Thursday, July 07, 2005

Local Tanabata Festival

We visited the Tenmangu shrine, famous for those who want to do well on exams. Today was Tanabata, they day when two lovers in the stars can visit each other once a year. Now in keeping in line with the theme of this summer`s visit, we went to a local temple to see a local festival. As we entered the temle grounds, a charmingly amateur talent show was in progress, as if the locals walked in and decided to perform. We saw jugglers, a very strange female dancer who dressed as a cat and danced to the Pink Lady tune Carmen. Yoko was laughing like crazy.

The Tanabata festival would start in the evening so we decided to take a trip to visit Yoko’s grandparents’ graves at a nearby neighborhood temple. I saw an interesting shrine over there – instead of splashing water for good luck, you coat the statue of the kami (god) with sesame oil. Supposed to be good for business. I always like to go to this statue when I visit the graves.

We then went back to the Tenmangu shrine to see the rest of the festival. The talent show was still going on. A sudden downpour hit us, so we took shelter under a tent. Two other men had the same idea, and then they started smoking. Choose your poison: stand under the tent and remain dry, but kill your lungs, or get out into the rain and get soaked.

Now what makes Tanabata special is the wishes written on paper. You make a wish, write it on paper, and then hang it on the willow branch. I saw many wishes – kids wished to be a good cartoonist, and one kid wanted to “become very rich.”

The atmosphere was very Disney-esque. There was a path that went through some willow displays, and then as you crossed the bridge, you heard Disney Fantasyland music (akin to"When you wish upon a star") and then some soft lights bathe you. Supposed to be romantic. I saw couples coming to this place.

Back at the temple, I saw the miko (shrine girls) doing a dance if you gave a donation to the shrine. Here’s how it works: you go to the office window, and then donate money and get a slip of paper. You write your name on it, and it is supposed to wish you good health. Stand in line, give it to the shrine girl, and then the musicians play music from the past (gagaku?) and the miko dance around.

Things get “cuteified” in Japan. The Tanabata festival had two people dressed in costume suits that looked like anime versions of the two lovers. The people in the costume must’ve been very hot as they kept fanning themselves.

Then these festival princesses came in a procession.

A swarm of middle-aged men with cameras tagged along, and started taking their pictures. I started taking pictures when Yoko pulled me out. She was getting embarrassed because these men were “otaku” who are fixated on young women and take their pictures. I managed to get a picture of a pretty announcer in a kimono. Hey, if she’s paid to be on TV, no reason not to take her picture.

At 6:00 pm, a former sumo wrestler named Daiki came on stage to sing enka songs in his new career as a singer. We decided to leave since Etsuko was waiting with dinner.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I saw an interesting shrine over there – instead of splashing water for good luck, you coat the statue of the kami (god) with sesame oil.

Hey, I've seen something like that before! Last time I was at the Chinese Cultural Plaza in Honolulu, I noticed that there were a few bottles of vegetable oil sitting to the side of the Kwan Yin statue, and I wondered what they were there for.