After exploring Seta in the morning and relaxing for the rest of the day I headed off to meet up with some people at Nagara Park for a night time festival that was due to happen. I still at this stage wasn’t really sure what the event was for, but a couple of my students were going and the person who I’d helped move to Osaka was back in town so it seemed like it would be good fun.
Knowing I wouldn’t have access to the internet in the park I quickly sent out messages to everyone saying I was leaving and told them to just find me there, I figured it shouldn’t be to hard for them to find me amongst the locals of Otsu.
I arrived at the park (which is a lot bigger than Zeze park) and found that the guy from Osaka and one of my students were already there. While waiting on the other person I took advantage of the dimming daylight to snap a few pictures of the Sakura, just as I finished my other student arrived and our party for the night was completed.
Being that the event didn’t start till the sun went down we just stood around chatting till we eventually could see the lanterns that had been laid out start to come to life. Within about an hour the sun had gone and the effect of the lantern lit pathways were really starting to have an impact.
Though the park was massive, the even and lanterns was only being held in a small section of it near the park entrance (presumably as it would have taken forever to place and light the lanterns all over the park!!). In the lower section a series of lanterns had been setup around a small pond and ascending up some steps on the mountainside.
In the main section a small clearing had been covered with lanterns on the floor, with many more scattered around the raised areas around the edge. A pathway had been created through the middle as well, this led to a small area at the base of some steps and in front of another small pool of water. Here music was being played and a ceremony of some form was taking place. It was all spectacular to see and hear.
The mayor of Otsu was also present at the festival, as it turns out one of the students I was with knew her and introduced us all. She was a really friendly person, she spoke good English as well, speaking to me and the other foreigner about trying to promote tourism in Otsu, then about our teaching and classes. She then wished us well, shook our hands and continued on with her evening.
That’s when it really hit me that I was quite a lucky person experiencing all this, I was currently living in Japan, at a small night time festival with only one other foreigner and with great people, and I’d just met and shook hands with the mayor of the city! I’m fairly certain most tourists in Japan don’t get to experience an evening like that!
By now nigh had set in and the non lantern lit area of the park had been plunged into darkness. Most of the people at the event had started to head back down toward the entrance and off home, however not wanting the night to be over we decided to continue onwards.
Remembering that we had once come here during the day and found a good viewing platform high up in the park, we decided it would be a great time to get a view of the city at night. With no lights we used our phones to illuminate the steps going up into the woods of the park, a few minutes later we reached the clearing with the viewing platform. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of Otsu, lights could be seen all around Lake Biwa, and the baseball stadium had its full floodlights on. We all stood at the top staring out across the city chatting for about an hour, till finally the cold night reminded us it might be time to head down.
Determined for the night to still continue we headed off for some food, once again not being able to read the order machine I just put money in and hit a random button for fun. turns out I ended up with this pork rice bowl thing, which certainly tasted great.
After that one of our party decided he had a craving for ice cream, so we embarked on a search for an ice cream vending machine, this excursion ended up with us all trying to win a tub of Hargen Dazs from a crane machine at the arcades! This ultimately turned out unsuccessful!
Once again determined that the night still shouldn’t be over we headed for the nearest convenience store (in this case Lawson)! By now the need for ice cream had gone viral and all of us were in the mood for some, so our whole group brought some form of ice cream (despite it being near midnight!). We then just sat across the road chatting, messing around and eating ice cream, illuminated by the glow of the blue / white Lawson store sign. A really strange but fun night!