Monday, October 03, 2005

Taikukan no Training Room, Keitai, Yoshiura Matsuri

I met up with Takuyan yesterday at 1pm. He actually went to rugby practice this time, while I went to the gym on campus. Actually, I went on Thursday, too. The weight room there is ancient! It's so hardcore. Some of the benches are made from plywood and carpet. The plates are a mish-mash of old and new, and the heaviest dumbbells are just 22kg. I don't think that's quite up to my level :) The other rooms like basketball courts and dojo are very well kept because the clubs and teams that use them are sure to clean up afterwards. Even if the weight room is not top of the line, I managed. So sore...

When Takuyan and I met up, we first had to fill out some forms for my Ikenoue dormitory pledge and registration kind of stuff. Then we went to get my keitaidenwa. Cellphone, that is. It's funny that the Aussie's call them mobiles, Japanese call them keitai, and USA call them cells. Somehow we manage. :) So I got a yellow one. I actually received this phone for free with the calling plan, which is not too bad I think. Just $30 each month. My phone has internet, email, takes pictures and movies, and GPS locator!

The Yoshiura Autumn Matsuri was amazing! They had been a town of mainly crab fishermen, so that they began to have this Shinto festival. It takes place in Kure-city, just one hour by bus away from Higashi-Hiroshima. I took so many pictures, 135 to be exact, as well as around 5 short movies. The first thing we saw when we got there were three guys wearing kind of demonic costumes. I guess, it must have been to scare away bad spirits, but in this case it was just scaring little kids. Actually, one little girl was so scared that she ran behind me, holding onto my leg, thinking that I was one of her parents. It was too funny. I can only imagine that parents love these matsuri. The parents chuckle at how scared they little ones get. I guess I laughed a little, too. A little scared also though, because they like to scream and run at you! I admit I jumped when I first saw them scream at the top of their lungs, running toward somebody. Also, the Oni (demons) carry long pieces of bamboo to hit people when they got in the way of the procession. I didn't get to see any of this, but from Tsunematsu-sensei, I heard that one time somebody's finger fell off from such a blow. No, not broken, not hurt, not even injured...FELL O-F-F!

Oni-san Posted by Picasa

So Steve, an art student from England, and I found decent enough spots on the stair case up to the shrine. The people have to carry portable shrines. The first one was the biggest and housed 4 children who were playing the taiko drum. It was a really amazing feeling when the largest shrine arrived at the foot of the steps. Everybody was getting ready for the big moment when the wheels were disconnected and the shrine raised onto the backs and shoulders of the Japanese men. The tension was running high as the men swayed with the shrine, from side to side. It's a very dangerous thing to carry this shrine. Shouting orders among the chanting of "sora agete" or "sora sugite" I can't remember. Then once the shrines reached the top of the steps the people went crazy I thought. They would start shaking the shrine up and down as hard and fast as they could, it was not uncommon for peoples' bodies to give out during this, in which case the men with whistles would jump in to put the shrine up into the air again. Lastly, the portable shrines were brought into the main shrine building.

Portable Shrine Posted by Picasa
Going Up the Stairs Posted by Picasa

What was more strenuous than taking up the portable shrines? Taking them down. Not only is this seemingly harder to control, but the direction is always changing. The shrine changed directions, upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, downstairs. This must have been at least 15 times. Each time you could see the exhaustion on the men's faces, coming so close to returning the portable shrine to the cart. Not just exhaustion on their faces, but dripping sweat soaking their clothes, running the ink from their sash.

Did I mention that Steve and I had the chance to partake in pulling one of the carts through the street? We were eating Takoyaki when a group of small children came by pulling their taiko drum. Their leader said something, then all the students turned and said "Hello, How are you?" It was so funny. I guess we were feeling really like USA tourists, even if Hannes and Erika are from Austria. Then one of the older men of the group, the last person holding the rope turned to Steve and I and motioned for us to join. Needless to say we both dropped our Takoyaki and bags and jumped right in! No way we could pass up such an opportunity to join in this Matsuri (festival) so we helped pull the cart and chanted "sou orei." Well we didn't know quite what to do. With my Japanese I got the jist of what they wanted us to do and talked to the old gentleman telling him where we are from and learning that the small children were actually just in kindergarten! When we got to the stairs the rope becomes separated from the drum to go up the steps. Steve and I awaited the call to help carry the taiko, but I guess they would be OK without us. The teachers carried it. We watched proudly as our taiko climbed the steps.

It turns out that because of the aging population in Japan, there aren't enough people from the city alone to do the matsuri. There is a group of people who specialize in performing matsuri as their job! What an amazing job it must be!

After all the shrines had come down, there wasn't actually much to do. All of the people were heading home. So we international students just hung out on the steps of the Yoshirua train station. Then, on the bus ride, some guys started to sing, and Tsunematsu-sensei mentioned that we should do karaoke sometime. Then she reached down and turned on the Karaoke machine. Yea, our coach bus has karaoke, I wonder if Pharrell's bus has this. So everybody -had a medley of YMCA, Hey Jude, Two Japanese songs from Tsunematsu-sensei, Living on a Prayer, and one Swedish song about talking to frogs...It was a lot of fun, the entire day. I wonder if the soon-to-be Japanese Club at Carthage could organize to carry a portable shrine for the homecoming game or something [=]

Hm...this weeks list of things to do...find out about Photography and Rowing clubs, Part-time job, Starting Class, Handing in more Forms?? Japanese placement test, Sake Festival, Figuring out how to eat economically on campus, making plans with japanese friends :D


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got a kick out of the kids saying to you in English "Hello, how are you?". While I was is Asia this happened to me many times and I always loved it. That may had been about all the english the kids knew, and they were sooooooo proud when you understood.
Uncle F.

8:42 AM  

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