Monday, August 10, 2015

Festival : Dance of the Glowing Giants

I am Matsuri Baka. Festival Obsessed. Nearly every weekend I am soaking up the vibrant energy of another local festival, and if I go a couple of weeks without going, I get an itch that needs the fever and chaos of a matsuri.

July 25, we were able to thoroughly enjoy an exciting nugget of Aichi spirit.

It was a spur of the moment decision. I and a friend leisurely made our way to the Kariya Mando Matsuri (刈谷万燈祭り)in Kariya city, about half an hour outside of Nagoya. This festival's origins are in the mid-Edo period, 1756.

We first made a mistake and went to the wrong station, but a quick train catching finally brought us to the right station, Kariyashi(刈谷市)station on Meitetsu. As soon as we stepped off the train, taiko drums and festival voices tantalized our ears. We followed the sounds through the late evening light until we reached.... the beer stand :D :D

A cold summer drink in hand, we found the center of the activity, in the middle of an intersection. A crowd was gathered around, watching as the members of one of the seven festival teams centered around a festival cart cheered and rallied each other before passing on down the street. Such passion and energy!

As they passed, the drums of the next team started to approach, and then, the lanterns came into view! Huge lanterns! Towering five meters (164 feet) into the evening sky, the first colorful lantern slowly made its way to the center of the intersection--carried on the back of one of the team members. It depicted an ancient hero fighting a dragon in colored paper and bamboo, backlit by a huge inner light. (We later noticed these were powered by huge batteries and they had to regularly change them out throughout the night ^_^ Modern innovation keeps traditions vibrant) Not far behind was the next huge lantern, third was the smaller lantern commanded by the female team, and then last came a bunch of kids with little lanterns shaped like characters or other summer time fun like watermelon.

Once everyone got to the middle and in place, the dancing began. Taiko drums and flutes played the music and then the team members hoisted the lanterns in a slow circular dance, bringing life into the scenes of the old stories they depicted. Beautiful and awesome. Since the lanterns weigh 60 kg (132 pounds), the dancers could only wrangle them for about a minute or two before trading out with another member.

Later all the teams lined up down one main street and then, all danced together at the same time.

We could walk down the street amidst the river of energy and whirling lights, check out out each team as we went by, and sometimes stop at one favorite team for awhile.

As the night grew darker, the lanterns grew even more beautiful and mesmerizing. We thought this one looked like Star Wars.

We stopped for awhile in front of a fascinating dragon vs. demon lantern,

and, at the end of the dancing, there was an announcement... the dragon team had won!

Such euphoria! All the members of all the teams were quite young.... their adrenaline was thick in the air. Such intensity! They reveled in their own exclusively synced spirits for awhile. I wanted to mosh with them!

Finally the lanterns were on the move again--heading back to their own towns and their own town festival centers, where the lanterns are created each year by the townspeople. Every year each town makes new lanterns. It's no wonder they have such pride and excitement.

First a few of the teams gathered in front of the main shrine for a small closing ceremony. We ended up right in the middle of it.

Then it was back to the houses.

But after resting for a bit, we again heard the festival music and sure enough, it seemed the teams's adrenaline just hadn't subsided enough and they were at it again, parading and dancing around the block again. By this time it was about 10:30 at night.

We were exhausted, if they weren't, and so we left their voices in the night behind and caught a late train back to Nagoya.

Please check out the video, but I don' think it really does justice to the lanterns and their bearers. I hope it gives you at least a taste of their magnificence.

Also this is the link to the YouTube version, just it case ;)

This is the official festival site:

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