but also all kinds of awesome.
I had been hearing about this festival for a while before it happened (October 16th). There were little colored poles along the road to work from about October 1st, and someone told me they were showing the routes of the different colors. That the different colors each carried a portable shrine called Omikoshi through the streets of Ichinomiya.
I was also told they pelt the onlookers with mochi, and that even though I couldn’t go down to the shrine, being at work all day, I would see Omikoshi because they would carry it up to our school.
They did not tell me I would get to see all five, nor that the entire day would be rife with anticipation because you can hear their drums from afar. Nor that the Omikoshi are so freaking huge that four dudes sit inside (they are the drummers).
All morning, you could hear the sound of drums in the distance, a stead thump-thumping. I think that was maybe my favorite part, because it meant something was about to happen.
After the first period class, Awesome-sensei told me I could go down to see the festival, when it came to the school. I asked when that would be, but even as he answered “Maybe in about five minutes,” I saw through the window behind him the first couple of dudes, wearing bright orange jackets in the morning light, coming up the path.
I basically dashed down the hallway to get my shoes and my camera, and met most of the school population outside as the rest of the orange guys followed these scouts, toting the omikoshi.
The orange guys drafted a few of our students to be part of their omikoshi lifting excercise dance thingy. When they moved toward the kindergarteners, there was a high pitched squeal of terror and glee. Basically, some kind of Halloween was happening.
Did I mention that the dudes carrying this thing are basically naked? Nah, they’re not. But they are wearing fundoshi, which is a traditional piece of clothing, kind of like what sumo guys wear for matches. At 9:30 in the morning, this is a cold idea.
Well, eventually orange guys left so our students could have broom-water fights. I went back to class, happy that we were on the orange route.
You could still hear the drums. They got louder. I thought maybe the dudes did a sort of circuit of the neighborhood and were passing back by, because the drums were getting really close and loud. The next thing I knew, Awesome-sensei was giving the class the nod and saying “Oh, just go.” So we all took off down the hall again, grabbed our outside shoes again, and this time it was yellow.
One of the drummers hangs out.
Then before yellow had even left, green showed up! And for a second I thought there was going to be a brawl, Sharks-and-Jets style, only with teams hefting and crashing omikoshi.
But no, that only happens in Himeji, not Ichinomiya.
So the green guys did their thing, and it was cool too. Some of our students had discovered I was toting a camera, so they got me to take their picture on the omikoshi.
Then pink showed up too, shortly after.
Their shirts say “Aguro” which makes me think of ex-roommate. Because the first kanji means kind, and the second means black.
Lastly, there was blue.
I missed out on being pelted with mochi, because apparently that happens down at the actual shrine/festival area. My bus took an extra half hour to get through that area. I wish I’d had my camera ready when I watched a dude saunter across the road in front of the bus, pantsless, a cigarette in one hand, a beer in the other.