Wednesday, February 25, 2009

World Heritage Site - Shiragawa-go(白川郷), Gassho-zukuri Village

Our plans to visit Gassho-zukuri in Takayama area was made weeks back and we were concerned whether we will be able to catch the snow. Decided that it was a risk worth taking, the Tan Tans proceeded on with the 3hrs train ride to Nagoya followed by another 2hrs train ride to Gero Onsen (Top 3 onsen in Japan) for a break and dip before proceeding another hour to Takayama. It was a risk worth taking.

Snow greeted us on the way.

The 1hour bus ride to Shiragawa-go (白川郷) was scenic though Mr Tan Tan is sleeping most of the time and the sights at Shiragawa-go was fabulous

The interesting part about the Gassho-zukuri is that no nails are used in the making of the huts. It is somehow similiar to ancient China methodology of building palaces without nails. The structure are set in a way with the enhanced roof to take the weight of the heavy snow.
and of cos, we had our fair share of fun with the snow!
The light-up in Hida Folk village in Takayama as the Tan Tans had to catch the last bus back from Shiragawa-go at 1630hrs before the lightup. And so, the Tan Tans settled on the second best option. Hida folk village where some of the original Gassho-zukuri are moved to.
And we came across interesting sights like the snowman as well as a dustbin shaped like the Gassho.

And well, introducing one of Tan Tans fav food find there, the Hida beef bun. . yummy

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weirdest Matsuri in Japan - Yaya Matsuri Day 5

The last day of Yaya featured a day-long parade by all the 3 main concentrations. A total of 854 participants took part in this procession which started at 1pm and lasted till 6pm at the Jinja.

We were treated to traditional performances...

. . and the not so traditional ones.

The poor shishi aka 獅子(lion) being whacked by kids from the start to the end of the parade.

Cart full of tidbits!

Left: Challenge for the Yaya
Right: In high spirits, the men were sprayed with beer as they did a mini Yaya.

Left: Final performance by the participants for the Gods at the Jinja.
Right: Finally. A break.

Another procession to mark the "closing door" ceremony of the matsuri. The kids were being carried on the shoulders of the adults. Not a part of the rituals but likely because the kids were tired after the full day of matsuri.

And this was the archery contest where a representative from each of the 3 strongholds competed in. The one who managed to hit the bull's eye will have to go to Ise Shrine to pray. Sadly, no one struck the bull's eye this year. A total of 7 rounds took place and the chant of Jyo-Sa-Ja kept ranting throughout the competition.
Owase Jinja priest conducting a ritual before the start of the archery contest

Totally caught by surprise as to what happened here. Once the archers made their final bow to the targets, 3 men grabbed the straw mat and dashed through the queue of lanterns to the shrine. (unable to get a shot as it happened too fast)

The last ritual where the shishi (獅子) dashed out of the temple, disappeared for the next 3 mins and dashed right in again)

Total time of the final day's Matsuri: 1pm to 10pm.

Weirdest Matsuri in Japan - Yaya Matsuri Days 2-4

Day 2 marked the actual start of Yaya Matsuri and it was than I discovered the most interesting part of this whole matsuri. Too bad that Mrs Tan Tan had to teach a conversational class and so I went to explore on my own.

Of the 3 strongholds for this year, I had decided to go to Horimachi. The first impression that hit me. Drunkards!
The Yaya Matsuri is basically a pushing match - groups of people clash and try to win by pushing the other group away. The smell of alcohol really hit me even though I was standing a distance away.

Shortly after I reached Horimachi, the group from the other machi arrived and the challenge began. Chants of "チョウサじゃ"(pronounced jyosaja) filled the increasingly intense atmosphere. (A check with my nihongo sensei shows that it represents the "coming of adulthood" or "passing adulthood" but sadly it seems like no one really knew the real meaning of this chant during the matsuri)
After the battle, the group proceeded to the port where I was treated to another すっぽんぽん (suponpon) show where "the chosen" men stripped themselves naked and jumped into the freezing cold seawater to carry out a prayer facing the East.

The naked participants being encircled by the other guys upon climbing out of the freezing water. A mini-yaya was done to keep the naked guys warm until they reached a small hut(approx 15m away) for a hot shower.

(I am not posting the video and pictures of the naked men as I have yet to edit that, so please bear with it.)

After the dip, the guys went to the jinja to pray and that ended the day's matsuri though we heard from the locals that the matsuri carried on with more drinks until around 2am every night. Talk about celebrations.

It was raining on day 3 and so the Tan Tans gave the matsuri a miss as they thought it might be cancelled

Day 4 was Awesome! There were many more participants and the crowd had swelled compared to the previous days.

We also chanced upon the Taiwanese film crew of 世界那么大 shooting this interesting fesival.
The Tan Tans almost got interviewed had it not for the arrival of the next "すっぽんぽん" group.

Additional information for those who are keen to catch the Yaya Masturi.
Main Yaya clash: Days 2-4 of matsuri
Time: 7.30pm
Time the Bigger Yaya starts: Around 8pm
Time for the dip (i.e. diving into the port): Around 830pm
Location: One of the 3 chosen streets. You can find it by the setup of huge bamboo barricades in the area. (They are used to protect houses from being damaged during the Yaya.)