Already almost a week in Japan!
I had a great time in Nagoya and will maybe write about it later (until then, you can look at the photos on Facebook), but first I want to relate the 1st big highlight of this autumn trip, our day at the Danjiri Matsuri from the town of Kaizuka.
A Danjiri is a large wooden cart in the shape of a Shinto shrine. The main part is adorned everywhere with several carved figures telling the story of an ancient saga. It's only exist in Osaka and the surroundings.
During the harvest festival (Matsuri) in September/October, the people of each small neighborhood of a district are pulling their Danjiri through the streets of their town, showing their skill. At each intersection, everyone is running in order to pass through the corners and rotate the Danjiri at maximum speed without letting the cart fall over or crash against the buildings around. In Japan, the streets are very narrow and it can be very dangerous. At the biggest Danjiri festival of the region, in the town of Kishiwada, it is said that at least one person dies every year...
Altogether more than 150 people are involved for each Danjiri team: about 50 are in the front, pulling the cart with 2 very long ropes; about 20 are on/around the cart playing music, dancing on the top, controlling the brakes, giving the directions; and finally about 20-30 people on the back are pushing and pulling with shorter ropes, steering and positioning the Danjiri in the right direction. Furthermore, many other people are walking before or behind the cart (spare participants to replace the tired ones, security, people of the district with kids, etc.) or organizing the logistic.
Thanks to the brother of a friend who is running our favorite Izakaya (Japanese tapas bar) in the south of Osaka, my wife and I had the chance to participate to the Danjiri Matsuri of his home town of Kaizuka, where 8 different Danjiri teams, each with a distinctive design for the cart and the clothing of the participants, are rivaling. Our team, of the Kubocho district, was of course the best ;-).
As we arrived near the starting point of the festival, at the grounds of the local Shinto shrine, everyone was already partying, drinking beer and eating delicious small dishes. We joined them for about one hour and I drank 3 or 4 beers!
At 12:00, all participants took their positions. My wife and I went on the back of the Danjiri cart, behind the pulling/pushing team, wearing a traditional happi coat with the emblem of the team on the back. First, the Danjiri was brought to the city center of Kaizuka.
Then, during about 4 hours, the cart was moved around town in circle, making spectacular moves at each intersection where hundreds of people were gathered, eating small dishes sold in small booths (Yatai). It was really tiresome, alternating walking and running phases, but it was so much fun!
At 17:00, the show was over and we walked back with all people of the team, with the Danjiri cart, to our starting point at the Shinto shrine. There, we enjoyed a really delicious bento sponsored by the team!
At 19:00, after dark, we returned with everyone to the city center of Kaizuka with the illuminated Danjiri through the narrow streets, beautifully decorated with lanterns. As it wasn't dangerous anymore (no running/turning phases), I tried to help out on the back of the Danjiri. I just did it for 10 minutes, but it was enough! Without hard training, it's impossible to do it properly.
Then, after 15-20 km on foot by 25-30°C, we were completely worn out but really happy. We said goodbye to the very kind people of the Kubocho district and went home.
It was a wonderful day and an amazing experience! I was already a Danjiri fan, but now I could become addicted!
All the photos and videos will be published soon on Facebook. Please free to share them ;-).
またね！(See you soon!)