Sunday, April 18, 2010

O-miyuki Matsuri

As the lipstick, kimonos, and crepe-paper umbrella in the above photo may have made clear, Matt and I spent last Thursday morning at a local festival, compliments of one of our students. Though all of Kofu was rocked last weekend by the food venders and excessive crowds of the yearly Shingen-ko festival, Ichinomiya's O-miyuki festival was more of a local daytime affair (though with many of the same food venders selling yakisoba, takoyaki, and corn dogs). We had woken up at five AM and donned these classy costumes chiefly so that we could carry the Japanese o-mikoshi (portable shrine) shown below.

This bad boy weighed a leg-bending 800 kilograms (1760 pounds) and was supported by two sturdy beams, rather like a souped-up version of the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders. Two teams from local villages (of which Matt and I were naturally the only gaijin, and quite possibly the only gaijin to ever carry this particular o-mikoshi) supplied about fifty people, of which sixteen would switch off holding the shrine. Carrying it wouldn't have been so bad if the team hadn't insisted on bouncing it on their shoulders while shifting their weight from one foot to the other and chanting "Soko, dai!" (Our goal is over there!). It also didn't help that I was the tallest member of our team, and once made the mistake of joining a crew whose average height was about eight inches shorter than me.

The next day, as I was dealing with the effects of sore muscle groups I didn't know I had, one of my students brought in a copy of that day's Yamanashi Nichinichi Shimbun covering the festival, and lo and behold, one of the photos just happened to include me in the background carrying the o-mikoshi with a strained look on my face. I wouldn't say that it was one of my goals to be pictured in a Japanese newspaper, but it sure makes a good story. Sadly, I wasn't able to locate an online version of the article, although anyone with a lot of Japanese skill or free time is more than welcome to try.

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