This is going to end in tears. Fifteen young men with a five-metre high lantern balanced precariously on their shoulders sprint forward, scattering the crowd in their path. Among a crescendo of shrieking and whooping, they start spinning wildly, their bright yellow shirts a blur, feet skidding on the wet slippery road. Four men clinging to guide ropes attached to the top of the lantern are whirled around while desperately trying to stop it toppling over. Finally, exhausted, the group members lower the wooden structure back to the floor, wet hair matted to their grinning faces, and pause to gulp from large bottles of beer.
This is the Japan you rarely see. A giddy, joyous, playful Japan that is so often hidden behind centuries of ritual and reserve. The reason for this exuberance? It’s the Wajima Taisai festival, one of many summer festivals held throughout the country, and it’s an unmissable opportunity to see the Japanese at their most uninhibited.
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