I had been in back in Japan for only a few hours when I started coughing every few minutes and walking for ten minutes felt like a hundred. Not the best start to my post-Korea travels.
Almost the entirety of my first week in Osaka, I stuck in bed. Luckily, I was staying in a nice apartment that was close to anything I might need, so I didn’t need to walk far. Somewhat unfortunately, the apartment was right in the middle of Namba, the city’s nightlife district, as if to taunt me.
Then it started raining. Now, in much of Asia, when it rains, it rains constantly for days. A huge, gray cloud literally hung over my sickness.
I had read about an interesting event at a temple in Nara, a nearby tourist town. So, in my sickness, I decided it would be a great idea to jump on a train, then just as night fell stand in the rain for a few hours.
Nara exists almost entirely a day-trip people take from either Kyoto or Osaka, going to visit the enormous temple Todai-ji and to feed the overflow of practically domesticated deer that roam around the city park.
During the first two weeks of March, at Nigatsu-do is a sacred event named Omizutori. During the event, a series of young monks carry enormous, joust-like torches up a long flight of stairs to the temple’s balcony. One at a time, they sprint across the balcony in a spectacular shower of sparks. The event is intended to cleanse the spirit in order to welcome spring.
Despite my sickness and the rain, the running of the torches was magnificent. The large crowd watching let out their fair share of “oooo”s and “aaaah”s. That fiery excitement was just the kind of mix-up I needed to make it feel like I am actually traveling. Maybe it even cleansed my sickness away? It didn’t...I was sick for about another week after that.