Friday, June 23, 2006

Samurai and Brass Bands

Early June brings to Kanazawa the Hyakumangoku Festival, the celebration of Maeda Toshiie's arrival at Kanazawa Castle in 1583. The name refers to the area's rice production, and the first time it reached 1,000,000 Koku. In the Japanese counting system Hyaku is 100 and Man is 10,000, multiply them and you get a million! A Koku was a measure of rice, equal to about 5 bushels.

The centerpiece of the festival, aside from the delicious yakitori chicken stands, is the epic parade that recreates Maeda's procession into Kanazawa. Things kicked off with an endless parade of school brass bands, which I kind of doubt they had in 1583. Nonetheless it was an interesting sight for a couple of reasons, like the immense drums that they put in the hands of some truely tiny kids. Also the cultural selection of music was... strange to say the least. While one can certainly understand choosing a few Anime themes (Lupin III anybody?), an elementary school band tooting away to YMCA is just plain weird.

Luckily things got lots better as soon as every school in Kanazawa had passed us by. First we had the old firefighters, with their bamboo ladders and house pulling hooks. They put on quite an arial show for us, sadly it was two blocks away and we couldn't really see it.

But the procession just kept getting better and better, with giant wheeled dragons loping down the street menacing small children. And of course we have the Toshiro Mifune wanna be above, he looks like he really wants to use his sword on somebody!

Of course what would a samurai parade be without a few samurai? I mean how cool are these guys? I think the Parade of Lights (The Denver Christmas Parade) could use a few more samurai.

Cute Kid! I'm not sure what his role is, but he looked at me just as my camera flashed and it turned out pretty well, I think.

The original Flower Children? Once again, I don't really know the cultural purpose behind the flower brigade, other than honoring the great feudal lord, I suppose. But the effect was certainly great, I suppose its obvious by damn if it wasn't like any parade that *I* had ever seen.

Once the cavalry came, I realized that we had enough firepower to take over a neighboring town or two and start our own Kanazawa-centric nation! I jest, but only slightly, there was a pretty impressive number of men at arms passing us by.

Outside of Oyama shrine they staged a quick mock battle. That was certainly something that I never thought I would see in my life, pre-Edo spearmen screaming and charging at each other. Then, of course, bowing to the crowd at the cessastion of hostilities.

We figured things were over after that, so we headed to Karaoke for a bit to escape the throngs of people throughout Katamachi. We emerged a couple of hours later to find the main road filled to the brim with dancers! They moved slowly to a mystic Japanese beat, but as soon as that finished it was time to fire up the Taiko!

This was probably the best thing I saw that day, the Taiko team was going great guns, and the pounding sounds filled the whole area. It was a feast of sight and sounds for sure.

But of course, if you have live drumming and dancers, why not combine the two? After the first round of skin pounding the dancers, after a short break, got back in the swing of things for a finale to the nights festivities. All in all I have to say that I really love Japanese festivals, when I can find them!

After all that, it was World Cup time, England vs Paraguay. The game was interesting enough, but it wasn't as fun as the Japan vs Croatia one I saw the next weekend.

Oh and on a side note, check out Zach's blog (linked in my links), as his adventures in China are making me rather green with envy. He looks to be having an amazing time, and his photographs of places like Beijing and Tibet are simply beautiful.


artdiva redux said...

I don't know. I think Japan has more than its fair share of festivals. I would have enjoyed seeing the drumming/dancing in the streets at night. Who is "we" as in plural that you went to the parade with? 9 news wants to know.

羽之助 said...

I really liked the picture of the evil laughing samurai with the black fan and hinomaru. You should propose your idea to invade neighbouring towns and Kanazawa-ize them to the city and prefectural council; I bet they would find the suggestion positively heartwarming. My city's festival is pretty depressing. It's to honour the river god that flooded and destroyed the town fifty years ago :( Ah, Tohoku, the France of Japan.

Travelingrant said...

"We" was myself, Fiona, Liz and her boyfriend, and Yoko (a friend of Fiona and Liz.) As far as the world cup "we" that was almost everybody I know in Hokuriku! The bar was pretty jammed.

Lol, for sure, Toyama would fall before our mighty army, next stop Joetsu... ;-)

Zach said...

Thanks for the plug. Now that I'm in Hong Kong I am able to sneak past Chinese internet controls and view your site for the first time in a month. Nice pics. Keep up the good work.