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|
|A dragon entertaining an old lady at the senior citizens' home|
|Lunch break! For the 4th or 5th time that day.. :p|
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.|