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Full Circle

Day 41: Nagasaki

Michael Palin - Full CircleAll this makes for a city of character, and one proud of its history, much of which is re-enacted at the yearly Okunchi Festival, derived from the strong Chinese influence in the city. Today is the first of three festival days and I have been accorded the high and, as far as I can tell, unprecedented honour of being a foreign participant.

At the crack of dawn I find myself sipping green tea in a shop in the city centre which has been commandeered as a dressing room. I am to be a flag-carrier on the Treasure House ship, and Mrs Takashi is arranging me into a rather attractive off-white silk kimono with maroon and black trim. On my head I wear a red and white bow and on my feet yellow-beribboned white cloth shoes with two toe-holes. Not what I would choose to wear in my local but quite restrained compared to some of the outfits I've seen here. Mr Takashi, who will be with me to tell me what to do, puts out his cigarette and we go off in search of the Treasure House. It turns out to be one of several decorated floats, called mikoshi, each one representing a different neighbourhood. Twenty young men have been deputed to heave it through the streets - not as easy as it sounds as it has twenty schoolchildren aboard.

I fall in behind the elders, who wear complex outfits of black kimonos and black bowler hats. If you can imagine Ian Paisley dressed as a geisha girl, you'll begin to get the picture.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 41
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Nagasaki
  • Book page no: 66

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