Kitamachi Awa Odori is always met with a mixture of excitement and dread. The excitement comes from the not unreasonably long parade grounds that are sufficiently wide to allow a full range of theatrics, and the enthusiasm of the crowds who are actually really there to enjoy the event (as opposed to being merely inconvenienced by it as they make their way home). Add to that the large number of high level teams, and what could possibly go wrong?
The weather. Almost invariably, it is hot enough that people suffer heat stroke or dehydration, and I reminded my new members on several occasions leading up to it that they need to take active precautions against both in advance—if you feel thirsty/dehydrated/sick before you even begin, which is a very real possibility, then you're not going to have a good time. And if you collapse of boiled brain during a performance, then nobody else is going to either. When it isn't overly hot, it gets rained off by a freak rain storm that appears out of nowhere and drenches everything in seconds.
This year was not such a year. It was hot, sure, but there was a cool breeze and the humidity could certainly have been a lot higher. It was the kind of weather I felt confident we could cope with without anybody making themselves ill.
As per usual, we began with a set piece along the road near the station. Also as per usual, we had teams with ultra-loud percussion on either side of us, though the louder of the two was around a corner which shielded us from the worst. Despite this, any performers on the opposite side of the stage to our musicians could simply not hear, and were having to take cues by looking at other people's feet. This is unfortunately par for the course, and it's something that all teams have to contend with. Except, presumably, the really loud ones in question. I'm sure they do just fine, unless their dancers have an irrational fear of flutists for some reason.
The parade portions followed, and went more or less without a hitch. No missing persons, no major roadblocks... On the contrary, we had to skip ahead at one point because too much of a gap had opened up ahead of us. Moving at speed is not one of our strengths unfortunately, so we could have handled it better, but it's nothing I'm going to complain about.
And it was also nothing that the "judges" were going to complain about either. They saw fit to award us the curiously named "Hustle" award! I will not be fielding questions as to what exactly the prize was for at this stage.
An honorary mention should be made of the outstanding job the local scouts did at one of the water stations. They served barley tea which was very tasty and very very cold, and did so more proactively than I've seen at any other event. They had people with trays of the stuff all the way up the road, offering it to us individually as we passed, so we didn't have to walk quite as far to be refreshed. It was hot enough that the extra effort they put in was very much appreciated!
Next weekend has two festivals—Nakameguro on the Saturday, and Nabeyoko on the Sunday. Saturday should be something of an adventure, as we'll be taking little'un along for the ride.