Jul 9, 2018
So the prep in my town has begun for one of the biggest festivals of the year—simply called the 夏祭り natsu matsuri, or Summer Festival.
The townsfolk are stringing up lanterns, and we’ve already been receiving notices in the mail about proper attire, events, food pre-ordering (that’s a big thing here to ensure the event organizers prepare the right amount of food), and rules regarding the mikoshi.
Yup, you read that right: they handed out flyers to every household explaining the rules regarding the mikoshi.
For those who don’t know, mikoshi are the portable shrines that festival participants carry on their shoulders, usually with much flair and fanfare. Of course, given that it's usually just a bunch of dudes in Yukata shouting and walking around, I didn't really think too much about specific rules until I got that piece of paper in the mailbox.
So what are the rules?
Since the mikoshi is traveling down residential streets, the city demands that folks refrain from hanging clothes from second or third story windows. Along those same lines, they insist that folks only observe the mikoshi from the ground level. Since the mikoshi is considered sacred, it is untoward to look down upon the mikoshi (whether it’s a person doing it or his/her clothing, it seems).
Another rule: only folks who have registered may carry the mikoshi, so no subbing in along the route. Granted, that one makes sense from an injury/insurance perspective, considering I have seen a drunk gaijin sub in and end up with a giant mikoshi being set down on his foot (and breaking it) because he didn’t know what the different commands meant (and no, I was not that gaijin, in case you were wondering, though it was someone in my group...).
Finally, folks are encouraged to come out and observe the mikoshi as it passes. It is considered a time-honored tradition here, and they make an effort to pass down every residential street in town with the mikoshi (the whole trek lasts most of the day!)
Beyond that, we expect to have the same sort of festival fun as others , though I certainly will be looking out for the mikoshi this Saturday (from the ground level, of course!)
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).