This time, the characters went through the mission once again, and we had the race -- I let three different players roll for the three different villages to determine who came out on top. (I also showed a short clip from the Hakata Gion Matsuri, which is the inspiration for the festival in the game -- seeing the huge floats being carried along gave them a sense of the scale of the festival.)
After the race, there was a short break to celebrate the winners, and the two representatives of the winning village and the PCs were allowed to make their last preparations. Then they were loaded into a carriage and taken to the village of Gorad, closest to the barrier they had to cross to get into the domain of the spirits.
They chose a formation and went in. After some time, they saw their first group of spirits. Three spirits rose from a ruin to confront them...
We stopped mid-fight, so we'll resume next session. Not too bad a session: I could sense that the players were getting kinda tense from all the lead-up and the stories they heard of previous years. And it gives me time to prepare better for the fights to come.