This weekend we were supposed to go to Gunkanjima, but because somebody in this household had a hissy fit about it, the trip had to be cancelled. We’ll give it another shot later this year.
So instead, I have another festival for you. Yeah, yeah, I know, this blog is turning into a “local Japanese festivals that nobody cares about” blog, but what the heck, someone has to write about them, and it might as well be me.
And what’s going on in Kanuma this weekend is the annual Buttsuke Autumn Festival (鹿沼ぶっつけ秋祭り. And no, “buttsuke” has nothing to do with butts. Sorry. (Though yeah, in Japan, you never know, that’s for sure.)
Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, the Autumn Festival. In Kanuma. A wholly unremarkable town on the JR Nikko Line. But as most wholly unremarkable, provincial Japanese towns, it has a totally fun and remarkably grand festival.
The festival is quite old, too. It commemorates the time in 1608 when after long wars, the Imamiya shrine was being reconstructed and there was no rain. So local folks got together at the shrine and did what most folks during severe droughts do the world over – they prayed. And lo and behold, it started to rain. Where the carved, wooden floats fit into this, I am not entirely sure. But our grandma (who’s actually from Kanuma) said that her grandma told her that her grandma told her that way back when the floats were actually portable stages for dance and theatre performances. And the performances were dedicated to the gods at the shrine.
Then some shogun got his kimono all in a wad over something totally unrelated to the celebrations and forbade singing and dancing and extravagant celebrations. And so in the Edo period the good people of Kanuma turned their energy to carving more and more opulent floats instead.
So what about those “butts”? “Buttsuke” (ぶっつけ) has nothing to do with butts (unfortunately). It simply means that the floats (or the mikoshi, when you have a mikoshi procession) collide, while loud music plays and fair maidens with flowers in their hair sprinkle rose petals and dance in celebration. Well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea.