Life in a Japanese village: Benten-san Matsuri 弁天さん祭り - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life in a Japanese village: Benten-san Matsuri 弁天さん祭り

The great thing about living in a Japanese village is that you get to participate in a lot of activities that you wouldn't have the chance to if you lived in a big city. The reason for this is that my community really likes foreigners, and they let me participate in all their local activities. I guess foreigners are more rare when you get just a little bit outside the bigger cities (I actually live only a 30 minutes bike ride from Kyoto, so its really not that far)
Last weekend I joined my neighbors for the local sports day (運動会), and this weekend I got to participate in their Benten-san festival.
This festival is for the Japanese goddess Benten (more commonly known as Benzaiten), who is considered one of the seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

Drummers in front of the local shrine
Preparation by the local Buddhist priest
After a meeting with other people from the community at the local shrine we took of with our  mikoshis, one for the men, one for the women and some smaller ones for the kids to carry. 
So what we did was basically carrying the mikoshi to different parts of the neighborhood, and when we got to a new area, we stopped and took a break. We were welcomed by the people there, and while the drummers were playing and some of the men danced around in dragon costumes we received food, drinks and snack from them.
The men carrying the otoko-mikoshi (男神輿)
The women's onna-mikoshi 女神輿
Me carrying the mikoshi
 We also stopped by a couple of senior citizens' homes, and it seemed like the inhabitants thought it was nice with a little festival too.
A dragon entertaining an old lady at the senior citizens' home
 I think we might have stopped by more than 10 different places during the day, and at all the different places we received warm welcomes from the people living there. Trust me, when the day was done I'm pretty sure i had gained some kilos.. I ate and drank way too much, haha..
Lunch break! For the 4th or 5th time that day.. :p
 Also, we was really lucky with the weather! Both Friday and Sunday had been terrible, with rain poring down like in my hometown Bergen.. And actually it was supposed to rain on Sunday as well, but I guess we had good luck on our side. The weather was instead almost too hot, haha :)
Anyway, it was a really great day! I wish they had these types of festival more often.. I had so much fun! Not to mention that it is not often that foreigners get the chance to participate in festivals like that, so it was also kind of a unique experience. The people in the neighborhood was so welcoming, and some even invited me to come visiting them whenever I want.
Conclusion: Haradani might be situated in the middle of nowhere, but you can still have some nice experiences here:) Haha..

So, some final pictures from the matsuri:
The mikoshi from a closer angle
Apparently it brings good luck to stick your head into the dragons mouth..!
祭, the Japanese sign for Festival.
My neighbors serving us Japanese food such as yakitori.
Some more drummers
Again, the onna-mikoshi
Finally back at the shrine after nearly 7 hours of walking (, eating and drinking;p)
Some final rituals before the matsuri is over.
Peace out!
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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