Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jan. 2, 2019

Not really a lot going on day 2 of the Japanese New Year week, but still a fair amount to write about. First, Tenmonkan had their annual actitivies in front of 7-11, starting with the Southern Cross girls handing out free boxes of Tenmonkan-themed tissues. Again, this was a big hit with the homeless people in the area, who would get back in line to get as many boxes as they could before getting caught.

There were a couple of other tables in the area as well. One was handing out small cups of what tasted like apple vinegar, the other had shrine plaques with the inoshishi (boar) motif. I got one (below), and went over to the main Tenmonkan shrine at the end of the arcade, but there were too many people there waiting in line to pray. So, I walked the 5 blocks to Terukuni shrine to put another good luck charm (which I received during the Ogionsa festival) into the recycle bin.

At the front of the shrine, one of the Kagoshima politicians was greeting people. I don't know who he is, but his advertising posters are plastered all over buildings in Minami-Kagoshima (minami = south). Mostly, everyone just ignored him.

When I got back to Tenmonkan, the lines for the small shrine were gone, so I wrote my message on the back of my plaque and prepared to leave it at the shrine with the others.

Plaque rack in front of the shrine dedicated to Tenmonkan

Most of the people here are shopkeepers or staff, prepared to carry this portable shrine through the arcade. One of the guys is my barber.

At 1 PM, the madness began, with community business leaders throwing out hard candies, small packages of mochi (pounded rice), fortunes, and discount coupons for 10% off of things people normally don't buy (the video is below).

The two guys to the right are the manzai comedy duo, Party. They were the main MCs for the day.

I'd been doing a bit of walking around during the slow times between noon and 1 PM, which included a side trip to the Maruya Gardens department store up at Streetcar Street. They had a mochi pounding dance, and some other stuff that I'd missed (or, the crowds were too heavy to get good photos). But, a sign nearby announced a mochi giveaway at the rooftop garden at 2 PM. When I got back to Tenmonkan, it was 15 minutes before the madness, so I grabbed a large cup of coffee from Starbucks, and read manga for a few minutes. I'd been in the middle of the people catching stuff last year, and had no interest in repeating that for what amounted to less than $1 of candy and discounts. When Party announced the start of the gift throwing, I had my coffee in my left hand, and my camera on record in my right. As I was recording the madness, one piece of candy actually hit the top of my coffee cup before bouncing off and hitting the ground behind me, where I could hear 5 people fighting for it. A minute after that, another piece went through the gap between my chest and right arm, hitting the backpack slung over my shoulder. I guess it hit the ground behind me and someone else took it. No loss.

The business leaders threw out candies and stuff for 5 minutes. When Party announced that that was the last of it, the crowds disappeared within seconds. However, I was still standing near Starbucks, drinking my coffee, when two old women walked by, searching the crevices for anything everyone else had missed. One of the women noticed a plastic-wrapped mochi lying in the dirt in a 6" gap between two buildings. She and her friends took turns struggling to reach the thing for a couple minutes, before the first one noticed a pole nearby. She used that to pull the mochi close enough to reach, grabbed it, wiped the filth off the package with her hand, and, with a huge grin of victory, put it in her pocket for later. A lot of work for a 5 cent snack.

After that, I got to the top floor of Maruya Gardens at 1:30 PM, and found a chair where I could sit and read manga to kill time. The poster had said there'd be a Chinese-style lion dance, then another of the mochi-pounding dance demos (see video 2 below) starting at 2 PM. While I was waiting, people started showing up and lining the outdoor garden. There was supposed to be enough mochi for 200 people, and I didn't have much hope of getting any this time. Then again, the big mochi pounding events are on the 3rd, and I was willing to wait 24 hours for that. At 2 PM, two Japanese guys came out and did the lion dance, which I found to be a lot of fun. This was followed by the mochi pounding dancers, and they were good, too. When the mochi dancing finished, the troupe invited children to come up and try their hands at pounding the steamed rice with smaller hammers. I used this opportunity to take a toilet break.

When I got back to the garden, I was looking at the table at the far end where they'd most likely be handing out the finished mochi, and I looked at the crowds. And it slowly dawned on me that no one else had the slightest clue where the line was going to start. Everyone was gathered at my end of the garden to watch the dancers. So, I made my way to the far end of the garden and watched the last of the mochi pounding. I took a bit more video, and applauded politely when the last of the final dancing ended. When they announced that they were going to hand out the mochi now, there I was, right at the front of the line. This was a bit embarrassing, so I let an older couple in ahead of me. Another two younger women tried to cut into line too, and the couple now in front of me attacked them with a venom. After this, a few familes with very young babies were brought to the front of the line, and then the dancers started handing the mochi out. We each got two pieces - one with dried soy bean powder (kinoko) and the other with red bean paste (anko). They were good.

I then made my way back to the ground floor and checked out the announcement poster again. It stated that there would be a handout of karukan (a small Kagoshima-style foam-like cake with red bean paste inside) to the first 88 people at 3 PM, and free new-batch sake at 4 PM until supplies ran out. I have sake at home, and didn't need to stand in line for another hour and a half just to get one small cup. But, I did want the karukan. I went to the basement, and located the table where the handout would be. There was already a clearly-marked line forming nearby, and I walked over to get in that right away. There were maybe 25 people ahead of me, and I killed more time by finishing off my manga. At 3 PM, the line started moving and pretty quickly I got my package of two karukan. I then decided to return home to process the photos and videos, and type up this blog entry. Overall, not a bad day.

Direct youtube link 1

Direct youtube link 2

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