Monday, July 18, 2011

Nariakari anniversary event

July 15 is the eve of the anniversary of the death of Shimadzu lord Nariakira. Some of you may remember Nariakira as the feudal lord of the Satsuma region (present day Kagoshima) who attempted to stand against the British navy, and helped industrialize Kyushu towards the end of the shoganate era in the latter half of the 1800's. In celebration of his memory, the city of Kagoshima has an annual festival on the 15th and 16th of July. I only got to see the activities at Terakuni shrine and Central park on the 15th, but there were other events scheduled around the city for both days. Things got started towards evening, with food and toy stalls lining the street in front of Central park to the shrine. A hotel right in front of the shrine had tables set up in the parking lot to create a beer garden, with shaved ice and various meal items also for sale. The food stalls carried the standards, such as takoyaki, squid on a stick, yakisoba, and plums on a stick, plus regional favorites like mussels, okonomiyaki on a stick, and grilled pork.

There were a few hundred people when we arrived at 8:30 PM, mostly standing around, chatting, smoking and drinking. A good half of them were in kimono or yukata, and quite a few of the younger women had big beehive hairdos. Outside of the food stalls, the primary activity was to walk up to the shrine past all of the advertising banners, and to pass under the blessed pine bough arch before going up to the main shrine building itself. At the main building, people prayed briefly then bought fortunes and protective amulets for the year. A set of tents to one side had a very limited selection of ikebana (flower arranging), and a stage was set up to allow people to perform traditional dances or sing enka.

Throughout the day there were fireworks going off on the hour that could be heard all the way from the apartment. When we were at the shrine, a small selection of fireworks was lit, including sparkler types, and the traditional explosives. We sat at the beer garden and had a large mug of beer and some shaved ice (kakigori), as well as trying some of the food at the stalls. The okonomiyaki on a stick was a nice idea, but not a particularly successful one. After watching the enka and praying at the shrine, we went to Royal Host for dinner and returned to the apartment around 11 PM. A fun time was had by all, despite the heat and humidity.

(Information banners describing the event and showing a picture of Nariakira.)

(Performance stage. The 4-woman group here was performing a traditional dance.)

(Lines forming in front of the shrine to pray.)

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