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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winding Down Summer

Hey all,

     It's been a pretty busy week or so, which means that I haven't been able to put up a new episode of the show in quite some time. On the other hand it also means that there's been much to talk about. One of the festivals I was waiting for in order to do a "festivals" themed episode has since passed and I'd like to spoil the show only a bit (we'll talk about festivals in general, not just this one) by talking about it here.

Juushichiya (十七夜)

     This is the big one for us and ironically it's the smallest festival we attend. The history of Juuschiya changes up a bit depending on who we ask in the town but most people agree that at least 400 years ago there was a lord who lived in Kofu-cho's Ebi ward. He was a good man and the people of Ebi really loved him. Then one day, as is common amongst lords it would seem, he was killed by the people of a neighboring area called Muko (武庫), which still exists today. Muko, incidentally, means "armory," so it's probably not too hard to imagine they were a bit Spartan-like in their time, but that's just speculation on my part, plus the fact that they killed Ebi's lord. In any case, the former subjects decided that they would honor their felled lord by having a festival in which they would remember what a just and kind person he was. So that's the history of it. But what of the modern day? How do they actually celebrate it? Like so:

A view from our ryokan-turned house

A really bad shot of the townspeople carrying a palanquin of sorts to the sort where it will be danced around

Mitsuko in her yukata looking fabulous

Traditional Japanese clothing + greasy fried chicken = festival

I am a major supporter of the fried noodle cause

The width of the street becomes increasingly small when you have vendors on either side

This might not have any relation to the history, but it's still cool!

This kid might as well have just poked the boxes over.

Eventually it's a shoulder to shoulder affair

I don't really know what this is about but here you go!

 More pictures of these dudes.

This is the traditional dance done for the long gone lord


     Some of the things I didn't get a picture of though were the taiko, sumo, and burning of the hill. The taiko and sumo probably don't need much explanation. They're demonstrations of those events, but the hill fire is one that's particularly unique and very much a reason why one would want to go to Juushichiya. The Japanese kanji for the event is 十 七 夜 which quite literally says, "17th night". The more poetic way to interpret it might be something like, "The Night of the 17th". In any case, it's held on August 17th, and they take those kanji and spell it out with fire up on the hill behind Ebi station. It's a really spectacular thing to see and I wish they'd been able to do it this year, but the festival was mostly rained out. Many of the vendors appeared to have canceled, and though it cleared up during the middle of the day, it picked up around 8:30 or so, and really spoiled the evening. We asked Mitsuko's students about whether or not they were still going to do the fire and they told us that it was likely not going to happen because they couldn't do the preparations earlier in the day when it was simply down pouring.

Oh well. Still a pretty good time.

Stay tuned for a podcast all about festivals in Japan coming very soon!


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