Monday, September 10, 2007

Onagori Matsuri

Last weekend, I escaped the suburbs of Akita City for the first time since I arrived here and took the trains (on my own!) up to Noshiro for the Onagori festival. There, I met up with a friendly group of JETs, and together we enjoyed the festival and Noshiro night life. We were a colorful assortment of nationalities, being variously an American, an Englishman, an Irish girl, a Canadian, and an Australian.

The Onagori festival is a sort of end-of-summer amalgamation of traditions drawn from several different festivals in the area. So, it was perfect for me, having come too late to see most of them.

The introductory picture shows one of the brilliant Nebuta floats, carried by a team of young men, who run around the street, spinning the entire structure faster than you would imagine is possible from seeing a still photograph (it's probably lighter than it looks) and if the people watching from the sidewalks cheer enough, they'll rush toward you, stopping just short of a collision and leaning the whole float forward, effectively "bowing" the float for all the spectators to see.

Nebuta float greeting the opposite side of the street.

This is a little before the main events started. You can see men carrying lanterns from the Kanto festival (of my own Akita City). Each of these constructs, with about 30 to 40 lanterns in all, is hoisted up on a single pole and carried by one man, who balances the end of the pole expertly on his forehead, chin, or shoulders. (Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this, but see the background of my blog).

Everywhere, there are street vendors, grilling yakitori, takoyaki, yakiniku, and many other yaki's. Also, you can find ice cream, shaved ice, and other tasty desserts.

No, she's not Japanese. This is one of the visiting Brazilian dancers featured in the festival. Some were quite friendly, and it was amusing to watch them approach the more modest spectators. The girl in the photo started dancing with a little 4-year-old boy.

Here's a man preparing my takoyaki (octopus, tempura, and vegetables stuffed in a batter dumpling and topped with sauces). I waited a long time for these, but found, as the other JETs had warned me, that I could only finish about six before I'd had enough. Good stuff, though.

A float with many people and flowers and figures.

I saw a taiko group of young boys practicing near a bright paper float before the main events.

And these are a couple videos I took. At some point, you can see the paper float seen above with its wings and towers bent over to facilitate its movement under low hanging power lines.

Onagori Matsuri
Onagori Matsuri 2


Sean said...

Wow! This looks even more exciting than the Disneyland light parade! Although the Disneyland light parade was pretty neat!

I hope all of the different Yaki's sat well with you. Sounds like an awesome experience.

The Moore Family said...

Hi Jeff,

I really love your BLOG. Especially the videos. It sound like you are quickly becoming a veteran teacher. Keep up the good work. I'll ask your Mom to send you some peanut butter. Hopefully they have bread there that is suitable for peanut butter.