In my last post I focused on the beauty of the historical town of Tatsuno in black and white images. This time, let me introduce you to the event which was really the reason why I chose to go there on that particular day – the traditional new year ceremony by the fire fighters. I have seen similar such events on evening news around this time of the year before, but this was the first time I actually saw it myself. Photography-wise, I had no time for location scouting, and I did not really do my homework of finding out what the customary images for this event would look like. So for me I approached this day as a bit of learning experience for the future, and more to the point of actually enjoying being there.There were other photographers on site, including at least one from a local paper, so you’d be better off looking for more ‘standard’ or ‘customary’ photos of this event. Here, though, are what I saw of it.

I left home at 5:30am, freezing cold morning. Taking the train which left my local Hattori Ryokuchi station at 5:51am, I changed at Umeda in downtown Osaka half hour later, to Hanshin railway’s Limited Express heading west. I was on this same train for the next one and a half hour, watching the sun rise, get brighter, driver changed from Hanshin to Kobe Kosoku, and then to Sanyo Railway, before it finally arrived in Himeji. There is the JR express train from Osaka running parallel to this, but Hanshin/Kobe Kosoku / Sanyo option is cheaper, especially after using ‘Seaside One Day Ticket’ that give you unlimited access to this line. I did not have time to stop and jump off train but even for traveling one round trip it saved me a good deal. I found out that it was actually a fortunate choice, as I heard when I got to JR Himeji station that the JR train from Osaka was suspended due to accident somewhere. I pushed down the bread from bakery with a cup of Sanmarco-Cafe’s blend coffee, and got onboard the 2-car diesel train. In this sparsely populated region, the train stations on JR Kishin line are not manned like they are in the city, and the train doors are not operated by conductors; instead, to cut the operational cost of the trains, the driver doubles as the ticket conductor who makes sure you drop the correct fare according to the fare table displayed above his head.

By a quarter to 9 in the morning, I got off at Hon-Tatsuno station, walked straight to the river bank where the fire trucks are arriving. It is only a few degrees above the freezing point, and with occasional wind it felt like it was even colder. The sky was grey but not the dark one of the day when snow can be expected. But the drizzle was a possibility.

I stood by the fire with the men (and a girl) and chatted while we waited. They are soft-spoken, shy people but there are a few clowns who make silly jokes. I ended up photographing him with the single female performer.

They look cool in those traditional outfit!

Well, here we go!

The teams are in place. In response to the leader’s calls, each team yells back. A man from each team, and a girl for the team in the middle, climbed up the ladder and ready to perform. Most photographers by this point are gathered around the team in the middle, trying to photograph the sole female performer. I then opted for the male team by the side line, pointing my camera towards the sun. It is not the ideal way of photographing this, but what’s the point of making the same photograph as everyone else there? Next year, I’ll come up with something else, something perhaps assuming more traditional and customary view to it, but still taking my own perspective. Anyhow, here’s what I came out with for this year.

I envy the people of this town of Tatsuno for having such a beautiful history alive in their lives. Everyone’s taking their part in living it and passing it on. Someday, maybe I will be able to take my part in it, perhaps as a photographer, or maybe taking a different role in it. Regardless, I would love to be a part of it.

Lastly, I would like to thank the people of Tatsuno City, the leader and the people of the performing fire fighter and audience who kindly allowed me to photograph the event, told me stories and let me join you by the fire. I would love to hear your comments and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.

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