Yesterday was the day for the annual 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).
Not only that, it was also the big, full festival that occurs every three years!
You can read a little more about this festival on my Festivals page by Clicking here.
I didn’t mention it before but two years ago I was invited to participate in this year’s festival.
I carried a 神輿 (portable shrine) in this festival nine years ago…and the next day, I swore that I’d never do it again!
It was a unique, fun experience…but my body ached so bad that I decided that I only wanted to experience 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals as a spectator from then on.
But carrying a 神輿 (portable shrine) can be compared to drinking in excess…you enjoy it while you’re doing it, but the next day you’re in pain and tell yourself that you’ll never do that again. But when the memory of the pain fades, you’ll happily agree to join in again!
That’s what happened in 2006 when I was invited to join in the 2008 festival. I gladly agreed.
I’m not saying that I regret my decision. Not at all.
My muscles ache…but it’s not so bad. And I really enjoyed it.
At the end of yesterday’s festival, I was invited to join in the next big, full version of the festival again in 2011! I agreed again.
Anyways, yesterday, I got to the meeting place at 7:30AM and changed into the clothes worn by 神輿 (portable shrine) carriers.
This festival is centuries old and little has changed…including the clothes.
There are over 50 神輿 (portable shrine) carried by different groups in this festival. Each group wears a different 反転 (light jacket).
At 8:00 our leader gave us a few encouraging words and then we picked up our 神輿 (portable shrine) and it began!
Each group has about 70 people (I’d estimate) and only 30 or so can fit around the 神輿 (portable shrine) at a time. So the remaining people who aren’t actually carrying it follow behind and change out with the carriers as they become tired.
What makes this festival different from most 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals is that the people in the crowd throw water on the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines)!
Many people stand in trucks with the beds full of water and use buckets to throw the water, some people use garden hoses…and the Tokyo Volunteer Fire Department was there—spraying us with fire hoses!
We got soaked!
At noon, we put the 神輿 (portable shrine) down and all of us (nearly 4000 people, I guess) were given お弁当 (Japanese box lunches).
At that point, we were pretty sore…and cold. Usually getting soaked is a blessing for the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines) at this festival since August in Tokyo is sweltering. And it has been extremely hot every day this month…but the day before this festival, there was a storm in Tokyo and I guess it brought a bit of a cold-front. In addition, it was overcast all day.
But we weren’t done yet…only halfway.
After lunch, it began to lightly rain. Noone would’ve noticed since we were already very wet. But that didn’t make the weather any warmer.
At the end, we didn’t just put the 神輿 (portable shrine) away. It was done extravagantly! Turning around and around, throwing it up and catching it. 神輿 (portable shrine) aren’t light…about 2 tons!) with lots of water being sprayed at us!
It was quite a show.
I enjoyed it alot! And I’ll be back for more in 2011!
It was over at 5:30PM…over nine hours! We were given some beer and we had a toast to our success.
Since I was busy carrying the 神輿 (portable shrine) and getting soaked, my wife took all of the photos and videos!
She took some excellent pictures and videos! Better than I do.
Here’s a slideshow of some of the photos of my 神輿 (portable shrine) group:
And here are twelve (!) videos that she took:
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