Friday, May 1, 2009

Isurugi Hikiyama Festival, Oyabe City, Wed 29th April

Well I would have missed this festival if it hadn't been for a quick conversation with my Kancho Sensei at Isurugi Elementary. He showed me one of the posters in the corridor all in kanji which I had walked past so many times and didn't really pay attention to as I didn't understand the Kanji. It was advertising the Hikiyama festival, held each year on Showa Day a public holiday to celebrate the birthday of former Emporer Showa. Forgive my ignorance but right now I'm not sure who he is.

I trugged over to Oyabe City and found a good viewing spot on the side of the main street in Oyabe. The residents has certainly come out of the woodwork for this one, I'd never seen so many people in Oyabe!

The main part of the festival was a procession of these gigantic wooden and eloborately carved floats (11 to be precise) called hikayama dating back to the Momoyama period being pulled through the streets of Oyabe by local residents in traditional dress (including my kancho sensei!) to the beat of beat of drums and screeching of wheels.

The weight of one float is apparently 3t to 6t. At the T-junctions the floats are lifted by then men to turn right/left, wow did I witness a lot of sweat and even more Sake! Every float is about 200 years old, the oldest about 250 yrs. As I stood and admired these giant beasts rolling through the streets some locals came up to me and gave me some handmade biscuits with a picture of the hikayama on the front. I was so touched, well I did stand out being almost the only gaijin in town
Video below is the 3 point turn Momoyama style....
In the main street a small shrine was set up to which the hikayama carriers charged their way forward. Can't explain that one but it was really dramatic to watch! All in all a great day and of course I bumped into some of my pupils who were as sweet as ever (picture of them in red costumes)

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