Time to finish up talking about Kawagoe Matsuri – took me long enough right? So, I already posted about all the delicious food, so I will b focusing more on what exactly goes on during Kawagoe Matsuri (complete, once again, with a ridiculous amount of pictures).
Kawagoe Matsuri takes place in mid October and is considered one of the largest festivals in the Kanto area. During the festival 19 floats are paraded through the city’s main streets – and side streets as the float for my area of Kawagoe was paraded past my apartment several times. The floats assemble in front of the City Hall from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., and then parade through the city’s main streets, while ohayashi (festival music), taiko (drum beating) and fue (Japanese flute) are performed on the floats. The floats (called “dashi in Japanese) are extremely complex in construction with a main deck for the performers (mythical characters from Japanese mythology) and some are able to swivel. The festival reaches its climax when the floats come to the three points; the Fudanotsuji intersection, Nakamachi & Renjakucho street intersection, and in front of Hon-Kawagoe Station, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on both days.
The origin of the Kawagoe Matsuri festival goes back 350 years ago, to when Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the then domain head, donated equipment for the celebration, including a Mikoshi (miniature shrine) and Shishigashira (lion headgear) to the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, in order to promote the celebration. Kawagoe was the closest castle town to Edo and had a close relationship with it, transporting goods and people over the River Shinkashi. As Kawagoe Matsuri developed, strongly influenced by the Akasaka Sannosai and the Kanda Matsuri of Edo, both of which were described as the grand Tenka Matsuri, one can see the glory of Edo’s festivals in the present Kawagoe Matsuri. It was designated a National Important Intangible Cultural Property as “the Dashi (float) event of Kawagoe Hikawa Matsuri” on February 21, 2005. A film was made in 2000 and depicts the history of the Kawagoe Matsuri, the rituals of the Hikawa Shrine, and the ways of life handed down among the towns people. There is also a museum dedicated to the festival.
While the floats are clearly one of the appealing features to the festival (along with all the food), most children (or at least those not yet in college) flock towards all the matsuri games. One of the more popular, and traditional, of these games is gold fish scooping. Goldfish scooping (金魚すくい, 金魚掬いKingyo-sukui in Japanese) is game in which a player scoops goldfish with a special scooper called a “poi”. A “poi” is made with a plastic frame and handgrip with a paper center. The paper breaks very easily, which makes this matsuri game very challenging. The rules are simple: each person plays individually. The basic rule is that the player scoops goldfish from a pool with a “poi” and brings them to a bowl with it. This game requires carefulness and quickness as the poi can be easily torn. The game is over when the poi is completely broken. Even if one part of the poi is torn, the player can continue the game with the remaining part. All the fish successfully scooped into the bowl are then put in a plastic bag and given to the challenger. Japanese love this game so much that there is even a national competition where the current record by a child of elementary school age is 30 fish in about 2 minutes. The current record is 61 fish in a semi-final round.
Another popular attraction are the raffle booths. My host mom always referred to them as children’s gambling and was always a little disappointed when my host brother would use all his 500 yen at these places. There are a wide variety of prizes from PS3s to pencils depending on the number you draw. The higher the number, the better your prize. When I did this with my host sister, we both ended up drawing low numbers and were awarded a poster each of Ponyo. A lot of these type of games are very similar to American carnival games – minus the scams. My host brother made me do one of the games where you throw hacky sack like things to knock over cans for prizes. I actually ended up knocking down all the cans in one go and won him a nice big stuff animal. There is also a game where you are given a hook and you try to snag a decorated water balloon on a string. Similar to the goldfish scooping game, there are also scooping games where you try to scoop tiny toys or plastic gems into a bowl.
Other attractions at the matsuri include a haunted house, lots of other games and prizes, as well as being able to pull the float from your area and interacting with the performers. One of those such interactions involves the above picture. I was surprised to see parents lifting their children, usually very young, up towards the stage and allowing the dog-demon to “bite” the child’s head. What I thought was a type of teasing was actually a means to purify the child. Apparently, this dog-demon eats all evil things surrounding the child – this includes and potential bad behavior by the child.
And that’s all folks! I have several other updates that need to get done, so you may be seeing more from me before the day it out.