Monday, July 21, 2014

Ogionsa, Day 2

I couldn't get out of the apartment until about 4 PM on Sunday. Since the mikoshi parade had started at 10 AM or so and was scheduled to end at 5:30 PM, I was expecting that I'd missed a fair amount of the activities. And, I was right. Many of the mikoshi groups had either packed up for the day, or were resting prior to packing up. But there were a few groups from companies like Kagoshima bank, still on the street.

A few people dressed up as monks were handing out charms or something to the older members of the audience.

Not all of the groups were color-coded, but the ones that were, were very eye-catching.

At least one mikoshi group had a practice of raising young children up onto the shrine platform, either for good luck or as a kind of blessing.

The top of one of the big umbrella props, set aside for display.

It's not a matsuri without the tengu. Those geta are not easy to walk on.

The big umbrella props. Some of the men will carry them one-handed, or on their chin. Although I think one of the carriers was a woman, who had the umbrella standing on her shoulder for a while. Notice that the banner of one of the poles has gotten wrapped around the top of the street light. Eventually, the pole bearers got it unwrapped.

The main feature cart. This particular kind of shot was used on the Ogionsa advertising posters and I tried to replicate it. I'm pretty sure that these women were the two "princesses" that took the stage as part of Saturday's opening ceremonies. I can't tell if they're looking severe, dedicated, bored, or really angry at having their pictures taken for several hours on end.

A different cart with dignitaries, I guess.

The fascinating thing about Ogionsa, for me, is the variety of approaches the companies take with their parade groups.

My little pony.

One group had school kids carrying smaller children in palanquins. Again, there's a certain amount of boredom displayed on people's faces... The box in the foreground is for charity donations if people want to toss in some of their spare change.

Youtube link

The rest of the matsuri can be seen on the youtube video. At the end of the event, the one taiko group I could find played a short 4-minute set. When they finished, it started to rain. Initially, just a light drizzle. Things broke up fast at that point. A few blocks up, a different taiko group was at an intersection, putting their drums away, but I don't think they actually played the closing set. Anyway, I got into the Tenmonkan complex and as I reached the other side, the skies opened up for a major downpour, washing out everyone still on the streets. By the time I got home, I was soaked. Which brings me to Karakasa...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ogionsa, Day 1

Ogionsa Mikoshi

In the weeks leading up to Ogionsa, several of the mikoshi (portable shrines) were placed on display in Tenmonkan and other areas around Kagoshima. This one is in front of Lotteria.

(Tenmonkan Park was completely rebuilt this year. It used to be much smaller, cramped and ragged-looking. This is the first time for me to visit the new park.)

Ogionsa is a 2-day festival held in Kagoshima, Kyushu, in July. This year it was on the 19th and 20th. Opening ceremonies were held at Tenmonkan Park from 5 to 7 PM, and included amateur and professional acts.

(School kids preparing for their upcoming performance.)

According to one source, Ogionsa was originally hosted by local merchants as kind of a marketing scheme featuring a parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) through Tenmonkan. However, since the name is similar to Gionsa, the festival held in Kyoto a week earlier, Ogionsa has been linked to Gionsa by association.

(Dining area.)

Tables were set up at the entrance of the park to sell shochu, beer and packages of yaki soba. The beer was $3 a glass, but the shochu was $2. The glasses were smaller, and the shochu was diluted with ice water, but it was still tasty and packed a punch. A dining area was to one side, and they had folding chairs in front of the main stage. I'd estimate maybe 200 people in attendance when I arrived, but possibly double that when I left at 7 PM. Initially, I was thinking of staying at home. I'd walked through Tenmonkan on my way home after work, and caught a little of the activities being held in front of Lotteria and the 7-11, and it wasn't quite enough to motivate me to watch the rest of it. However, as I was working on some videos for the blog, I heard bells and drums outside the apartment, indicating that some group was carrying a mikoshi in the neighborhood. By the time I finished the editing, the sound was fading away. I grabbed 2 of my cameras and ran outside, but the sound was gone. I headed for the closest park, but there was nothing happening there. It was now close to 5 PM, so I went through Tenmonkan, and continued to Tenmonkan Park on the other side of the shopping district.

I got to the park just as the taiko group (the one I'd seen in front of the 7-11) was wrapping up. They were followed by the school kids wearing the "octopus man" masks (the video is below), and then some traditional Japanese music singing acts.

The early audience.

Everyone likes wearing yukata.

The MC.

Octopus men and octopus boys.

The MC interviewed the two main "princesses" of Sunday's mikoshi parade. They were scheduled to ride in one of the pull carts during the main event, and they asked the audience to come to Tenmonkan to watch for them.

Next came two performance acts. One was Juggler Higachu (watch his 2-part video below), and the other was this guy. I never caught his name, but I guess he's a Chinese acrobat based in Tokyo. Both of them were very good. The acrobat had a four-part act: first, dancing in the above costume while spinning a staff; second, dancing while snap-changing his masks; third, snapping flowers out of audience member's hands with a whip; fourth, a balancing act (watch his video below). Both of my cameras were low on battery. I wasn't expecting to video anything today, so I hadn't recharged them. Both batteries eventually died on me, the second one just before the end of the acrobat's final act. Should have brought the third camera. Sigh.

(Enka act.)

At 7, as I was getting ready to leave, I heard the sounds of bells and drums again, and a group of 30-40 people arrived, pulling one of the big mikoshi into the park. I'd like to think it was the one in my neighborhood that prompted me out of the apartment. Overall, I had a lot of fun. And I made sure to recharge the batteries as soon as I got back home in preparation for the events on Sunday.

Tako Dance: Youtube link

Higachu Part 1: Youtube link

Higachu Part 2: Youtube link

Acrobat: Youtube link

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Google Doodles, first half of 2014

I've mentioned before that I like some of the doodles Google runs on its search page. Below are the ones I want to highlight either because they're Japan- or science-related, or because I just like them.

New Year's Day 2014 (Animated)

Sofia Kovalevskaya's 164th Birthday (Math)

The 255th anniversary of the British Museum (C.M.B. reference)

Raicho Hiratsuka's 128th Birthday (Japanese feminist)

Valentine's Day 2014 (International, Animated)

Valentine's Day 2014 (US, Animated)

Girls' Day

Hatsusaburo Yoshida's 130th Birthday (born 1884)

Max Planck's 156th Birthday (born 1858) (Semi-animated)

Ichiyo Higuchi's 142nd Birthday

Dorothy Hodgkin's 104th Birthday

Maria Gaetana Agnesi's 296th Birthday (Semi-animated)

Rubik's Cube

Otto Lilienthal's 166th Birthday

35th Anniversary of Nezha Conquers the Dragon King

Honinbo Shusaku's 185th Birthday

Tanabata 2014

Nelson Mandela's 96th Birthday (Animated)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rokugatsu-Gou 2014

Another year, another Rokugatsu-Gou. This is the 2-evening festival that celebrates Nariakira Shimadzu, the local lord that led Kagoshima to prosperity during the mid-1800's. The activities are pretty much the same from year to year - food and toy stalls, praying at Terukuni shrine, a traditional dance contest, an ikebana display, and lots of lanterns.

I initially had the new camera on "moon mode", but the shots were coming out too dark. There's no "night scene" setting, so I put it on "auto scene" and the results came out much better. Unfortunately, some of the shots require in-camera adjustments that take 1-2 minutes per photo to process.

Grilled corn is very popular.

"Hmm, odongo or squid on a stick. Who can make these kinds of choices?"

Scooping up goldfish isn't as common a booth game as it used to be. This is the first one I've seen in a couple years.

Most of the big lantern signs have commercial ads on one side, and artwork from school kids on the other.

Looking out at the crowds and food stalls from the steps of the shrine.

How many characters can you recognize?

There was some fireworks on the hour on the 15th, and a little bit around 8 PM. Nothing spectacular, but people were still recording it on their smartphones.

The lucky gate. Couples step through this for good fortune.

The stage area, set up towards the rear of the shrine grounds, hosted dance groups. Each team would be announced to the audience, and they'd perform to a recorded song.

The flower display area was near the dance stage. Since the majority of the festival is held after sundown, it's hard to get good photos with the harsh lighting set up over the tables. Didn't help that the back drop cloth was dirty...

I think this is new. I don't remember the shrine selling little good luck lanterns before.

Entrance to the main shrine.

Praying to the memory of Nariakira.

Local merchants donate beer and shochu to the shrine.

Another table selling good luck charms. There were more people wearing yukata (light summer kimono) this year than last.

The above image is from a famous ukiyo-e woodblock print. It's been on display at the Kagoshima Prefectural Art Museum this spring.

A number of the smaller lanterns feature manga characters.

Some of the bigger ones, too. Kitaro, Doraemon and a shuttle rocket.

Flashy blinky things are always popular in Japan.

Youtube link