So I found out what it was.

Oh my lordy, two posts in a row. Maybe I’ll actually stick to m supposed schedule this week.

Well stranger things have happened.

It helps that I have 1 class today, in 6th period, for which I have already made all the resources. So my day is relatively work free, annoyingly.

So as promised I shall explain what all the fuss was about on Wednesday.

It turns out that what I saw was called a Danjiri, a sort of mobile shrine that the kami at a shrine sits in to go walk (or rather be pulled/carried) around his territory. He does this to celebrate the harvest season and then when he is returned to his shrine everyone eats lots, plays rigged games and generally has a party.

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post I had already been told about a festival happening at Kay Jinjya Shrine near my school. Leina had invited everyone in our ward to go on the Friday, then remembered that she has a Japanese lesson on Fridays and so switched it to Thursday, a day I couldn’t attend as I had an Elementary School visit on Friday and so needed all the energy I could muster.

So instead I convinced Ryan and David to come and we went to see what all the fuss is about.

I guess the closest equivalent to the festival is a village fete in England, only at night and as full of people as a space can possibly be full of people without all the air running out.

I can’t stress this enough, it was busy.

And unfortunately quite a lot of the people there were my students. Now Leina has warned us that our students would be there and she presented it as “a great opportunity to get to know your kids as real people.” Bollocks; it was a great opportunity to say hello and then stand around awkwardly trying to think of simple English questions to ask. And to do this fairly frequently.

I was also a great opportunity for my kids to try and get me to say “dondakee”. This is something a Japanese comedian does. He dresses as a woman, pretends to be a fashion icon, goes into shops, looks at the price and says “dondakee” which means basically “what’s that?” It isn’t even remotely funny but for some reason many, many, many Japanese people think it is and do it randomly in the street. My kids have been obsessed with trying to get me to say it. I said it once before Sports Day and now every time they see me the boys try and get me to say dondakee. The prospect that something is funny once but not a million times hasn’t really occurred to them.

Anyway much of the festival was spent by me awkwardly trying to talk to my kids an then refusing to say dondakee.

Fun.

Oh and because I took Ryan along and Ryan can speak Japanese we had the edge of knowing what they were saying about us. Ryan refused to speak in Japanese himself but he was translating what the kids were saying.

Notably one group of girls who giggled when I introduced Ryan and Dave and said “oh, he has friends.”

Ow girls, ow.

Other than talking to my kids the main thing to do there seemed to be to eat, so we did. Lots.

I had takoyaki, sort of octopus dumplings which most people think are sublimely delicious. I can take or leave them personally. They taste lovely but they have a texture that’s a little too squidgy and gooey sometimes.

I also had squid on a stick (Ikayaki) and some sweets. Notably toffee apples, shaved ice with syrup on it and a fish made of dough with red bean paste (an) inside it.

Dave had a burger on a stick…..only in Japan.

After you’ve gorged yourself the main entertainment comes from games, most of which are just variations on tombolas but some were quite interesting. One of the games had a tank of goldfish and would give you scoops made of very flimsy paper. The idea is to scoop up the goldfish without snapping the paper in your scooping action. Another game just involved a tank of eels and a fishing rod. If you caught the eel….you just through it back. Which is sort of symbolic of the very contradictory behaviour the Japanese have regarding animals. They love animals, they’re obsessed with nature and bringing it into their lives but they have absolutely no issue with hurting or confining animals whatsoever. Well culturally they don’t, I’m sure there are some individuals that take issue with it.

And then the main thing to do was watch the kami dancing. An activity which involved lots of very sweaty men shouting and heaving and lifting this enormous float (which had children inside). Now this was something worth seeing. This is basically religion in Japan. A fun spectacle that brings all the community together. The float itself is typical of the architecture and fittings in Japanese shrines, all intricate patterns in gold and red, and but for the fact that I’m a little bit shrined out at the moment would have been stunning looking. But the way they made it dance was certainly a spectacle, really exciting and invigorating.

And once we’d seen that a few times we went back to the gorging and then proceeded home.

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