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08-26-08

e p i s o d e # 12
THE RAFTS OF SPIRITS





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Studio Red Dot jaunts around the world for various clients, and "Red Dot Podcasts" are a result of the photos and video that personally captures our curious and sometimes quirky imagination. These short films include our original music, writing, travel news, travel tips, international culture, media and humor. Enjoy!

Typically, we allow ambiguous sentences in our guidebook to dictate our journeys. This particular afternoon we found words to the effect of: "this small country lake becomes aglow with lanterns that appear to float in air." We were sold. Intuitively, we knew it would be beautiful. Logically, we knew finding it wouldn't be as easy.

The train out of Kyoto's city center was packed tight during the busy Obon, a festive tribute to Japan's ancestors. As we disembarked at the last stop, the crowds rapidly dispersed and soon we were wandering through neighborhood streets alone.

Many "Doko desu ka's?" (where is it) and rice fields later, I was ready to give up, but a mirage of blue in the distance gave hope. Waving farewell to our scarecrow companions we trekked on.

When we arrived, the scene was chaotic. People hurrying with crates piled atop with paper bags, distant chanting, and families scurrying to claim spots at the lakes edge. Overwhelmed and excited with the desire to capture each moment, I reached for my camera. My Nikon fell from my hands. I heard the shutter's final "click" as it violently hit the asphalt. The Nikon had just joined the spirit realm it would have been documenting.

A blessing in disguise.

Without my expensive camera, I instead quietly watched the sky slowly change its hues of blue to black, and the wind guide colorful lanterns on the lake. At 8:10 the distant mountainside was lit with torches to create the Kanji symbol for gate. The canvas painted before me was magical.

Experiencing Japan's annual Obon on this countryside lake was not ambiguous at all. The images captured in my mind that evening created an impression more profound than any photograph.

--Alicia