Monday, May 05, 2008

Takenoura Festival

Last Tuesday we had a day off of work for a national holiday. Don't ask me what the holiday was because just like in America - I really don't care what the holiday is as long as it's a free day off of work. Suzuki-san had invited all of us English teachers to his small community for a local festival. It was a beautiful Spring day for an outdoor festival. His small town is a hamlet with gorgeous scenery. The festival consisted of all the local boys and men carrying a mikoshi, or a portable shrine about town. The Shinto priest takes the 'Shinto God' from the main shrine and puts it into the portable shrine. It is believed that the local men are carrying God about town this way. A man walks in front of all these men carrying the mikoshi and sprinkles salt before them to make the ground purified. The mikoshi weighs one ton and is decorated with bells and orange rope. The actual little shrine that the God sits in is gold. Between rest stops, all the strong men indulge in sake. Following this are taiko drums and flute players. Also, there is a lion dance, where men (and women can now, too) walk about "biting" people on their heads. It takes 3 people to be under the costume to create this affect. In Suzuki san's small community, the make it mandatory at their schools that all the student learn how to play the Japanese taiko drum, flute and how to do the lion dance. This way their tradition will never die. Suzuki-san is a teacher of all 3 of these things. Japan is amazing in keeping it's culture and custom even as it keeps up with the changing global demands. After the festival finished, we all went back to Suzuki-san's house for lunch.

getting my head bit by the lion

Me, Jane, the Shinto Priest and Emily
The Shinto Priest putting God into the Mikoshi

The boys and men carrying God around town
Lunch at Suzuki-san's house

For all the photos, click here