Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A festival from afar

A few weeks back - April 7th, to be exact - I was sitting in my apartment on a mild but slightly grey and slightly rainy day, nursing my yucky non-Hokkaido cold and feeling really sorry for myself, when I suddenly became aware of a ruckus going on outside. I went out on my balcony and saw the beginnings of merriment at the shrine and neighbouring playground on the street behind my building.

Eh, what's up, Doc?

A festival! For the whole morning, I caught snatches of music but not much was going on yet (at least that I could see). I debated going out to investigate, but my misery knew no bounds, so I contented myself with spying from the balcony. (aka, I could stay in my PJs that way.)

Early afternoon, chaos was unleashed. Well, OK, Japanese-style chaos, which is orderly and tidy and subdued.


You can't really see it here (I did the best with my optical zoom), but here the guys on the platform (VIPs of various types) are throwing motchi (sweet(ish) rice cakes with anko bean paste up the middle - actually quite tasty) to the people below. I've been at festivals before where they threw motchi, but never for this long. It went on for almost 15 minutes!

Then, just as my camera batteries started to die, the portable shrines, or mikoshi came out. Panic ensued, but I found replacement batteries, as you can see:

March of the Mikoshi

And they headed straight down the main street past my apartment! Cool. I'm sick, miserable, and unhappy, and thankfully don't have to leave the comfort of my own home to indulge in some Japanese culture, for once.

Down the main street!

Paper lantern shrine

Giant taiko drum?

I believe hiding under that plastic (it was drizzling at this point) was a giant taiko drum.

How to carry a mikoshi

Here's a snippet I took of the procession, including the proper way to transport a mikoshi:

The people at the old folks' home across the street from me couldn't contain their excitement at the merry-making.

Passing the old folks' home

You can see a little old lady in a purpley-grey shirt leaning forward toward the passers-by, with a guy in a white shirt right near her - he was making sure she didn't hurt herself - she was so excited, dancing and clapping and waving like mad at everyone. Later I could see the hospital staff talking about her (as they were bringing in the chairs and stuff).

And then - so soon - it was over.

Bye bye, festival

I went back to my normal life. However, about an hour later, I heard the telltale music once again! I rushed out to the front door, and sure enough, the worshippers were on their way back to Tsushima Shrine, the mikoshi's tour of the neighbourhood completed.

But hark! - what's that sound?

More mayhem

More Tottoro

The end.

And then it was, this time, actually all over. I went back to being Poor Little Sick Julie For Whom Nothing Interesting Ever Happens In Japan (Until Something Does).

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