Any reasons seems to be a good reason for a festival in Japan, and this current fall season is cause for another round of them. This last weekend I was able to make it to 2, of 4.
The first one was The Busshozen Fall Festival. It was very relaxed and didn’t have much for flashy entertainment, but I still enjoyed it all the same.
I met up with my friends Thomas and Gary there and we started by watching these rhythmic performances by older women. It was good to see, snap a few pictures, and then get out since it wasn’t too enthralling. Below is a picture of one of these.
Then we decided to walk around and see what else was going on there. At first we went to these areas where kids and old men were playing with such archaic ‘toys’ as tops and stilts. I assumed it was much like a museum where the kids were able to try out these wonders of the the past. I was able to try these things out and it was actually a lot of fun. There were no batteries required, so I was truly surprised. Preparing the top was quite difficult, so they would do it for me and then pass it off. I failed miserably several times, but I got it eventually and the multitudes of people who had apparently taken watching me cheered. I also did the game where you have to catch the ball in the cup. This wans’t so foreign to me, but they amp up the difficulty by putting a hole in the ball and having to catch it on a peg. I did get that just as I was being watched, which felt good.
The top action, or more rather, the dawn of Beyblade
After that blast to the past, I went over and looked at a small flea market they had going on. I saw everything in about 10 minutes, but they did have a few treasures. Most notably, I got a bartender who will pour my drinks for me and wish me luck. Check out the video below to see her in action.
The rest of this consisted of just walking around, getting the biggest snow cone ever, and also enjoying the tranquility of a nearby lake. At night there were some fireworks, but I wasn’t in the mood to wait around several hours, so I just went home. The second day of the festival had some reenactment of Edo Era processions called daimyo, but I wasn’t around to see that. Instead, I went to…
The Sakaide Fall Festival
This festival was on a much grander scale with the feature being these enormous Shinto Shrines that we carried around. They are called Chyosa and weigh a ridiculous amount. They are fantastically ornate and decorated with very elaborate gold needlework. There are supported by a series of poles, about the size of telephone poles that are used to carry it with. I guess of all the other Shrines, the one that I was on is the heaviest. One of the guys said it was 4000 pounds. Though in addition to that there are about 7 or 8 people who ride on top of it either giving commands to us, redirecting electrical wires from our path, or playing a massive drum which bring it closer to 5000 pounds.
Me with my crew.
Everyone involved in this team first met in an area where there was a massive cart of beer, free to members of the team, as noted by the matching uniforms we were all wearing. They made sure that you always had something in your hand, it was a politeness thing and also very much the nature of the Japanese Festival mentality. We start to assemble near the Chyosa, which at the time is sitting on wheels. We lift it for practice and then start moving it to the festival proper. Navigating it down streets that were only slightly wider than this thing was was no easy task, but we made it. When we got to where were needed to be, we started chanting. At certain times in the chant, we would hoist it over our heads. When there are more people, they will actually throw it in the air a few times, but I can’t imagine doing that to such a massive object. There were also other chants that would have us shaking the whole thing as well. About 10 seconds into carrying it my left shoulder made some sounds that were not good and I am now unable to raise my arm without pain. I switched to the right and continued on without any issues, though a visit to the doctor may be in order.
Eventually, we arrived in front of the shrine and we stopped. Because the members of my troupe originated closest to the shrine, we were the only team to participate in some extra processional in front of it. We set the shrine down and did a series of chants towards the shrine, met with cheers from the massive crowd and then continued towards the ‘parking area’ for these things and then it was party time once more. I joined a number of people about my age for some more drinks and we just walked around and enjoyed the festival until it was time to leave again.
Here we parked them
This is a video of another group doing essentially the same things I was doing.
On the way out of the main festival area we did more of the hoisting above our heads and eventually put it back on the wheels. From there, we carted it about a mile to the station. In a parade in America, the route is blocked off to traffic. This was not the case, we were marching down a 4 lane road, taking up with of it with this giant object, and there were many people doing the same. Cars just had to wait. When we got to our destination, it was beer time again and also a great buffet. I didn’t partake this time, since I was meeting one of my teachers and her friends for a dinner that would include all I could consume of both categories.
Overall, it was a fantastic cultural experience and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate. Needless to say, I stood out amongst the rest of the participants, but they were all very kind and welcoming to me.