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Matsuris (Festivals)

Several festivals have made the monotonous daily life more colourful. In Okazaki (a small city near Nagoya, where I lived), there was the OICC (Okazaki International Community Center), which was set up with the intention to cultivate and enhance the cultural relations between the local Japanese and the foreigners living there. Thanks to the organisation, we had several opportunities to participate in festivals together with the Japanese. It was much more fun that way than if we were to be present only as spectators.

(Click on the photos for bigger images! See related videos below!)


1. - The location is Okazaki, the city where I lived for almost two years. The river bank which crosses the city is the venue of many matsuri and other social gatherings. At these times the Japanese go out to release their "blues" and they feel great after that.


2. - We went out too whenever there was an event and we always had a good time too :)


3. - This location is still Okazaki, the spring of 2008, at the time of the cherry blossom. The picture shows Mami san, with whom we went on several trips together and Yukie san, one of my first Japanese friends. I met him back in 1998, when he was studying in Budapest (Hungary).


4. - This picture shows the Sakaguchi family whom I met in Hungary (I taught Hungarian to the wife) and Aki san, to whom I could turn confidently to for anything, for she would always help me willingly.  There was also Sylvia whom I formed a close friendship with since university time.


5. - Tokugawa Ieyasu was the famous son of our "town" who helped in the unification of Japan at the end of the 16th century. In his honor, a festival is organized every spring. This picture shows the preparation of a battle scene.


6. - The battle scene.




7. -
Peter san also took part as a warrior - and accidentally he confused me with the enemy :)




8. -
Another fearsome warrior in the battle!


9. - He was less fearsome, so I tried to take a photo with him :)





10. - There was not just fearsome warriors at the festivals, but Japanese ladies in Kimono as well.


11. - If it is May, then it is "koinobori" or more poetically, "carps are swimming in the spring sky".


12. - The OICC (Okazaki International Community Center) provided an opportunity on many occasions for Japanese and foreigners to participate in the festivals together. One of it was the Tanabata festival. In this picture, you can see presenters telling the story of the "heavenly lovers" with the help of pictures.


13. - Although the language used at the OICC events was Japanese, they sometimes helped by using English for those who could not speak Japanese or who could not speak Japanese well.


14. - During the festivals, I sometimes picked up my summer kimono to wear as it is a fact that it is more comfortable than for example, jeans:)


15. - Various playful competitions were also organized at the Tanabata event.


16. - There was a common dance at the and of the event.


17. - During the summer festivals in Okazaki, people do the "Gomangoku odori" dance. We had the opportunity to learn this as well at the OICC. This picture shows a moment from the rehearsal.


18. - Another moment of learning the dance.




19. -
Close up on learning the dance.




20. -
Group photo after the dance session


21. - Although the Tanabata is on the 7th of the 7th month, other festivals related to it are not neccessarily held on this single day on. In the adjacent city of Anjō, it is usually celebrated in early August. This picture was taken there.


22. - One of the festival’s attractions is the "goldfish angling". It makes things harder as the paper net in the green frame tears very easily in water. The smarter ones can catch 20-30 fishes, but those who are trying it for the first time will usually tear their net  before they can catch a single fish.




23. -
This is another attraction of the festival: "pulling out the balloons".
There is some water in each balloon which is attached to a thin string. You can simply lift any balloon you want out of the water, but Physics! The bigger the balloon, the less it will want to get out :)




24. -
Another attraction: target throwing with darts.


25. - This cow was one of the "characters" of the Shinmei matsui at one of the festivals in Okazaki.


26. - Makeup was put onto those arriving at the festival.


27. - A moment of the festival: when it became dark, we marched through the streets in dances.


28. - Two difficulties were encountered during the procession: The first one was that we had to carry this weight on our shoulders throughout the whole time and the other was that, we had only met the Japanese whom we were carrying the object with on that day and the dance which we had learnt was not the dance that they had prepared for. But in the end, we managed to coordinate pretty well :)



29. -
They were the "lucky"
foreigners who added to the strength of the Japanese team.



30. - The second half of the summer was the period of the firework festival in may places.
The firework displays were often 1-3 hours long and as the video shows, they were not stingy with the firework gunpowder.


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