Monday, September 15, 2008

Owase Hachiman Jinja Matsuri

Finally, a festival!

15 September was a special day as it marked the Owase Hachiman Jinja Matsuri (尾鷲八幡神社祭礼), one of the few festivals celebrated here in Owase.

Almost the whole town was out, either playing the role of the performer, or that of a spectator.

We were treated to a huge procession that took place along the Kumano Kodo (world heritage site and ancient pilgrimage area) main road, all the way to the Hachiman Jinja (temple) near Owase Port. Along the way, different types of dances involving the hands were performed continuously (from the very traditional Owase bushi to a dance choreographed to the tunes of Ponyo on the cliff by the sea). The entire parade lasted about 2 hours.

This festival marks the pilgrimage of the daimyo (feudal lord in the Edo era) from Kumano Kodo to the temple, and the dancing of hands signify offerings to the Hachiman God. 3 things are prayed for yearly: safety at sea, abundant (fish) catches and bountiful harvests. Note Owase's roots as a fishing town.
Once again, will let the pictures do the talking.

Owase bushi, a traditional dance found in Owase only.

A little boy (the chosen one) playing the daimyo. We managed to catch him performing a ritual to ward off evil.

One of my students performing a cheerleading dance and smiling coyly at us (well, actually all the kids in the pics are my students).

Another traditional dance, and another student. keke

A dance based on a popular anime/ manga series, GeGeGe no Kitaro

Love these kiddos with their afro hairdos.

A traditional float that followed after every performing group.

More dances and students. Spot who's smiling and waving at us.

One of the characters in the Ponyo dance.

Men who were on a high, some of them already drunk at 1pm! On the right: a small rehearsal for the Yaya Matsuri (the quarelling festival) in February where hundreds of near naked men shout and push one another and end up diving into the icy cold waters at Owase Port. In fact, Mr Tan Tan seems rather keen to join these guys next year.

Final performances at the culmination point, the Hachiman Jinja, a very old temple. Yes, it was raining, but the rain did nothing to deter the spirit of the performers.

Of course, no festival is complete without street food. We gobbled down yummy pineapples, fried chicken, hiroshimayaki and takoyaki here.

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