Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tanobe no Tensai festival – in Ichikai Town in Tochigi

Yesterday was the day of Utsunomiya fireworks - held on the banks of the Kinu River. But instead of stopping there, we passed cross the river and drove further east to a small town in the middle of nowhere - Ichikai Town (not a city, pop. 12 500), which lies somewhere between Ubagai and Nasukarasuyma. I wasn't joking when I said it was in the sticks.

The festival of Tanobe district (that’s the old name of the district where Ichikai is located), called Tanobe no Tensai (田野辺の天祭), takes place at Takao shrine (高お神社) in Ichikai. This shrine so obscure that even Google and Yahoo maps cannot specify where it is. Kagutsuchi no mikoto (迦具土神) is enshrined there.

As expected, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam – people heading to the river for the fireworks display, and then, after taking an impromptu detour to avoid the jam, we got lost... We had to stop by at two different konbinis (convenience stores) to ask for directions. Yes, it was that rural! Eventually, we somehow managed to get to the shrine. (And it’s a miracle we did, because Ms. Trouble, who used to work in Ubagai, kinda sorta knew the area and was navigating, while Dr Trouble was very diligently ignoring her directions.)

You can call this festival Tensai (天祭). A temporary festival “shelf” called tendana 天棚 (dana 棚 = shelf) is assembled on the first day of the event. It doesn’t look like any shelf we’re normally familiar with, but that’s what they call it.

Tendana assembled for the festival. It has two levels; lower - for the traditional orchestra and upper - for Shinto priests praying and drinking booze during idle time.

Approximately 20 young, half-naked guys appeared around 8:30PM on August 21st, made circles, kept spinning around, got splashed with water, fell to the ground, got up and started all over again. This activity is called “Hadaka momi (裸もみ) - getting squashed while naked. Ms. T was sort of disappointed to see that they did not wear fundoshi (see this older entry to find our more about her enthusiasm regarding fundoshi).

Wet, half-naked guys spinning like around in circles.

Wet, because they get splashed with water, over and over again.


So, it was kind of like mud wrestling, except there were no girls in bikinis and no real mud. And the music sucked.

The ceremony of this festival is supposed to bring fertile crops, especially rice. However, I cannot figure out why young, half-naked, very drunk (oh yes, they were) men are supposed to spin around for a good rice harvest.

Anyway, it was our first time to watch this bizarre festival, but we actually had fun after all (and Sukiya on the way home).

And this girl just discovered that when the men's shorts got wet, they became see-through. Kind of like a wet t-shirt contest, but with guys and underwear, I guess.

While driving from Ubagai, we got stuck in a heavy traffic jam once again. The fireworks revelers were going home. Fireworks, that we missed. But instead, we bring you this:

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