Large portable shrines on wheels are raced through the streets of Kishiwada for two days every year at this time, one of the most famous harvest festivals in Japan. There were probably not any casualties this year, which is remarkable: some people go to see the Danjiri Matsuri for the same reason some folks watch the Indy 500. The passing typhoon made it hard for me to get as many good shots as I did three years ago, but here are a few of the better ones. Click on a photo for a larger view.
In downtown Kishiwada, the streets are closed to traffic for the matsuri, and folks stroll down the middle of the main avenues, stopping to buy food (Octopus! Squid! On a stick! ) and drink (beer…and beer!) or try to win a prize at the many go-fish and break-the-plate stalls which line the streets like an endless carnival midway (more fun for the kids of course, but an awful lot of yen is expended by boys trying to win big puffy Hello Kittys for their girlfriends). Some merchants do better business than others (see left).
Periodically, the police and organizers clear the streets, and you see a procession of youngsters in happi (those jackets with the logo of their neighbourhood shrine association) and jikatabi (rubber-soled boots with with a separate pocket for the big toe, like a foot-mitten). You notice they are pulling a long braided rope and chanting. The kids march in order of age (boys and girls now participate, but only men get to ride on the shrine itself) , so little by little, you notice the average height increasing as the procession passes. Suddenly, you hear a whistle and a lantern on a long pole (once bamboo, no doubt) is waved. The kids break into a trot, then a run, then the teenagers pass, pulling larger ropes, then a full-on rampage as, from around the corner, the danjiri dashes, loaded down with elders, flute-players, taiko drummers, and young men tempting fate and defying gravity by jumping and dancing on top of the careening thing. Then, as it clears the corner (or doesn’t – the Indy 500 factor), it dashes past and you don’t want to be on the road when it does.
With its reputation as a big, dangerous juggernaut-fest, you wouldn’t expect the Matsuri to have the pleasant, small-town feel of a July 1st picnic in Nova Scotia, or an inflated parish fête in an English town, but that’s the vibe you get. Or I got. Anyway, just like my first visit three years ago, I had fun.
(to be continued)
NB (Sept.19th): On second thought, just go to my new Flickr site (click here) and look around.
March 28th, 2007 – Here are some photos from the 2003 Matsuri (click here)