Wednesday, August 10, 2005


HAVING LIVED in Japan for the past decade or so, I have observed a lot about this country and lived with its people. Wise men say "in order to know the people, one has to live among them." Quite true! During the early years of my 'stay' here, I was determined to "know" the people. I was able to travel even to the farthest countryside. I was lucky, I guess to have a grandfather who owns a fleet of trucks. He drives one of them and he often deliver to some faraway prefecture [province]. Oftentimes, I was being left alone all by my lonesome self, so it was a treat, indeed, if he extends an invite for me to join him in one of his long-drive deliveries.

LUCKY indeed, to be able to see numerous town MATSURIs [festivals]. Different town means different Matsuri. How about that?

JAPAN is the land of MATSURIs. And its people are proud of them. They plan these Matsuris way ahead of time. The community gets involved in projects to ensure the conduct of such endeavour will bring success. Nothing is left to chance. Everything is set to perfection.

UNIFORMs, or what some folf here call the 'HAPPI COAT' are a must. Unless some good samaritan provide for these coats [a Kimono overcoat, actually], the participants are expected to buy them themselves.

FLOATS =OMIKOSHI [ which also means portable shrines] are kept in special warehouses owned by the community. Local folks are extra proud to show off their OMIKOSHIs which are considered priceless. Some are said to be 400-500 hundred years old. These are made of strong wood, curved and polished in typical Japanese style. They are taken out, cleaned, polished, and decorated in time for the festival. Kids, mostly, are asked to be part of the musicians on board these OMIKOSHIs. Some dance on the street, as they go around the area. Men and women, kids and old folks shout "wasshoi, wasshoi!" as they push the portable shrine....and that makes the air even more electrifying.

THE YOUNG group [16-35 yrs.old] gets to push by hand & ropes the floats while the ELDERS [those 36y/olds- and above] see to it that everything is ok....and the SENIOR CITIZENS sit in the best area, waiting for the 'official greetings' from the youth as they pass by that special area.

MATSURIs bring to light the culture and traditions of a people. It bespeaks the kind of camaraderie, the unity and the communal spirit of the residents of that area. It instills the awareness of one's roots. It makes a people proud of what they have and vow to continue what their forefathers have started, more than a thousand years ago.

BIG CITIES have big Matsuris. This is true, especially in AKITA, KYOTO & OSAKA. They have numerous floats and converge in the center of the city. Here, the floats are also bigger, and on top of each OMIKOSHI is a young man, who makes gestures as if in a Japanese Kabuki dance. They compete with one another who can best survive the hairpin curve turn. Some have remained triumphant with each turn; some have suffered damages to the floats and injuries to people as a result of that uncalculated turn.

GOOD OR BAD, Matsuris can help boost one's pride of nation. The bad side of it is that when alcohol gets into the scene, brawls by young brats [GAKI- bully] can also happen.


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