The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 18 September 2006

More festivities

Ever since arriving in Japan, we have had a pretty packed itinerary of places to see and things to do, that I feel like I'm constantly playing catch-up with updating my journal using the abundance of photos I've taken using my camera. This is yet another catch-up post as these photos were taken well and truly a few weeks ago.

Wajima tai sai

Wajima is the next major town closest to where we are in the Noto (about 45 minutes' drive if we go via the short cut windy route away from the main roads without getting lost - not easy without a proper road map). They had their tai sai (big festival) over three days a few weeks ago in late August.

We made a day-trip to Wajima on the first day of the tai sai and went nice and early in the morning to catch the asaichi (morning market), which Wajima is pretty well-known for. Asaichi is held everyday except for two days a month. Another thing Wajima is famous all througout Japan for is their lacquerware, which can be quite beautiful, but boy are they expensive! (We saw a jewellery box at the lacquerware museum going for thousands of dollars!)

Yes, I love my markets:

Whilst at the market, we saw an adorable dog:

Near the morning market, we saw residents busy with preparations for the festivities to happen that night. The thing in the next photo is called a kiriko, which is a vertical rectangular mikoshi (portable shrine) lantern. Apparently they are very expensive and costs hundreds of millions of yen:

After the asaichi, we took a lovely drive along the coast towards Sosogi (as recommended by the brochure) and stopped by a place called Senmaida which means a thousand rice paddies. It was gorgeous, being located right next to the sea:

We stopped at this waterfall to have our lunch break:

We headed back into Wajima later that day, met up with a group of fellow JETs and joined in the first part of the festivities. Around the port area, there were a lot of men dressed up in bright and colourful outfits with ridiculous makeup. They were very rowdy (probably drunk), and their job was to carry this mikoshi (portable shrine) all around the streets and make their way towards the beach where they will eventually enter into the water. Apparently the story behind this ritual is that the goddess of the ocean (who lives in the shrine??) will only allow women to carry the shrine and enter the water whilst carrying the shrine. Or something like that. It certainly was an entertaining spectacle to witness.

Running around back and forth on the streets:

Descending down the stairs towards the beach:

Some sort of ritual performed prior to entrance into the water:

In the water:

We then made our way into the main part of the town where the night festivities were held.

This is the same kiriko we'd passed by earlier in the day:

Rob jumped at the opportunity to joined in carrying the kiriko, and of course the Japanese residents were more than happy to let him. Alex and John joined in and off they went running up and down the streets, back and forth, spinning around like crazy. And these things aren't very light either. These celebrations and running around continues into the wee hours of the morning. We had a long-ish drive ahead of us in the dark so we had to leave while the night was still young. Still, we were so tired having started out so early in the morning that we were glad to return home.

Mingling with the locals:

With Alex next to Rob:

The same road that held the asaichi every morning was transformed that night with stalls and stalls selling all kinds of festival food like takoyaki (octopus balls), yakisoba (fried noodles) and okonomiyaki - it was not the healthiest place to have dinner, but it was fun to be in the midst of it all:

Ukawa Matsuri

Ukawa is the little community/town that we live in, and we had our own little festival a few weeks ago. Instead of the kirikos (portable shrines), we had niwakas (floats) with portraits of samurai warriors painted on them. There were about 10 different floats, which I think were made by (or at least represents) the different areas of our community. Prior to the night-time celebrations and feasting, the floats made their rounds in the streets in the afternoon.

Of course, Rob could not resist the opportunity to mingle with the locals, and of course the locals would not refuse Rob's request to push the floats:

Displaying the floats:

One of the floats:

That night, we ate very well, thanks to my fellow JETs' supervisor's vast network. I think he brought us to three houses to socialise and eat. The food was great and we had loads of fun.

Rob, of course, had fun interacting with people who were quite drunk:

We even had fireworks lasting about 20 minutes:

Then it was more running up and down the streets with the niwaka, which Rob participated in for about 45minutes until he found out that it was to continue until 3am in the morning. At which point he said we ought to walk back home.

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