The Fall Festival

Akimatsuri (the fall festival) in Ojika starts in early October and goes around the island for two weeks. Each town/settlement holds rituals and thanksgiving parties, but the biggest spectacle happens on the 12th to the 14th in Fuefuki, the biggest town in the island. On the 12th, the god is carried out of the Rokusha shrine down to the port, followed by a parade, stay there until the 14th when it is carried back up to the shrine, again, followed by a bigger parade. We joined a group of town business owners and danced in special kimono costumes.  The parade included local elementary and junior high students(traditional dance from northern Japan to commemorate the earthquake.  A very moving piece), the town office collective, and other neighbourhood groups.

Dragon dance
In hand-dyed underwear

The cutest one was a group of old men and women in a tropical tribal outfit.

The town is divided by the main road, each side containing 10 or so small machi (neighbourhood). Traditionally, two sides took turns to do the parade–one year the east side machis did and the next year the west side. The parade side was called odori-cho (dance towns) in which each small machi did a performance and there was a sense of friendly competition that motivated people to make a better parade than the other next year. But the obligation became a pressure for the aging and declining population and the odori-cho tradition stopped a few years ago. Now those who have energy and time make performance groups and dance for the whole town. It is a lot of work to coordinate people for practices, prepare costumes and props, and dedicate two entire days to the parade. Some said “thank god we don’t have to do it”, but they also recalled it as a fun and memorable work. It certainly was, for us.

Here are some pictures of us, Chikadon-ya, getting dressed.

A yakitori bar owner in the sumo wrestler costume
Brett: before (or early on)
Brett: after
Yo in a heavy dancing kimono
A grocery store’s front lady disguised as a kid monk (eyes painted on her eyelids)
A sweet store owner became Ryoma, a legendary samurai

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