Monday, October 12, 2009

Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival part 1

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.

Float street and sign nk

On the way to the shrine

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.

Float in the street nk 2

Going to the shrine

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.

Dogs view

How the dog saw it

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.

Entering the shrine

Entering the shrine

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.

And that’s the story of the Kanuma Autumn Festival. More photos here and here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Engrish

What attracts pubic
The sad part was that when I took this photo this t-shirt was being worn by a junior high English teacher (Japanese native) who saw absolutely nothing wrong with it.

yabu-something or the other

In recent days “Budget Trouble” has been experiencing some serious, heavy-duty budget trouble, because after all, MacBooks don’t grow on trees and Photoshop has a price tag that only Photoshop can have. So, instead of blogging, yours truly has been busy doing what most people with budget trouble do, namely, making money.

But even being totally broke (swine flu notwithstanding) did not stop us from having fun. Free fun, of course. Last weekend was a five-day affair in Japan, and on one of those days a traditional archery festival – Yabusame – was held at a shrine in a nearby town.

Technically, yabusame (流鏑馬) is archery on horseback, and as all things in Japan (except for washlets perhaps, but hey, even that’s debatable) was invented during the Kamakura period. When was that? A long time ago.

But because the Japanese are obsessed with all sorts of traditional things, such as J-pop, manga, wearing wooden flip-flops and punctuating every (no matter how brief) conversation with at least five “eeeehhhhhhs” and “aaaaaahhhhhhhs”, they still organize yabusame events.

The festival we went to took place at the Nakamura shrine in Moka (yes, Moka again, after all, it IS my favorite town in Tochigi). And besides archery, there were other things to watch there as well. My preferred activity was the sword waving, where individuals dressed in traditional clothing (there you have that "tradition" bit again) waved swords and cut bamboo sticks (yes, those were real swords) while hordes of spectators snapped pictures.

Cutting girl bw square 2

Hey, look, it's Azumi.

Cutting girl bw square

The archery event was last and sadly, it was very anti-climactic. There were only three riders, their shooting was not so good (blame Asahi super dry, I guess), and between the dust and the mosquitoes I’ve had enough of it after about 2 rounds. Sitting in the car and reading Bill Bryson's "Down Under" proved a much more exciting way to pass the time. But hey, the festival was free, so I know I have no right to complain.

On horses all 3

More photos of the event here and here and here and here.