Friday, January 28, 2011

~ JAPAN PREP PART 3 ~ Mikuni Matsuri and Tojinbo 三国祭りと東尋坊



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One of the Japanese traditions that I love and miss so much is Matsuri.  Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese
word for a festival or holiday. Matsuri are usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple, though they can
be secular.  Normally I hate being in a crowd of people, especially in urban area, but being in a Matsuri
crowd is an exception. The reason is quite simple.  Because I see many smiles there.

As I get older, I come to understand the true meaning of Kan Kon Sou Sai (冠婚葬祭).  It’s a Japanese
word refers to four ceremonial occasions in family relationships. As you see below, the word is made up
of four kanji characters, which refer to the four main rites of passage in one’s life.

冠 (kan) - the coming of age
婚 (kon) - marriage
葬 (sou) - funeral
祭 (sai) - ceremonies for ancestors

Cerebrating one’s passage with the people around him/or her (such as family, relatives, friends or
neighbors) is so basic, yet it's universally important. It’s a way to show your respect to others, and to
yourself. By being a part of the circle, one may re-discover who she is, or where he is at.  It is also a
great opportunity to have skin-to-skin conversation with the people around you. And most importantly,
It is a physical experience where you can feel the presence of temperature, vibe, or emotions. Now that a
world is becoming more virtual than ever, I find the custom like this very precious, and necessary for our
universal peace.

Anyhow, I missed Matsuri so much that I looked up online before our last visit to Japan in May.
Fortunately I found one, called Mikuni Matsuri, which takes place in Mikuni town, of Fukui-Prefecture.
It is known as one of the three famous Matsuri in Hokuriku region (北陸三大祭り).  The biggest
attraction is Dashi (山車: Carts with 5 meter-tall paper dolls of historical figures). Dashi are carried
through the narrow streets of Mikuni by people in different costumes, with bands playing traditional
music until midnight.

There were also about 500 street venders selling food and games that are unique to matsuri occasions.
Just being there breathing in the air filled with smoke and smell of food, or looking at young girls dressed
up to attract boy’s attention made me feel so nostalgic.

The highlight of the night, was “火の太鼓” (The Fire Drum), the drum performance/ Jam session by the
local members.  Boys, girls, mother and father, they all took turn, and played as they felt. I was
fascinated not only by their energetic performance, but was seriously moved by their joyful faces.

On the next day, we walked along a coast, head to Tojinbo, a series of surreal, eerie basaltic cliff.
Tōjinbō is a well-known place to commit suicide in Japan. According to statistics, as many as 25 people
(virtually all of them young unemployed men) commit suicide by jumping off the 70-foot-high cliffs
annually. On the walking trail along the cliff, there were many signs with some motivational words to
keep people to from jumping.  There was even a phone booth, equipped with coins or calling cards so
that they can call the help line.  It was quite a contrasty experience to visit the sight, especially on the day
after such a lively event in town.



私はお祭りが大好きです。都会の人ごみは苦手なのですがお祭りの人ごみだと許せてしまいます。なぜか、
と言えば単純です。みんなの顔が楽しそうだから。

最近歳を重ねてくにつれて、冠婚葬祭への関心と重要性をひしひし感じるようになりました。人生の節目を尊重
し、それを家族、親族, 友人そして近所の人たちといったコミュニティ単位で時間を共有すること。それによって
体感できる人の体温、空気、そして会話のリズム。 周囲の人を認識することによって見えてくる自分の所在。 
そんなことを再確認できるとても素敵な習慣だなあと思うのです。

日本訪問中の5月に何処かでお祭りはやっていないかしら、と探した末に見つけたのが福井県三国町での三国祭
りでした。三国祭りは北陸三大祭りの一つとも称されており、その最大の呼びものが、巨大な武者人形山車
(高さ5m)の行列です。各町内から自慢の山車が参加して、笛、太鼓、三味線のおはやしとともに情緒漂う街中
を夜遅くまで練り歩きます。

又、三國神社に続く町並みには500以上の露店が並び、浴衣やじんべいなどを着てお父さんやお母さんに手を
引いてもらっている子供たち、異性を少し意識しておしゃれをしてきたような学生さん、露店から漂う独特の
り、辺り一面にたちこむ白い湯気などが、私の記憶の深い部分をうずかせます。

その晩のハイライトは、火の太鼓という、町内の会員の方々による太鼓と横笛での豪快なジャムセッション
でした。みなぎる若い力を鼓動で表す男性、笑顔いっぱいでたたく中年の女性、ベテランの男性、など様々な
人々が自由に表現する様はとても晴れやかで、その音色は強く、そして温かく私の魂に響いてきました。

祭りの翌日は海岸沿いへ、東尋坊という高さ約25メートルに及ぶ岩壁の周辺の散策をしました。ここは自殺の
名所としても全国的に有名で、各所に自殺を思いとどまらせるための句碑や看板設置してありました。又、周辺
の公衆電話にはテレホンカードや10円硬貨を常備して誰かに相談ができる「救いの電話」が設置され、自殺を思
いとどまらせる努力があちこちに見受けられました。前の晩のお祭り騒ぎとは極めて対局的な一面が見受けれ、
複雑な気分の一日でした。