Hirafu Matsuri, 2018 Edition

Hirafu's very own summer festival at the foot of Mt Annupuri.

Hirafu's matsuri was a perfect follow-up to Kutchan's Jaga Matsuri two weeks ago, bringing together the local community and attracting visitors from all over Hokkaido.

In typical matsuri fanfare, live music wafted through the warm summer air, lightly infusing the atmosphere with sounds of summer. Festival-goers found themselves lounging on the many lawnchairs and tables set up under the open sky with a view of Yotei and its cap of clouds to the east. 

Food was plenty and iconic Sapporo draft found its way into many cups. Children bounded between the stalls, streaks of energy and laughter as they chased each other, had their faces painted, and bothered their parents for more snacks. 

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A quick drop down to the lower level of the venue, the atmosphere shifted to a decidedly more competitive one. The sound of music was replaced with the sound of freewheels and the hard plastic of skate wheels tearing across the track. 

Pumptrack riders raced each other and the clock to win prizes provided by Rhythm Japan, the best riders coming in at under nine seconds. Adjacent to the track was a tennis court, lively with the sound of tennis balls finding sweet spots and striking the ground on their way out. 

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As per tradition, the toy sword fight ensued with the rigor and drive that the top prize, a Gentemstick snowboard, warranted. In a frenzy of spirit and sprint of energy, foam connected with fighters, sometimes with the loud ping of a hard hit. First fighter to three clean strikes would advance to the next round. 

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As night fell, smoke from the stalls spiraled into the clear sky, lit by the floodlights and lanterns. Anticipation for fireworks began to build, first with fire dancers. 

Hypnotic drumming accompanied the performers, often seeming like they were entranced, controlled, by the music and fire, painting shapes that would linger in the air for milliseconds, enough for the crowd to usher gasps of excitement and awe when they would fly high and fast.

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Taiko drummers followed the fire dancers with local compositions, synchronising their performance with the fireworks, a powerfully visual and auditory event. In the final denouement of the night, a shower of white embers crackled their way downward, falling like weeping willows of pure light, ushering the end of an amazing event. 

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Want to see more festival action? Check out the Jaga Matsuri highlights.