Anyone for Sake at 7AM?

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October 16th 2006
Published: October 16th 2006
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At least this girl was probably more clueless than I was. But she was way cuter!
The autumn harvest festivals have begun. What are the autumn harvest festivals? Good question. In short, they include waking up at the crack of dawn to carry a huge, very heavy portable shrine (in which the rice god lives) and another huge, even heavier carriage (in which four children play the taiko/drum). The portable shrine is called a mikoshi and the carriage for the children is called a danjiri. They are carried on several people’s shoulders all day while they visit different parts of the neighborhood to bless houses and farms for a good harvest season. Then, finally the rice god is carried to its new home at a different Shinto shrine. Oh, one part I forgot to mention is that all of this is done while screaming chants at the top of your lungs and, of course, guzzling down sake and beer (note: this is not optional).

I was forced to drink my first glass of sake at 7:00am at the shrine right before we set off for the long, all-day journey. Of course, they didn’t force the sake upon me, but if I had refused, there would be much confusion, disappointment, and offense taken. It seemed that as

The day starts at 7am with a cup of sake and a few laps around the shinto shrine with the mikoshi and the danjiri.
soon as I would breathe a sigh of relief that I finished another cup of sake (that I hoped would be my last), my cup would be refilled without me even noticing. For the first half of the day, I didn’t mind it all so much, but half way through the day my body started feeling the effects. I guess I’m just not used to drinking all day starting at 7am. So, after everyone came back from our free feast of a lunch (provided by the neighborhood obaa-sans /old women of course), I started to feel really sleepy~ so much that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Then, my head started pounding to the beat of the taiko. So, I slipped out of the crowd back to my apartment hopefully without anyone noticing.

As soon as my head hit my futon, I was out like a lamp for hours…..until my phone started ringing off the hook and people started banging on my door. Ah! These people are crazy. “Jennie-sensei! Jennie-sensei! Where are you? It’s dinner time and everyone is waiting for you!” they were saying. I usually take any offers for a free dinner without hesitation, but I

This is the mikoshi which holds the rice god to be transported to a new home at a different shrine.
knew that tonight, dinner time was synonymous for drinking time. Nevertheless, out I went to face the herds of drunken festival goers. The room I was ushered into was all old drunken men. I noticed the women were all eating in a separate room, probably having a much more pleasant time. “Jennie-sensei, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced yet!” said an old man while reaching out both of his hands in a groping position. Not sure whether to be insulted or not, I asked, “Excuse me?” So to make sure he got his point across, he said blatantly, “Oppai (meaning, “Your breasts”)!” Not so surprised, as I’ve been in very similar situations before in Japan, I ran up to him and whacked him hard on the head (a completely acceptable response to such crude behavior)! The rest of the night went well, and the food was great. Everyone said I missed out on the most exciting parts of the festival while I took my mid-day nap, but I thought my nap was pretty exciting too.

I will continue with the story of autumn festivals next week, since they continue through next weekend. For now, check out the pictures,

And we all set off down the hill to the neighborhood below for a days long journey of blessings, chants, food, and of course, SAKE!!!
for they explain more than I can in words.


Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16



Me and three of my sweet students in front of the danjiri.

SAFE! Just before the danjiri hits about ten men's toes and looses two of the children inside, it is caught by those very brave men.

As the danjiri is lifted above everyone's heads, you can hear the screams of pain.

close up of the danjiri and the children playing taiko inside.

The delicious feast at the mid-day break.

RICE! What this festival is all about.

The mikoshi arrives at its new home and is blessed by the shinto priest (left) and surrounded by many offerings.

close-up of the mikoshi in its new home

close-up of the offerings

some of the cuter, more sober festival goers (also looking rather clueless)

three of my elementary school kids. The two on the right are the prize children of Yuge island. They are identical twins and are so cute, not to mention spoiled by everyone.

the entire festival gang!

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