I moved up close to the torches, which by this time are giving off quite a bit of heat, very welcome in the early winter chill. The closer I approached, the hotter it got, a few stray embers threatening to teach me my lesson. But due to an almost complete absence of liability and lawsuits in Japan, not even the firemen said anything to me as I passed them, getting nearer and nearer to these torches.
A fireman finally approached me, and motioned for me to move back. I was relieved, as I thought he was going to kick me out of the area and banish me to mere spectatordom again. But I only walked back a few meters, snapping away. I found out in a few minutes why he told me to move back. As the torches burn down, they usually just dissolve like a candle, forming a pool of embers and charcoal where it once stood. But sometimes the torch will lean in one direction, and as it weakens, will break in half. A meter or so of burning wood crashes down to the ground in a Hollywood style explosion. The crowd goes wild when this happens, and I wonder if they would have enjoyed it more if I had stayed where I was and been buried in the flame of a collapsing torch. Very Roman of them.
As brave, or foolhardy, as I was, there were others who were even more so.
See the next photo: a foolhardy soul.
Copyright © 1998 by Edward Kaspar
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