So, as summer has now started, which can I add is pretty evident from the weather – I can’t believe it can get any more humid! I sweat about 5 full buckets every time I move!
My summer holiday started last Friday, which I celebrated by going back down to Kyoto for the Gion Matsuri (Gion festival). It’s one of the 3 biggest festivals along with the Tenjin festival in Osaka this coming weekend (24th/25th July) and the Sanno (even-numbered years) or Kanda (odd-numbered years) in Tokyo.
I won’t be making it to the ones in Tokyo or Osaka so I figured why not Kyoto? I arrived on the street at 11am, and got to see the main float (or mikoshi, as they’re called in Japanese – the hand-pulled floats) just as the main geisha was getting off to perform a sword-moving ceremony representing the warding off of evil spirits of disease, dating back to the 9th century. However, I didn’t see this, as it was so busy that I could only glimpse the geisha coming down and couldn’t move in any direction at all! Not unexpectedly I guess.
So I decided, no way! And I moved to a small side street where the mikoshi didn’t stop or turn, but at least I got a good view and some good photos. In the Gion Matsuri you have 2 kind of floats – boko, which are massive and really tall, and are pulled by like 20 people, and they have 2 people dancing at the front to the people making music at the top. You als have 4 people on top of the float to make sure it doesn’t get tangled in electricity wires, along with people making sure the wooden wheels stay on straight. These are the biggest and most impressive, and seeing these turn is supposed to be amazing because it’s a huge manoeuvre and really complicated. The other type of mikoshi is called yama floats and they’re smaller and have a bit of tree on top, and generally less impressive. The nicest thing about the mikoshi in this parade was that they’re all decorated with tapestries from all over the world purchased over 500 years ago! The photos should be up under the Kyoto folder.
I missed the pre-events the nights before but I enjoyed the parade! Despite all the people. I would recommend people to try and go to at least 1 big Japanese festival, they really know how to celebrate big style!
The Monday after I went to the matsuri here in Nagoya at the port. It was a lot smaller, but very different and more local. There were tons of stalls selling traditional Nagoya fod like yakisoba (noodles in yakitori sauce), fried chicken, takoyaki (octopus balls), Frankfurt on a stick etc. And I mean a LOT of food stalls. There were 2 little parades; 1 band parade, which my school’s brass band played in, and a mikoshi parade, which some of my students participated in. It was funny seeing some of my students outside of school. They didn’t believe it was me! It was also very nice to see because many people put on their summer kimonos (both men and women) and their shoes, so it reflected traditional japan a lot more! Even some foreigners made a lot of effort to dress up for the occasion. In the evening there were also fireworks which weren’t too many – 3500 or so, but they were very impressive – the fact that they didn’t always let off 10 at a time, and the color combos were well co-ordinated! There were even shapes of hearts, smiley faces and diamond rings! I really enjoyed it too!!
The day after I got into the Japanese spirit some more by going to see the sumo tournament held every year here in Nagoya. I thought I would fall asleep, but it was very exciting! Much nicer to see in real life than on TV. And actually the 1st real live sports event I’ve been to. I stayed for thewhole thing. Some were proper fat mofo’s though, and there was one muscular gaijin (foreigner) who was too muscular and not fat enough I’d say! Couldn’t follow who was the winner though, embarrassed as I am to say, they do look alike to me. Again, photos should be up under the Nagoya folder.
So along with those very authentic Japanese experiences, as from today onwards I also have making Japanese clay pottery (setomono) to my list! It was really fun, I was taken there with a friend by one of my teachers. Very interesting indeed.
Intended next post: japanese music and other culture.