Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kamogawa Matsuri Festival 2009!

Well, unfortunately the weather put a bit of a dampener on the festivities planned for the Saturday night with many calling it a day earlier than they would have otherwise. But, things cleared up Sunday and loads of people turned out. It is always a really good chance to rub shoulders with those that are from or live in your neighborhood, and this year was no exception. We ran across lots of friends and students as the various 'DASHI' and 'MIKOSHI' crossed paths as they circle town.(photo of me with one of my students, Arisa)
DASHI, as they are called in Japan, are large floats which are pulled around the neighborhood by local residents, young and old, while 'TAIKO', traditional Japanese drums, and 'FUE', traditional Japanese bamboo flutes, are played continuously with the players, riding on the DASHI, tag in and out throughout the course of the day. (photo of the DASHI that I helped lug around all day with the TAIKO drummers doing there thing)
Kids as young as 7 are taught by seniors and elders the traditional tunes which are unique to each shrine in the area. The school desks are often put to an alternative use during lapses of concentration in class as they are more or less brainwashed the rhythm over a period of 2~3 weeks prior to Matsuri. It's really quite amazing how they keep a rhythm so well over such a long period of time. I don't think I could do it!(photo of some of the younger kids playing TAIKO)
The highlight of the Matsuri festival on the second day has to the gathering of all the DASHI in the local area in front of the station for a 'playoff / battle' of sorts where each team tries to out enthuse each other, which, as you can imagine, has an infectious effect on bystanders and performers alike creating a fantastic party atmosphere.(photo of some guys cutting loose and showboating to the crowd of gatherers)
Once the DASHI start to disperse things begin to wind down a little as every group begins there final lap of the block on the way back to their respective shrines.Of course, none of this would be possible without a little social lubricant/pain killer/ thirst quencher boozing. At Matsuri the drinks are flowing freely and there is a huge amount of beer and sake downed. I guess it is the only time that most people really get to let there hair down and party without inhibition in what is usually quite a subdued and socially inhibited society. Even so, it is remarkable how peaceful and smooth things run. There is none of the usual bravado that often accompanies large groups of young men out on the turps as you would find in most other developed countries and in fact, it's a very family orientated event with kids participating actively.
(photo of some of the young lads getting a top up at a drinks break)
Back at the shrine I plucked up the guts to lend a hand with the 'MIKOSHI'. These things are H-E-A-V-Y!!! I'd tried it once before and had bruised my shoulders so bad that the skin had all peeled off..NASTY stuff. Never again I said, but I'm a sucker for punishment. Actually it wasn't so bad this time around, although I only joined in at the end as one poor fellow looked set to collapse from exhaustion. As you can see in the photo above, I'm about 15~20cm too tall to fit in and as a result it is perpetually awkward.

Still, good times and I made some new friends and renewed old friendships from previous years which was cool. Bring on 2010!!

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