Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 147- October 7

By Al

Today was the first day of the Kunchi festival.  This is one of the great festivals of Japan.  People come from all over Japan.  It is impossible to get a hotel room.  Thank goodness the Rotary had arrange for our rooms.  There are 40 towns, or what we would call neighborhoods, in Nagasaki.  Each neighborhood performs at the festival every 7 years.  So, some years there are 5 and some 6 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a presention of town elders.  Each gives a performance.  Sometimes it is a dance and sometimes a musical performance.  Each town has a float, usually a minature ship that is pushed around and spun with great effort.  Also, each neighborhood has a large structure that is carried by one person.  I usually weighs about 300 pounds and is decorated at the top with somehting that is typical of the neighborhood.  It is called a kasaboko. Obviously, this cannot be carried all day by one person, so there is a team that goes with it and the members switch off.  When they get to a performance area, they do a little dance, which is very impressive.  There are four performance sites, but the parties walk between the cites and do small performances on the way. 

We had front row seats at one of the performance venues. (Sally's comment-   We were treated as honored guests, and asked to stand and wave to the sudience)   It was the same venue tht the mayor attended.  Before the performances he waved at us.  After the performance her stopped to talk to Amy.

The mayor and other dignitaries.  We also had front row seats thanks to the Rotarians.

A kasaboko.  One man is holding it up and spinning with it.

This is the top.


Another kasaboko.

And, another.

And another.

This is one of the boat floats.  They are alll pushed and twirled by hand.  This one is dutch theamed.  The dutch used to have an island in Nagasaki.  When the the shogun outlawed all foreigners and foreign trade, he made an exception for Nagasaki.  The dutch were allowed to live on a very small island in Nagasaki harbor and do limited trade with the local Japanese.

Another kasaboko.

The dragon from the dragon dance.  This was first performed by Chinese living in Nagasaki, but is now the duty of one of the Nagasaki neighborhoods.

Sally' Pictures
Here are a few pictures I took of the festival.

These dancers are wearing costumes with several layers.  This was their first dance, which was followed twice by removal of a layer, and another dance.

Each town has a parade of mothers and children dressed in costumes appropriate to the town's presentation.  This mom and son are from the town which presented the Chinese dragon dance.

This town's performers were dressed in two-person dragon costumes.  They performed acrobatics and played drums.  Each group provides encores, with the number of encores based on the cheers and clapping of the audience.  Each town is represented by cheerleaders who encouraged us to cheer. The usually quiet Japanese are quite loud and demonstrative at this event!

Here you can see one of the kasaboko carriers under the kasaboko. 

This boy (who appeared to be between 4 and 6 years old) was on one of the Dutch ships.  Plastic fish were spread on the ground in front of the ship, and he threw out a net to catch the fish.  Quite a high-pressure task for a little kid.  He was successful.

The festival showed the diverse influences in Nagasaki.  Japan was closed to Westerners for about a century.  Nagasaki had a man-made island, on which Dutch traders were permitted to live.  It was the only city accessible by traders from Western countries.  The Dutch presence is honored by presentations from two cities with Dutch ship floats.  Nagasaki also had many Chinese people living in the city.  Their presence is honored by two groups- one with the long dragon and the other with the two-person dragons.

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