September 16, 2000


Right now I'm feeling: real good

Right now I'm listening to: Nanase Aikawa

Nanase Aikawa --Bub

Ahhh, Nanase...
where have you been all my life?

Danjiri Matsuri
A festival held in many cities this time of year, it features hand-carried or rolled shrines which are pulled at running speed through the city streets. In some of the larger cities people are always hurt or even killed. The big shrines sometimes go out of control and there are people lining the streets. And of course, there are always the nutballs dancing on top of the shrines.

Getting revved up for the action, they love to run around the corners really fast.

Whoa, Nellie!!

You see the crazy guy
dancing on top of the shrine??
Damn, I wish Wakayama had such a kewl festival. This beats the pants off of Shiro Matsuri, that's for sure!

There's always some important-looking guy standing at the head of the shrine. He gives the command to start running.

When they get to the end of the route, they dance some more and spray streamer-confetti everywhere

At night the shrines' are covered with lit lanterns and led by children.

Danjiri Matsuri Revisited

Q: Why did the ALTs want to cross the road?
A: To get to the movie theater on the other side.
Q: Why couldn't the ALTs cross the road?
A: Because of all the large shrines rampaging through the streets.

No Joke.

When the girls called me up and asked if I'd like to go to Higashi-Kishiwada to watch a movie, I was all good to go.

(Higashi-Kishiwada has the only decent-sized movie theater screen relatively close by. Good screens, popcorn of the non-nasty variety, real-sized movie soft drinks, great seats and a great atmosphere.
It takes a bit longer than a half-hour to get to Kishiwada by train.)

What I didn't remember was that today was the day of the infamous Danjiri Matsuri. The day when many cities take to the streets and parade shrines through the roads, risking life and limb for this time-honored way of paying homage to the shinto gods nobody believes in any more.

The parade goes quite fast at times with people running through the streets pulling the shrines by a large rope. The large cities (I think both Osaka and Tokyo have Danjiri Matsuri) have shrines as big as small buildings and those are carried! They sometimes collide into hapless spectators along the side of the road causing injury or even death. The Danjiri Matsuri at Higashi-Kishiwada uses smaller, rolling shrines. Much less dangerous. (We did see one person who was injured, sitting at the side of the road. He had on a festival coat and he was probably one of the shrine-pullers or the guy who dances on top.)


When we pull into the station we see the large numbers of people getting on or off the trains. Since the festival lasts all day and night, you can do this and not miss a whole lot because it's basically the same event over and over again. The sequence of pictures of one run of a shrine is at the left. (These pictures are from last year's festival, as I didn't have my trusty digital camera with me, sorry folks!)

The girls knew where the movie theater was so we set about navigating through the crowded streets. It was quite a task because many streets were blocked off due to the parade passing through. We had to wait a number of times to cross the streets or take the long way around a few and duck through a few alleys.

It was actually really good that we were trying to get through these streets because it forced us to go near different parts of the routes of the parade that I didn't get to see last year. A few times cops pushed us aside just in time for the passing of the shrine and it's escort. The shrine got so close we could have reached out and touched the people standing on the sides of it! Last year Glen, Lesa, and I were mainly above one part of the route, watching from one of Lesa's students' apartment balconies. It was cool, but this time I was right down where the action was...

They would alternate between running with the shrines and pausing for breath. It was pretty cool watching them getting ready for a run. The long line of participants would all tense up, get a grip on that huge rope, and chant. Then they would shout and be off and running! More chanting/shouting and the procession would rapidly make its way down the street. The person on top of the shrine dancing furiously, waving fans while his untied festival coat billowed in the wind.

There was some action on the sidelines, too. As we waited at the side of the road for one procession to pass there was some shouting from up ahead in the crowd of spectators. A woman crying out, holding a man by his shirt as he barreled his way through the crowd. He held a purse above his head and he shouted back at the woman. He came straight for me. I jumped out of the way and he and the woman passed us. At the time I wasn't really thinking. I thought it had been a domestic situation and I didn't want to make a big scene like I did last year (and he wasn't hitting her). But after they passed, we got to thinking that he could have been a purse snatcher. Damn. Theft in Japan is not common, but it does happen. That was probably it. A goddam purse snatcher. After that, all the manly things I could have done danced through my head. It's a natural guy-thing to think of things like that after the fact. Can't be helped.

It seemed like it took us two hours to get to the movie theater (normally it would take 20 minutes). Rain came and went for an hour or so. I didn't think to bring my umbrella because it was nice and sunny when we left. But it did. I wonder if they would have shut down the festival.

When we got within one street of the mall where the theater was, we encountered a problem. It seems that this was the mother of all shrine-crossings. Drat. There was no chance at all to get across this street. We scampered from one side of the block to the other, like ants trapped after a child pours an imprisoning circle of water around them (ever do that as a kid?), looking for a way across.

We tried waiting for a lull in the processions before running across like we did at other streets. No go. The stop lights. Nope. We stopped, bought drinks and set to survey our position. The vendor who sold us the drinks then told us that it would stop for a while in twenty minutes. So we waited and FINALLY got across.

By the time we got inside the mall and bought our tickets it was dinner time so we went to this primo Indian restaurant that the girls knew about inside the mall. It was great. The movie, however, was lacking in multiple ways.

The movie hasn't been out here for long, and Japan always lags about getting movies, but it is my sad duty to inform my dear readers that "The Talented Mr. Ripley" sucks. So, PLEASE don't go see it if you're thinking about it. Yes, yes, yes... some of you may have loved it and it may now form the basis of your reason to exist, but for the three of us, it was strange, disturbing, and... well, it just sucked.

Which is really strange because the three of us go through all this, take the train 1 1/2 hours, wander through the streets aimlessly for hours, all that mayhem, and the movie we came to see sucks.

But it was a good day... a great day, in fact. Great food, great company, and rampaging Japanese shrines.. what more could you ask for?

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