Saturday, October 18, 2008
day 291 - NADA! (continued)
The action happens in a stadium in a big natural amphitheatre between Shirahama and Mega. It reminded us a lot of the Colisseum. People pay hundreds of thousands of yen for the 'corporate boxes' close to the action. With Yoko's help, we just walked to the top of the hill and found a free grassy patch where no one objected. Despite the gladiatorial nature of the spectacle, the spectators were very friendly and there was a real picnic atmosphere.
Carn the Blues!
After a long walk to the stadium the barely-portable shrines are paraded, twirled and bounced, and often nudged against rival towns' yatai to the partisan cheers of the thousands of onlookers.
Kids pull on ropes connected to the yatai to begin the arduous last leg of the journey. The bulk of the work is done the men, but everyone's help is valued.
The Agony and the Ectasy.
After carrying the yatai several kilometres from the shrine to the amphitheatre, then all the jostling, the shifts of bearers have to carry it to the top of a mountain! At the steepest parts, they could only carry it a few metres before resting, chanting yo Iyasa! and starting all over again.
Almost to the summit...
These cute miniature participants are wearing the full kit, right down to the traditional fundoshi.
The mikoshi (fighting yatai) are lighter than the ornate ones and purpose-built to be smashed against each other. Nevertheless, they're beautifully constructed, lacquered and decorated and its simultaneously thrilling and appalling to see them trashed.
What we all come to see.
As well as the bearers, there are men with poles alternately trying to keep their own mikoshi upright and push the opposition's over. The gods are said to be pleased at the clash. The crowd certainly roars its approval... As the contests continue into the night (and beer and sake are consumed in considerable quantities!), it's not unknown for participants to be crushed between mikoshi or unable to get out from under a falling one. Fortunately there were no fatalities this time.