Wednesday, October 12, 2005


This past weekend, there were harvest matsuris (festivals) happening all over the city. I must've seen 5 different festivals as I was biking around. The area where I live, Shinzaike, has 4 different community harvest festivals based on where you reside in the Shinzaike area. The teachers at Shirasagi Residence were invited to participate in the festival. We only had to pay 1000 yen approximately $10. They loaned us hapi coats, which you can see in the pictures below, fed us well and gave us lots of alcohol. It was so much fun!

We went to our local shinto temple for an hour long service on Saturday and drank sake. The temple is small and the ceremony was sweet. It was really nice to meet other community members and I think they were happy to see us, especially because we had 5 big men with us (to help carry the yatai or shrine). On Sunday we met at the temple at 8am and we were served more sake and we watched a lion dance. I knew it would be a crazy day when I started drinking sake at 8 in the morning.
Shinzaike Shinto Shrine

Drinking sake at 8am and looking goofy as usual :-)

Then we picked up the yatai or shrine and lifted it up and down and moved it all around. We put the shrine on rollers and 2 kids climbed into the yatai where there was a small area to sit and a drum. The kids continuously hit the drums throughout the day. Many children took turns sitting in the shrine and hitting the drums while we walked through the streets yelling "YOYASA" over and over and over again. I've asked several Japanese people what yoyasa means, most don't know. Some of the Japanese teachers at my school looked up the meaning and it's just a shout of encouragement. It must've meant something in the old days. One of the teachers also explained that in different areas of Japan, people yell different things.
The Shinzaike Yatai

Kids drumming in yatai

There was a procession and special colored pom poms/flowers - long bamboo sticks with paper pomoms coming out of them. Each area of the city has it's own colors. Ours was bright pink. We walked through the streets of our neighborhood in Himeji and yelled "YOYASA" from 8am-12pm. We would stop at certain points for scheduled snacks, bathroom breaks and more drinks! It was very well organized and it was fun! At noon we went to our nearby park and met up with 3 other communities and their yatais or shrines. Then the men lifted the yatais and went in the middle of the park and started pushing against each other. One of the American teachers, Allison lifted the yatai as well and participated in the battles. I was too short to lift it very high, so I did not participate. She was the only woman who lifted the yatai with the men. There were 3 community yatais in the event. This is difficult to explain, so see the pictures below.
Walking around town

Some other groups' pom poms

Yatai Battle

After the battle, they served us an incredible lunch! We were well taken care of.

Here are some of the Phoenix teachers. One of the teachers made up a hand sign for our Shirasagi Residence - represents....

Then there were performances by children, more lion dances, a game of Janken (rock paper, scissors). And another battle of the yatais, this time with 4 shrines.

4 yatais battling

After the festival we were invited to a party at the Shinzaike Community Center.
We are going to have a Halloween Party for the children and families that live in our community. If anyone has any good, inexpensive ideas on what we could do that day, please let me know. So far the ideas on the table include: face painting, making paper masks, apple bobbing, maybe covered buckets with grapes where you stick your hand in and say these are the eyeballs, and spaghetti these are the brains, etc…

Also, this coming weekend is the big Nada Festival. Where bigger yatais (shrines) are carried by men wearing next to nothing (I’ll take pics) and they fight by crashing the yatais into each other. I’ve heard it’s dangerous, that many people get hurt. We are lucky because the mayor has reserved special seating for us. Tickets are very hard to come by and they are very expensive. I think the event is all day and I’m sure there will be a lot of drinking involved.


Anonymous said...

glad to hear that you are flexing that liver of yours again with all that drinking! sounds like my time in grad school.

John Suitcase said...

Wow! Sounds like you're having some great times! Larry and Tab are coming in March, sounds like, so we'll have to come maybe at the end of march or beginning of April (unless you want to have 4 crazy people staying there!

I keep trying to get together with Julian, but just missing him. Saw him through the bus window at First Friday, though!

Keep up the good work, we're all enjoying living vicariously through you!

alma51 said...

Reminds me of the Matsuri in Shimotokaido. What fun! Great pics. Marty33 and I planning on coming March/April too so maybe you'll have 6 crazy people staying there. Check out the minshukus!

Gwynne Sullivan said...

Ok so here's what you do: you get a spirited volunteer to be a decapitated head. Then you put the volunteer on a chair and make a pseudo-table around their head out of a big cardboard box or something, and hang a sheet all around them down to the floor so it looks like they're a decapitated head sitting on the table top. The decapitated head can then sit there and look dead, with deady makeup and stuff making it look nasty, until someone comes up close to it to check it out, at which point it can wake up and make eye contact with the viewer and go rawwwr and start chomping it's teeth.
Decapitated heads are so cool when they're still alive.
Someone should really find a way to dress up like dracula, too. I'm sure a black cape could be made out of a black robe somewhere, then all that's needed is a suit, some hair gel, plastic fangs and any red fake blood substance.
It all sounds so hysterical to me to imagine all these uninitiated Japanese kids experiencing dracula and decapitated heads and brains and eyeballs.
I wonder if they have dry ice anywhere? That's always a staple. Headstones wouldn't be too hard to paint either.

Donovan said...

Dang! Sounds/looks like you're having a blast!

Matsuri means festival? So our annual here in Phoenix is the 'Festival' festival....

I wanna come! With all the peeps you have on the list so far it sounds like mid '06 @ the earliest.

Anonymous said...

Do they have pumpkins in Japan?