I apologize that I haven't updated in a while. I've beat off two successive colds over the past two weeks, and so I haven't really done much that is blog worthy over the past couple of weeks.
Until today that is.
The Maebashi Matsuri is THE major festival for the city. The weather was gorgeous, so rather than take the train into town, I rode my bike. It was a long ride, but it felt great to get out and about. Sadly, my camera didn't have a memory card, so I didn't get any photos of the festival at all.
Things kicked off with a dance ceremony. The very first group to take the stage were a series of young girls doing cheerleader dance routines set to American pop music. I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that here we are kicking off an event with great cultural and even religious import with kids dancing to Avril Lavigne. Though I have to say that the kids did a great job, they really knew their stuff. Later groups were a bit more traditional, including one that used two huge flags to backstop their performance. These flags were so large that the poles were in danger of hitting the powerlines, and sometimes did! I could see the flag bearers working harder than the dancers to keep them flapping, and the effect was very impressive.
Next on the schedule was the reason I came, the elementary school marching band parade. Now I know a lot of readers probably did a bit of a double take, I'm well known for a general dislike of parades and marching bands. However, all that changes when it is YOUR kids doing the marching. And while I may only see these kids once a week, they are still my kids. It was great seeing them all spiffy in their uniforms, and I think they got a kick out of seeing "English Teacher" on the sidelines. After the parade, I walked over to the ending area to say hi to the kids and the teachers. My kids know me well, their first question was, "Are you hungry?"
Being that I was a little hungry, I headed back into the maelstrom to see what I could find to eat. While I was perusing the plentiful purveyors of festival food I came upon an all female taiko troupe doing a performance. I love taiko drumming, and throw in a group of gorgeous 20 something women and I really love taiko. It doesn't hurt that they were very good at what they did. The performance banished all thought of food from my mind, at least until it was over.
As people were filtering away from the area a new call went up, a mikoshi was coming through. Mikoshi are portable Shinto shrines, and are often a part of festivals. I had seen a few tromping about, but this one was coming right up the middle of the pedestrian mall, pushing the crowd out to the sides as it came. I watched them pass and thought to myself that it looked like the mikoshi was very heavy, the bearers were working hard to keep it moving. As they were almost by me an elderly gentleman came up and asked if I wanted to wear his happi, a sort of coat that all the bearers wear, and help carry? I jumped at the chance, and soon found out that yes, the shrine was indeed very heavy. Brutally so. Painfully so. Still, it was amazing, trying to chant, carry, and move simultaneously without falling into a heap. Definitely a highlight of the festival.
From there, exhausted I made my way over to a karaage (fried chicken) stand where I finally got something for lunch. I can say for certain that the festival was amazing, and really just the Japan only sort of shot in the arm I needed this month.