James Doolittle

October 23, 2005

Oktoberfest, Japan style

Filed under: Uncategorized — jdoolittle @ 9:38 pm

Today I experienced Japan’s answer to St. Patricks day and Oktoberfestt. The event was a celebration for the October rice harvest, refered to as mikoshi matsuri, and is the “quintescencial Japanese experience that not even very many Japanese get to do,” says random foreigner lush Jane from Iowa. I walked around in this white kimono, short white shorts, and white ninja-boots (the kind that go up your calf and have the split toe action going on). My nipples were hard, and the weather slightly raining. All of our friends got the message to stay home because of the weather, but because we left before the message was sent out, and none of us had a phone, Marrielle, Tara, and I went anyway. The people who do this religiously, they go out rain or shine. Someone there told me that this god protects us from getting sick in this endeavor.

I got purified at the top of this shrine by some woman chanting in Japanese. She had this white, shaggy wand she waved over me and about a hundred other Japanese men and women. Then we all started drinking beer and sake and eating rice balls and sushi. After we had our fill, we then took these deities and paraded them around, men and women seperate of course (traditions being what they are). The deities were locked inside these ornate boxes set on sticks to carry. The whole apparatus weighed about a ton. After around twenty minutes, we took a break to drink more. Then we started again, lugging these gaint floats around town. There were two single-file lines of men carrying to deity I was on, and he had a special walk. each side would jump on opposite beats, rocking the giant piece of shrine back and forth, shaking its studded bell decor. Then we took a break to drink more. We started heading down roads with traffic, and shop owners would come out of their businesses and restaurants to watch us pass. We had chants to keep a steady cadance. Because it was so heavy much, we had people constantly changing positions carrying the weight. Then we stopped to drink more–this time we also got more sushi. We started making our way back up to the shrine, slowly because we had to wait for red lights to change, and also because we stopped at least two more times to drink more alcohol.

By the time we got back to the shrine, the men were going crazy, they were in one place now, doing the special walk, rocking the shrine-ornament side to side, back and forth. We were changing people out every fifteen seconds–everyone wanted to be seen helping at the end with all the women watching and cheering and laughing at us. And that was it; we’d crossed the finish line, so to speak. Then we drank and ate and made merry, after a brief closing cerimony.

It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had beating the shit out of myself. The best part is, I’m not the least bit hung over, even though I drank all day long. The worst part is, it hurts to touch my shoulders, and my back is pretty sore (we carried this little diety box on our shoulders using these support beams, and we were constantly jumping up and down, setting the thing down, picking it up, etc.).