside pitter-pattering down the roof tops. They allowed us to borrow umbrellas and then we were off walking towards the center of town for the parade.

The streets were a sight to be hold! Every cho was dressed in their silk robes representing their neighborhood and we lined up in the streets with everyone else as one of the floats rounded the corner. It was magnificent. Apparently they hold the parade for hours but because of the rain they were bringing the floats to the center of the town and getting them inside out of the weather so they wouldn’t get ruined. What a great festival and parade!

I ended the day at a stand buying a banana dipped in chocolate on a stick. We were kindly given a ride back to our car and hit the road for home. Chi had stayed behind with her friends so it was just the American crew on the way back. We got lost about 8 different times which is the usual over here. haha.

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This is one of my most favorite Japanese experiences so far!

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Deployment Chronicles–> Article 19 “A Rescue”

And so the monotony of life at sea has finally set in. I can’t wait to pull into the next port! I’m ticking off the days on my calendar and waiting impatiently for land. I don’t know if you understand what its like to pine for solid ground.

The girls have fought back! The other night we neglected all of our work and obligations and had this huge karaoke night in the wardroom. It was very obnoxious and perfectly what we needed after the stresses of sea life. At first it started in one of the staterooms and my friend K has this plug in karaoke machine that has thousands of songs on it and 2 microphones. The helo was taking off so H was back there because she’s the helo control officer so we called her and told her to get her butt up  to the stateroom as soon as she was finished. I was a back up dancer. We were totally ridiculous. She came up and joined in so there were 5 of us all together.

We started getting really loud at this point and we were laughing hysterically because myself and E cannot sing… AT ALL. I mean I don’t think you can even begin to understand how bad I am. I have never karaoke’d in public, not even if I was really drunk, because I still think I would be told to get off the stage. It’s seriously that bad. So the fact that I was even participating in this, means I was loopy.

H and K were actually pretty good singers, and E and I were really bringing them down. Well a few minutes after we started getting really loud there came a loud knock on the door and this officer from the medical detachment was standing there looking very aggravated. She started yelling at us, telling us to keep it down, saying that she was very busy, la-de-da. Seeming that none of the medical officers onboard really do anything, we knew that was not true, so we just laughed and she was furious. We told her we would be quieter and then as soon as we shut the door we were louder than before. I was willing to start that war, even though she outranked us. haha.

She didn’t come back but we decided to move our party to the wardroom and so we did. 5 minutes later she walked in to eat dinner all of a
sudden even though dinner was over and she was glaring at us. We sang louder and danced around until she left. It was awesome.

I had my second SWO board for my pin, two days ago and I passed! I have to go before the captain for my final board and he will drill me with questions and then if he thinks I am ready he will sign my letter and I will get my pin.

While I was on watch a few days ago around 0330 in the morning someone started screaming frantically on the bridge to bridge radio saying their ship was being attacked and they needed assistance immediately. I of course picked up the phone and started talking to them. We were collecting information, but the position was too far for us to provide immediate assistance so another ship in the area went in for the rescue. Their ship was on fire and it was an oil tanker so that is not a good thing. There were explosions coming from the engine room and everyone had run to the bridge and locked themselves inside. Shortly after, they abandoned ship. The Philippine Sea was pulling them out of the water approximately an hour later. I couldn’t believe that I was the first contact with them, it was pretty cool.

It’s a vicious world out here. The merchant vessels are very vulnerable and I would be extremely afraid to be on a merchant vessel crossing this part of the world. Being held hostage for over a year is not in my life plan.

Since our next port is going to be extended, we are planning different things to do such as a paintball tournament. This I am very excited
about. I love playing paintball! And we will have dinner parties. SUPPO, will have a wedding down. He was just promoted from LT to Lieutenant Commander and normally when you go up a pay grade you take the wardroom out for a party called a “wedding down” in which you are supposed to spend at a minimum the difference of your pay-grade. He said I could help him plan it!!! I love planning party’s!

Well there’s not a whole lot going on at the moment. I’m reading a very engrossing novel called Unbroken about Louie Zamperini an Olympic runner who got drafted into the War in 1941 and was on a B-24 Liberator which ended up crashing in the ocean. He and the pilot survived and floated for 40 days some 2,000 miles to the Marshall Islands where they were picked up and put into a POW camp by the Japanese. It’s a very intense and emotional read but I can’t put it down. More soon!