I no longer write a journal. To some extent, this fact will affect what I choose to post here. Thus, this update is not a record of anything earth-shattering (our friends to the west are still winding up for another go at that one) but just a bit on the past weekend and the two festivals it hosted.
Not Named by Accident
The first was Cherry Boy Jamboree. Bizarrely named (although the implication may become a little clearer later) and tiny, this music festival was held in the mountains around Ōe, about two hours northwest of Nanyō. I had decided to drive myself and a few friends (one of whom needed to be back that night) up there, which was a right little road trip made a lot longer by our driving to completely the wrong campsite. Nevertheless, an hour of Alpine winding mountain roads with dubious levels of maintenance later we arrived at a small (and correct) campsite with a teepee stage and a bonfire in the centre.
Having only ever been to the V Festival c.2010, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it wasn’t this. The music was folky and the sun was glorious, and despite my inability to enjoy a refreshing lager beer with the others (Japanese drink-driving laws are as strict as they can get) it was very easy to enjoy the afternoon. More JETs arrived periodically, and the music seemed to change genre with every set. One band had bagpipes made out of Minion inflatables, another had about 7 guitars on stage at once.
After a chainsaw sales pitch and a go at chopping some wood the old-fashioned way, the light began to fade and the live music (which had been getting increasingly heavy) was replaced by a dancey DJ set and a firespinning/spitting/throwing show. It was obvious the bonfire was going to come into play, but the method of ignition was rather special.
Eight men in loincloths carried on their shoulders a gigantic wooden phallus and, after being shouted at by an equally underdressed and sake-swigging man with a staff, proceeded to place the wood between their legs, light the tip, and thrust it with grave symbolism into the bonfire’s opening. Then they started shouting the tune of Amazing Grace and it turned out two people were getting married. Truly a beautiful moment.
After this, the drums and dancing started — leaping about in a wide circle with no inhibitions is tough to do when stone-cold sober, but thankfully the atmosphere and smoke inhalation did their bit. As the bonfire wore down, the acts began again. Of particular note were a reggae-jazz fusion group led by a monk who had everyone spellbound. Plus a metal band consisting of three very underdressed-except-for-luchi-libre-masks men who were joined by one of the JETs when he played the saxophone for a song.
Other highlights included meeting a British man who ran a food stall who gave me some homemade cider (home-brew laws are, like drink-driving, strict when it comes to selling) and a trip to a gorge with several very drunk ALTs.
Driving home in the middle of the night was a less pleasant experience, as was the very prevalent smell of woodsmoke that dominated my Sunday, but the experience overall was well worth it.
Sunday saw one of Nanyō’s main festivals: Furosato Matsuri [Hometown Festival]. Given that this occurred five minutes walk from my house, the logistics were less tiring. Aside from being a standard Japanese festival (with lots of food, taiko drumming and predatory drunken old ladies), the event features O-Shishi-sama, a lion mask/costume/statue of the type seen in many East Asian festivals. These normally have a cloth surrounding them to cover the person operating the mouth. This one had enough cloth to be pulled up and down the main street by about 60 men on two teams, while and yellow. Over the course of the night, they pulled it further and further up the stops of Akayu’s main shrine before being dragged back down again and disappearing for a few minutes. They at last reached the temple at about 10:30pm, and all of the sudden the festival was over without much ceremony (all things considered).
Three friends came over to witness the festival with me, and as a group we were accosted with particular vigour by my students, many of whom had been asked by Brian to come and say hello to me if they could. This they did, and to their credit, they were forthright when I asked them to introduce themselves in English. Rumours did spread, however, that I had three more girlfriends apart from Jaz, and knowing them it may be a little while before they can be completely quashed. Sorry Jaz.
With Furosato over, the festival season is all but over. The leaves are just starting to turn and rain has become more frequent. Sometimes it’s even a little bit chilly in the mornings. Hopefully things will only get more comfortable, until they very certainly don’t when Winter comes.