A night when mystery hangs thick in the air. 

In Japan there are festivals so breathtaking you might be inclined to pinch yourself to check you haven’t been spirited away to a fantasy dreamworld. Up in Hokkaido in July and September, you’ll find masked goblins walking on fire and in March giant lanterns hover in the night sky in Niigata Prefecture. In fact, every month across Japan there’s a festival to take your breath away, and in Nagasaki every August, it’s the Spirit Boat Procession that draws everyone’s attention. 

This year, Japanese Twitter user and videographer @NumeriExpress shared the beauty of the Spirit Boat Procession with a short video showing the floats making their way through the streets at night. For this particular festival, the floats are actually boats which are believed to carry the spirits of those who passed away during the year. As they proceed to the harbour, where the spirits are symbolically sent off to the otherworld, they pass through the streets amidst firecrackers and the sound of chants and gongs.

While the festival is a famous annual event, what happens after the festival, in the wee hours of the morning, is just as captivating and has a quiet charm not many people know about. Once the boats have disappeared and the clock ticks over to 4:25 a.m., an old tram comes to life and makes its way slowly through the streets. It’s not used to pick up passengers, though, as its job is to place sand on the tracks where the festival firecrackers were dropped, in order to safeguard the route for the day’s trams.

▼ Take a look at the festival and the quiet “sandbox tram” that follows it, in the gorgeous video below.

In the clip, the noise and lights from the festival are presented in stark contrast to the quietness of the lit tram that cleans the tracks afterwards. In both settings, though, a mysterious atmosphere can be felt in the air, as if the spirits from the procession have left their mark on the shadows.

The sandbox tram, or the No. 151 tram as it’s officially known, has a history dating back 90 years. Given its age, this particular tram was rarely seen on the streets in recent years as it’s no longer used as a passenger vehicle, and after spending time serving the public in multiple cities, the tram was retired in March last year.

The video shared by @NumeriExpress was actually filmed in 2018, making this the last festival run for the sandbox tram. There’s still a lot of love for the old vehicle, however, and a crowdfunding project to return the tram to its original hometown in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, ended on 25 September to a resounding success.

The retired tram will soon be transported to Odawara, where it will be installed off the tracks at a local heritage site. After almost a century of service, it’s nice to know the tram will live on, thanks to the fans who worked so hard to save it.

Source: Twitter/@NumeriExpress via Net Lab
Images: Twitter/@NumeriExpress
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