Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A while ago, I mentioned to my Japanese friend that I would love to do the mikoshi festival. So I received a phone call from her and she said that we could do it at her town. So on Saturday morning on a hot summer day I woke up at 5am. It's been so long since I woke up that early, and I headed to the train to meet Nolly at a station an hour and a half away from my place. The day was beautiful, sunny and hot temperature of over 35 degrees. I arrived and was picked up in her car and then we changed into her friends car. He took us to his place and were treated by his mother and father to a homemade breakfast. Wow it was delicious. It was time to get fitted into our Happi's. A happi is a Japanese straight sleeved coat that was worn in the past by servants, and has a crest on the coat. The crest used to represent the family they worked for, but as the years passed, happi's were worn in stores and organizations and the crests were their mark. Now it has changed so the crests represent the towns and organizations.

We walked down to meet up with the team we were in. And it started....mikoshi is a portable shinto shrine, during the summer it is carried around the town for people to pray for good crops in the fall. The shrine is taken to places like small shrines, schools, and neighbor stops where the town folks are given a chance to watch as the people holding the shrine wave is about. At each stop, it is set down and a break of around 20 mins is taken. During that 20 mins, in exchange of the shrine being at their part of neighborhood, the people all give everyone drinks of beer, tea and water and food like chicken, snacks, udon, soba etc... Then it starts again. This was done for 8 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon. Then it was break time, and nap time. I was so exhausted from carrying the shine, you can't believe how heavy it is! Carrying the shrine is not just walking and carrying it, there is also a special way you have to walk, it's more of a dance, and you bouce along while carrying the shrine, make sure you keep your feet going the same way as the rest of the people! It's a dance and everyone gets in high spirits, shouting out loud after the whistle being blown to keep the rhythm.

Late afternoon we were back on the streets of the main town, the roads were all closed off and it was festival time. Children and adults of all ages wearing their yukata's or jimbeis, stalls aligned up and down the streets of yakisoba (fried noodles), takoyaki (friend pancake like balls with octopus inside), kakikori (snowcones), and games of all types. We carried the shrine up and down the street all night long, with a break in the middle where all the shrines met up and their was an announcement of all the sponsors. That's when the battle started. Each team likes to see how wild they can get and wave the shrine back and forth the longest and the hardest. I was shocked when I relieved what they were doing and I was holding the shrine. After that turn of events, I came out of it with aching thighs and bruises on my shoulders. I learned a lesson, stick to the inside poles to hold the shrine, you only act as a base for it, and no jumping up and down.

Finally at 9 we were finished, and headed back drenched with sweat, sore muscles, but thankful for being able to have experienced such an event.

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