Thursday, February 14, 2013

Akiba Matsuri

I finally made it to the Akiba Matsuri this past week. It was on my list of things to do before I leave the area this summer. It is one of the three famous festivals here. It is rather interesting. Some people have high regard for it while others don't have the same thing to say. The festival celebrates the deity of fire prevention every year. Well, that's at least what I gleaned from the complicated description of the origins. They begin at the bottom of a hill and in a large procession of costumes, dances, and many other things, they work their way to the shrine at the top. To an outsider the festival would probably appear very strange and theatrical. I think in some way I agree with what that article above is saying and I understand it first hand living in the countryside of Japan. Yet, the criticism is a little harsh. I'm sure the people who participate in the festival once a year wonder why so many Americans pound back beers and revel in the sporting event known as the Super Bowl. Ethnocentrism at it's best I suppose.

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I see nothing wrong with people holding onto old traditions. For me, at least, I like to feel the touch of the past. In these seemingly strange customs there is a sense of longing for a life that will never come back. Time has progressed too much for anyone to ever reclaim that past though.

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Everyone at the festival was happy and having a good time.

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It was a long haul up the hill that took about 6 hours from my estimates. Once at the top they had to try to ram the Mikoshi into the entrance of the shrine many times. I guess it's an honor to carry that up the hillside and participate.

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I love the old communities snug against the hillsides. The scenery is a fantasy to me every time I see. It's nothing I will forget soon nor ever for that matter. It's the perfect back drop for this festival.

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I actually posted pictures of this location last spring. There are some beautiful flowering trees. I will be back for this very soon.

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One of my favorite parts was the tossing of these poles. I'm sure it takes considerable strength to keep them under control. The wind wasn't making it any easier as well. They do a dance together and then in an instant the pole is thrown and the opposite person jumps up to catch it. It's really such a simple thing but for some reason it's intriguing. It surely isn't common by any means.

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The best way I can describe these two characters is as clowns. They went ahead of the procession and sold miniature sticks to festival goers for 1000 yen a pop. People were buying them up left and right. I have to commend the people for supporting the event in such a way. I'm not sure anyone is the U.S. would be as generous. There might have been a promise of good luck or something so it wasn't a completely worthless deal.

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The same events are repeated at the top of the hill at the shrine. I was quite surprised that it looked like a small battle arena with seating built out of stone. It was so packed up there that it was hard to really see much. I will stop by in later spring to get some pictures of the shrine area in depth. After seeing our fill of the festivities we finally made an escape back home.

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I feel like I should have gone before this year so I could take more in. Maybe in 10 years I'll come back and relive my younger days. Yeah it could happen.

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