Kyoto Star Festival

When I was in Kyoto, Laura told me that some of her friends were going to a concert in a forest on the Saturday if I was interested. I didn`t really know what it was going to be like and neither did she, but we were intrigued by the sound of it, so we decided to go. We weren`t really sure where it was, how we would get there or how we would get back, but we packed our bags with onigiri, suncream and jumpers in preparation for the adventure. We met with her international friends from university who did have a better idea of what was going on and we got a train out of the city for about an hour to the mountains to the north-west of Kyoto. We arrived at a station in the middle of nowhere along with other obviously dressed festival goers, who seemed a lot more prepared than us with rucksacks full of tents and other camping equipment. We had known beforehand that you could camp at the festival, but none of us had any equipment, so we decided to party on through the night and get a train back in the early hours of the morning. In fact, the festival began at 2 o`clock on the Saturday afternoon and continued until noon on Sunday, so we were sure that there would be plenty of others doing the same as us.

A short shuttle-bus ride brought us even higher into the mountains. We arrived at a campsite that had been taken over for the festival. It was so laid-back, there were no sour-looking security personnel telling people where to go and what to do. There was no defined area for camping, but everyone set up their tents together in an orderly fashion, there were real campsite toilets which remained decent throughout the duration of the festival, there was an area of stalls selling Japanese festival food and then there was the stage area. It took me a while to find the stages because they were both quite small, but they didn`t need to be big because there were no bands, only djs. I hadn`t heard of any of them but apparently there were a few big names from the dance scene there. The music was all kinds of dance – electro, techno, trance, house and all those genres that I can`t tell the difference between, and a bit of dubstep and drum`n`bass.

We arrived early in the afternoon, when the festival had just opened, some of the stalls were still opening up and there weren`t many people around yet. It felt like what I imagine Electric Picnic to be like (on a tiny scale), with arty chill-out places and random sculptures around the place. It was a beautiful day to be up in the mountains so we set up our blanket on top of a grassy knoll that looked down onto the rest of the festival so we could see people coming and going while we had a picnic. The knoll had a large balloon that was tethered above it, so we played musical picnics as we followed its shadow around. There was a really nice vibe, everyone there seemed relaxed and friendly, and there were quite a few other foreigners there too, I assume other exchange students from Kyoto.

While we were atop the hill, I looked over at another group of foreigners and I saw my friend Miriam who lives just south of Kanazawa. She`s hard to miss with her trademark lipstick cheek warpaint and when I went over to her I realised that half the JETs of Ishikawa were there with her! Apparently I too had been told about this festival ages ago on Facebook but I never noticed, and they had all driven down that day and were camping the night. It was such a lovely surprise to meet everyone there. We united with Laura`s friends and made many more Japanese friends as the night progressed.

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My plan of doing an all-nighter fell through when Laura and I fell asleep in a tent around 2 o`clock, but I did wake up at 6 o`clock the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to rejoin the party that was still going on. After a few hours boogying in the morning light, we said goodbye to my friends and we went back to Kyoto so I could pick up my stuff and get the train home. I had a great time and I`ll definitely be going back next year.

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