Friday, 19 October 2007

Nada Kenka Matsuri – day 2! The fight is on!

15th October

Today we were lucky enough to go back to the same seats as yesterday. The morning started with a parade of the seven portable shrines before the fighting began! The fighting was amazing! Many men bought out three smaller portable shrines which were a lot older and less decorative than the previous seven. The shrines supported by bamboo poles and carried by men then began to fight! They would crash into each other and then sometimes fall over and large pieces would break off! It was crazy and no wonder that most years someone dies or gets seriously injured.

Tina, Marie, Spencer and I with Toru and Hitomi - the kind people who shared their seats with us!

Before the fighting began

The fight begins . . .

I was so glad I was viewing this from afar!

After the fighting was over all the shrines including the fighting ones made their way up the road to near the mountain. There they would fight again! On the way I saw some students from my Primary school and as we three of very few foreigners we were approached by many people – including the yellow community who decided that we should join them! It was so funny!

One of my students and his Dad!

Spot the odd ones out!

When we finally made it to the mountain the amount of people was amazing. We couldn’t find a spot anywhere and it looked really dangerous to stay down in the “arena”, so we found a spot on the mountain. We watched the shrines for a while but when we decided to leave there were still shrines in the “arena” and everyone was being pushed around. It was quite scary. We eventually saw a break and followed some Japanese people out of the “arena”! It was like the running of the bulls we were dodging people and just tried to get out of there as fast as we could!

The huge amount of people watching from the mountain

This is what we had to run through after it had cleared a little!

It was a fantastic festival and definitely gave you an adrenaline rush!! I won’t be forgetting it in a hurry!

Oshio Lion Dance Festival – Shishi Mai

14th October

Tonight we went to the Oshio Lion Dance Festival. The dance is to say thanks for the good harvest and pray for peace and safety of the believers. It started with many groups in circles around the lion and then the parade started. Each group would move through the torii towards the shrine with their lion, drums and flutes. Each Lion needed about 4 men to make it dance and the dancing wouldn’t stop to change men! They just changed as they were dancing! It was really amazing to watch and luckily we were invited to enter the shrine and watch from the balcony which then gave us the most amazing view!

The lion (shishi)

The beautiful lanterns

The view from the Shrine

We got to meet Miss Himeji Castle and have a photo with her!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Nada Kenka Matsuri – day 1!

14th October

The Nada Kenka Matsuri is an autumn festival to celebrate a good harvest and pray for the local communities. It involves seven large portable shrines which are carried by men in fundoshi (sumo type pants!) to the chant of yo-yasa! Each community has a different colour which is worn as a headband, happi coat and also large pompoms on bamboo poles. The portable shrines are carried around the area until they reach the shrine gate then salt is thrown to purify them before having the very top of them removed so they can enter the shrine area through the gate. Once inside the very top is replaced and then the portable shrine is lifted up and down in front of the shrine.

Where the festival took place in front of the shrine gate.

Removing the top to fit through the gate!

The red community - apparently the strongest and it is from the area where one of my Primary schools is. I bought myself a mini red pom pom too!

More amazing tattoos!

We were really lucky that one of Tina’s teachers knew someone that had seats and offered for us to join them and then he also brought us a great bento box for lunch! We had fantastic seats with an amazing view!

Once it got a little darker the shrines lit up with little lights or lanterns and they looked amazing!

This was really scary when the shrines got out of control and fell over!

Our seats were this good that I didn't even zoom in to take this photo!

I really enjoyed this festival and was so thankful for our seats as we got such a great view and we were safe away from the crowds!

My Belated Birthday Party!

13th October

Well finally I had a party for my birthday! There has been so much on lately I had to post-pone it to now! We all had drinks out on the big balcony outside my apartment before heading into Himeji for karaoke! After karaoke we headed to a couple of local bars – one which I had never been to before which was good. It was a fantastic night – definitely one that I won’t forget!

Tina and I.

Kyosuke, Marie and I.

Everyone on the balcony.

Fumiyo, Hiromi and I.

Greg, Bill, Spencer and Steve.

Yes we were VIP's for the night! Well we had the VIP karaoke room!

Enjoying karaoke - Love Shack Baby!

Julian, Taube and I enjoying karaoke - My Sharona!

I couldn't think of a better place to spend my birthday - I just needed all my friends from home to be here too!

Shikama Autumn Matsuri

8th October

It was a long weekend so Tina and I were able to attend another local festival at Shikama. It was a similar festival to the Shinzaike festival but the shrines were a lot bigger and heavier and only men were involved in carrying the shrines and they wore fundoshi (sumo type pants!) I was lucky to spot some amazing tattoos on some of the guys – the first time that I had seen this!

Since it looked like rain precautions were taken to protect the shrine as it was taken through the streets.

The portable shrines in front of the temple

How cute!

3 portable shrines jostling together

Tina, Jon, Steffi and I at the festival.

The famous fundoshi and the amazing tattoos!

Around Himeji

6th October

Today Tina and I decided to visit the local cemetery which we have been meaning to do for a while! It is on a hill not far from our apartment building and it was an amazing place to visit. There were many grave stones but also many beautiful statues, shrines and a beautiful fountain area. There was also a great view of Himeji.

The view!

One of the beautiful shrines.

The fountain and garden.

One of the amazing statues

Another beautiful shrine

This is one of the grave stones

Near each area of grave stones there are buckets and water so you can clean the grave stone and pray

It still amazes me what beautiful places there are so close to home that I have not discovered yet!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Shinzaike Autumn Matsuri – Yo Yasa!!!

7th October

On the weekend it was our local area’s Autumn Festival and as residents we were invited to participate. We started the day off at 8am and walked to the local shrine in our happi coats. This is where the festival began with lifting of the portable shrine (mikoshi), a lion dance and of course sake drinking – never too early for that in Japan!

At the shrine

The lion dance

The shrine up close

The boys lifting the shrine!

Drinking sake - at 8am!

Tina and I in our happi coats - feeling genki!

We then wandered around the streets of Shinzaike with the portable shrine on wheels and all of us following it. Many people came out of their houses to see the shrine. The morning involved a few breaks for beer, sake, icecream and cakes! At one of the breaks we met up with some other shrines for a jostling session!

Walking the streets.


Me with one of the cool pom poms!

Some of the people from my apartment building.

How cute!

We ended up at the park near our apartment building for lunch, lion dancing and shrine “fighting”! Tina and I got a chance to be involved in lifting the shrine for the “fighting” and I think we were lucky to survive! I had to leave as I had thongs on and my foot got cut and I thought I would fall over! Tina nearly got taken out but she stayed in to the end! It was so exciting though and it was a privilege to be involved in the festival.

Our great lunch!

Some of us with the kids at the festival.

The 4 shrines jostling! I got out of there just before this photo - it was crazy!

After the festival we had time to rest then we had all been invited to the local community centre to go to a party! There was a lot of food and the drinks kept coming and it was all paid for! We took some foreign alcohol as a thank you present. As we were leaving some of the men were very surprised how tall I was, especially one little man who only really came up to my chest! He just grabbed me and luckily Cecy was quick enough with her camera!

It was a great day and night and I really hope I am here next year to participate again!