Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The next morning saw us checking out of the comfy home base of Takamatsu's Toyoko Inn and boarding the train to Tokushima. The crowded little train bore us along for about an hour before depositing us at Tokushima station, all a-bustle with excitement for the biggest event of the year - the Awa-odori festival. The station was packed with visitors, hawkers, and information booths.
Still too early to check into our next hotel, we called the Jurobei Yashiki to find out the next showtime for the bunraku show. I had never seen Japanese puppet theater but had always wanted to, so when we found out that the show was in a couple of hours, we headed to the bus terminal to find out how to get to the puppet house. Unfortunately, the buses run quite infrequently to that area - perhaps fewer than one an hour - so we opted to take a taxi. It cost, I believe, about 1500 yen.
Bunraku was really wonderful. The spare building was reminiscent of a prarie church, all whitewash and high ceiling and bare wooden planking and long pews, but the smell was of cedar.
The show was short but great, the puppets skillfully handed by teams dressed in head-to-toe black sheaths; but the show stealer, for me, was the fact that, unlike kabuki, the artists were all women. The handlers, the narrator, the shamisen player, even the ushers, ticket sellers, and souvenir shopkeepers were all female. Very refreshing after many repeat visits to the admittedly lovely kabuki in Tokyo, which is of course so male-dominated.

Returning to town in time for the festival, we checked into the hotel and wandered the streets gawping at the dancers and searching for vegetarian food, which was incredibly hard to find. Even Italian places, usually ubiquitous in even small to medium sized Japanese cities, were conspicuously absent. We finally stumbled upon a Doma Doma, packed to the rafters with festival goers, and snagged two seats around the big central shared table, where I had my usual buttered corn, edamame, and garlic fried potatoes. We ate & drank our fill and paid our check.
And danced into the night.

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