This installment: The Matsukawa River Tarai Race.
The short version of the history is this: when washing machines got to be more popular than tarai (wooden washtubs) in the 1950s or 60s, someone had the idea to start racing the tarai down the river. So this little town of Ito holds a race down a section of the Matsukawa River.
It's kind of goofy, but it seems neat. We took the trip to see what it was all about.
On the way, we happened to come across a random luxury train headed to what, compared to Tokyo, is kind of the boonies. We were looking for a special ticket booth, certain we'd have to pay extra for it, but it turns out that it's a regular train and we just lucked out. It's got extra leg room and seats in the first car are on a gradient to allow for a clear view of the front windshield (and the backs of the conductors' heads). It was almost worth making the trip just to ride that train.
This was the fourth or fifth guy to take a photo of the train from the opposite platform. This thing is apparently a celebrity wherever it goes.
Those tracks seem impossibly narrow for a train that wide.
Also, seeing the backs of the conductors' heads like that makes me think of MST3K.
Ito is a relatively small place, diving and snorkeling are apparently quite the tourist draw. And something about Commodore Perry, there's a fascination there that I don't really understand.
At any rate, the area immediately around the race is pretty nice.
The race itself was a little anticlimactic, but there was a flea market and some food stands, plus the bay, the ocean, and a surreal sculpture garden nearby. Maybe next year we'll sign up to participate.
There was no cheering from the spectators that we heard, but there was a pretty good taiko drum team that look like they might be in high school.
Forgive my camera, it misunderstood and thought I wanted a picture of Bike Helmet's glove, not the racers at the starting platform.
These guys aren't actual racers, they appear to be more of a ceremonial start. They weren't given paddles, so while they started out facing the right direction (current is moving from left to right in this image), within the first minute or so they'd all been turned 180 degrees and more or less stayed that way until they hit the finish line.
Sometimes there are costumes. I didn't get a picture of the Milk Carton Heads, but this guy is wearing a fish hat.
Dude. Not even trying. Although in reality he probably fell out early in the race and just walked it down to where the tubs get picked up.
Not a huge turnout by Japan standards, but it was enough to feel a bit like a street festival. This doesn't show all the people up on the road, on the bridges, or upriver. On the other hand, the crowd wasn't so thick that it was hard to move, either.
Snacks! Chocolate-covered banana and some sort of fruity drink. My husband knows how to treat a girl right. More evidence of this later.
Random photo taken upriver of the race while we were wandering around town.
How the tubs get from the finish line back to the starting line for the next wave of people.
Sculpture of some dude. Poseidon? Commodore Perry? I don't know, I don't really pay attention to these things.
Aw, there's a teeny Commodore Poseidon on board!
This seemed a little random, so I took a picture. It's what I do.
I'm pretty sure that's an unfortunate bird poo on the little boys' room sign, but I didn't get close enough to really investigate. Taking the picture was weird enough, I didn't need to have my face pressed against it.
I'm not sure what this guy is all about, but he sure is excited about something.
Remember to recycle, it makes bottles and cans happy!
The sculpture garden was a little Edward-Scissorhands-y, but I'm down with that.
On the way out of town to go to our next destination, I got some retail images.
...can't...bring cigarette to mouth...biceps...too big!
I are Serious Smokey Man with Photoshopped Cigarette. FEAR ME.
If I'm ever here when this place is open, I may have to eat there because its storefront is so cute.