Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ja Matsuri - 蛇祭り 2011

I had been waiting for this year's Ja Matsuri so impatiently that sometime around February that was all I would talk about. The first proper festival of the summer season. Held in a compact area. Relatively easy to observe. Moderately crowded. Friendly. Pleasant.

And then March 11 happened. Two of the most important local matsuri got cancelled. I was afraid that Ja Matsuri would share their fate. Personally, I think that cancelling public events right now is a really stupid thing. We're not exactly in Fukushima, we haven't been flooded by the tsunami, life goes on. How can you convince people to go out, enjoy themselves and entice them to spend money if you take away the traditional reasons to go out and spend money?

Fortunately, Mamada Hachimangu in Oyama, the shrine organizing the festival, seemed to have this figured out, and to my huge relief, Ja Matsuri was scheduled to go on as planned.

We wrote about the history of the shrine and about the event itself last year, so I'm not going to repeat myself. Visit this link, if you're curious. Here's one more.

This year, the weather decided to get pissy and it was cold, rainy and windy. I wasn't dressed appropriately and I was freezing. That's why I'm now sneezing. But at least it wasn't me who had to jump into the cold and filthy pond!

Here are some photos:

The snakes are getting together before the event. It was all very organized, with sections for each team marked on the ground.

After they all got together, one by one they marched to the main shrine area.

Then came the priest.

One of his many responsibilities was to offer sake to the snakes.

After that, and of course after the religious part of the festival, it was time to get dunked in the pond. The objective was to get the snakes to drink water...

...without drowning yourself in the process.

Doesn't look too difficult, now, does it?

Here's the video:

And this is my own entry for this week's Show Me Japan.

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