Burning Japan 2018: Sky Island

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I was getting ready to attend my third Afrikaburn earlier this year when I first found out about Burning Japan. It was right after I heard that I was definitely relocating to Japan and I was eager to know if there was anything similar to Afrikaburn happening in Japan. When I first found the festival, I was overflowing with excitement, telling everyone that they should come meet me there. However, after doing more research and failing at finding the necessary information I decided to just accept that this was something that happened once before and not a festival that I will experience during my time in Japan.

Months passed by and I was so focused on preparing everything for Japan that I completely forgot that Burning Japan was ever something I thought about. That was until about a week after I moved here and someone casually mentioned it to me. Suddenly all of the emotions and excitement that I have attached to a burn festival over the years came rushing back. I doubled, no, triple checked with him if he was sure it was Burning Japan and not maybe something else, something similar. He assured me that he was definitely talking about Burning Japan and so that afternoon I checked every platform of social media I use and there it was… live and active on Facebook: Burning Japan 2018 – Sky Island.

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I immediately posted it on the South African JETS WhatsApp group and within minutes a couple of people told me they were keen. The only thing we had left to do now was to plan the logistics.

Being illiterate in this country definitely played a big role in why I was a stress ball before the Burn. This was my first time travelling alone in a country where I cannot understand anything. Yeah, I mean I understand a phrase here and a word there but not nearly enough to feel confident about travelling all the way to Tokyo and then Ota City by myself. And to make matters worse, the week leading up to Burning Japan we were a target for yet another Typhoon and so I had to keep the possibility that my flights might get cancelled in the back of my mind. This was definitely not the greatest start to the weekend but eventually everything worked out perfectly and travelling in this country was definitely easier than I thought it would be (all thanks to Google Maps).

And so on the 6th of October myself and 4 other South Africans joined a group of about two hundred and fifty people on top of a hill in Tsumagoi for the 2018 edition of Burning Japan.

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When you think of a “Burn” your mind would usually or automatically linger to a desert somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A place where everyone and everything is covered in dust and you can easily get lost between the thousands of colourful desert dwellers surrounding you. If you’ve been to a “Burn” before you would smile with nostalgia thinking to yourself “in dust we trust” and relive the beautiful memories you’ve created on that planet.

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Afrikaburn 2018

Therefore you can imagine how strange it was to attend a burn, Burning Japan, on a lush green farm on top of a hill surrounded by mountains and even something that appeared to be a volcano in the distance. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and I loved it, it was just so different from what I’ve experienced before. It wasn’t the usual “in dust we trust” but rather “in this spider-invested field we trust”. This time instead of everything being covered in dust, everything was covered with spiders. And as scary as that sounds, just like you learn how to handle the dust we learned how to deal with the spiders. (This doesn’t mean that I am now all of a sudden fond of those eight-legged creatures, it only means that I was willing to put my immense fear of spiders behind me so that I could truly enjoy the festival for what it was).

Upon arrival at “Burning Japan” we were welcomed by friendly burners, helping us find our way. Smiles and hugs were doing the rounds and I immediately felt right at home. This is one of my favourite parts about any burn festival. The people you meet are some of the nicest people ever! Everyone treats each other like they’ve been friends for years and immediately you feel part of a new family.

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Although the natural environment was very different to other burns that I am acquainted with, it was still this magical place of expression. I had the opportunity to be a Jedi, to play musical instruments with strangers and to share memories from other burns with people from all over the world. I could dance to all kinds of music and connect with people who don’t speak my language. I watched the artwork burn and saw the most beautiful shooting stars. I became friends with my biggest fear (spiders) and shared the most delicious meals with fellow burners.

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I had time to reconnect with myself and to be present in the moment. I could appreciate other people for their creativity and kindness. I could learn about cultures and festivals from all over the world and I made new connections with incredible people. Burning Japan and Tsumagoi is now another place that is home to some special memories and as long as I live in Japan I will be present at this magical place ❤

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Until then, the rest of Japan is waiting to be explored!

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