July 25, 2001
now I'm feeling: Worn out from the festival!!
now I'm listening to: Utada Hikaru
Hikaru -- Deep River
Matsuri, one of the largest festivals in Japan. Fortunately
for me, it is only a one-hour train ride from my humble little
mountain town of Wakayama in the bustling metropolitan city
of Osaka. I hate big cities, but I love going to Osaka. Osaka
has the cliche foreign flavor, that enormous sense of walking
anonymity, the fast-moving throngs of people and the small
shops and delicacy stands that I love in Japan.
couple friends of mine, Machiko and her boyfriend, Shin, live
there. They had to work during the day, but they promised
to meet me later in the day, wearing yukata and all,
to share a shaved ice, watch the fireworks and the end of
the festival from the banks of the Dojima River.
past couple weeks have been so chaotic.. saying goodbye to
old friends, packing up all my stuff, trying to clean my apartment,
but I've still been really looking forward to this festival.
I don't know why I didn't see it last year. I'll give a brief
synopsis here, but if you want to know all the details, you
should go here.
There are a lot more photos and a brief background.
flew solo on this festival because Lesa and Glen flew back
to the US just a few days ago, A's off abroad in England,
and Kristy and O-chan went for their Indian tour about a week
ago. New ALTs are coming in soon, some are in Tokyo right
now, but my own successor is due to arrive August 1st or so.
The festival is in two main parts, a procession down to the
river from Temmangu Shrine and then hundreds of boats and
barges are boarded and sent down the river as fireworks go
soon as I arrived in Osaka I found information on the festival
at the information center, and made my way to Temmangu Shrine
where the festival was due to start. I got there early in
the morning and most people were still getting ready, putting
the finishing touches on their costumes and preparing the
shrines and mikoshi for the big procession down to
costumes were so colorful! Thousands of people of all different
ages were in line for this procession carrying banners, mikoshi,
colorful boxes, flags... This was easily the largest festival
I saw in procession in Japan. I've heard that Gion Matsuri
in Kyoto is larger than this one, but I went the day before
the main events: my friends said the crowds were just toooo
huge! She was probably right, the crowds the day before that
event were pretty bad. There were a lot of people for this
one, but they were all spread across the parade route and
in the buildings to watch so congestion wasn't horrible.
the beginning of the festival there was a lot of activity
at the shrine! Drums, music, dances, and rituals meant to
appease and ask blessings from the gods. Once the parade started
it was hard to keep ahead of it! Sooo many people on the sidewalks
and the streets were all cordoned off. But with some effort,
I was able to get some decent shots of the major features
of the parade.
participants weren't as drunk as Hounen
Matsuri, and the procession wasn't as fast as Danjiri
Matsuri, but it was larger in scope and grander than either
of them. The dancers were enthusiastic, singing and chanting
in unison, some groups went by almost quietly, priests throwing
salt.. at the tail end of the procession were the golden mikoshi.
Lifted high by hundreds of men, they made their way slowly
through the town to the Dojima River. The crews were driven
by a single man who stood on top of the mikoshi, yelling and
blowing a whistle at the men and directing them with a small
rod. It was great! I'm so glad I saw this festival!!
river was FILLED with barges and boats. Tens of thousands
of people lined up to board the boats and towards nightfall
were sent down the river. I heard that on the boats there
is traditional Japanese entertainment like old music, court
dances, and traditional theatre.
fireworks display was large, but low below Osaka's towering
skyline. This was probably to minimize the fallout area, but
my friends and I (and the other thousands of spectators) had
to race through the city to try and find a good vantage point!
We finally found one and as the fireworks died down it was
like a dream was dying in my heart... it was the last time
I would ever see something so spectacular like this in Japan.
I'm going to miss this place and when I leave.. a part of
my spirit will always stay here.