thing I'm going to sorely miss about Japan is all the wacky
and cool festivals. I didn't get to see this particular festival
last year because March 3rd fell on a school day, which I
couldn't get off. But this year it's on a Saturday and there's
nothing to stop me.
didn't know this at the time, but apparently a lot of other
JETs in the ken had made plans to see this festival, as well
as a number of other foreigners I had never seen before. Even
with as many foreigners as there was, there were still a ton
of Japanese people, mostly older, who seem to never tire of
festivals like these.
festival is held every year on March 3, "Girls' Day",
to chase the evil spirits out of girls. Or perhaps
to keep evil spirits away from girls... depending on
which translation you use or how embittered the Shinto priest
is who you happened to ask for the explanation.
are really two parts to what is now known as "Girls'
Day"... the first takes place inside the home with families
that have girl children. They invide friends and relatives
over, have food and drinks special for the occasion, and wish
for the girls' to grow up healthy and beautiful. A little
girl's first "Girl's Festival", her grandparents
will often give her her first set of "hina" dolls.
This set consists of up to 15 very expensive dolls on a display
of up to 7 tiers with small furniture and lamps.
ago, this was a purification ritual, in which people would
rub paper drawings on themselves, in the aim to transfer the
impurities to the paper, and toss them into the river. Sometimes
noble's daughters would decorate and play with paper dolls
and then throw them into the river.
ceremonies were to take place at two locations: Kada Shrine
which is about a 20 minute train ride and then a 20 minute
walk away from the center of Wakayama City, and the dock nearby.
Kada Shrine, year-round they have thousands upon thousands
of dolls around and inside the shrine. Surrounding the outside
of the shrine they also had thousands of porcelain cats and
many stone and wooden phallus objects.
the actual ceremonies, they had children from the local elementary
schools singing outside the doors to the shrine. Of course,
there was a lot of fawning over the little children, partially
because they were singing adorably out of synch with eachother,
partially because 95% of small Japanese children are
(I have to admit it) truly adorable... it's how they outgrow
this youthful Japanese-adorability that you've got to watch
large boat was brought out into which the first dolls were
placed in by a little girl dressed in elaborate kimono and
several maidens in traditional garb assisting her.
this opening ceremony, the dolls are piled into several boats
and carried down to the docks. It was windy and very, very
cold that day. Freezing actually, and it seemed we waited
for hours for the small procession of priests and boats which
held the festival dolls.
crews and people with cameras and camcorders were everywhere.
We were lucky to have gotten a spot so close to the dock.
The news crews donned their golashes and waded around the
dock in the water to get a better shot!
boats were set onto the edge of the dock where the final blessings
were made by Shinto priests and the little girl and then they
were towed out into the sea.
ancient times, the dolls were supposed to be gone and forgotten
to have the blessings take affect, but I heard that they just
tow the boats back after mostly everyone leaves the dock.
After that, the dolls are burned in a large bonfire. They
don't leave them out in the sea anymore because fisherman
drag them up in their nets and that can be a bit of a pain.
I toyed with the idea of sticking around to see the bonfire
if they'd let me (could've been cool), but it was way too