Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inage Sengen Shrine Festival

Short note: I just made a minor adjustment to the size of the photos in my blog entry, and the change can be seen in this entry. Let me know if it looks better now, or I should just stick to the old size. Thank you.

I am currently staying in Inage ward in Chiba city. It is not a big city, neither it is a small town; just somewhere in the middle, which fits my liking perfectly. A couple of days ago, almost every single citizen in Chiba city assembled in the area I'm currently staying. From a peaceful area, it suddenly turned into a place as if Paul the octopus is visiting the town lol! The main road, which passes through the Keisei Inage station and normally enjoys free flow of traffic, was turned into a sea of human beings, instead of cars and bicycles.

So, what was the reason that drew so many people to "invade" this area?

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People began to fill the road by afternoon.

It is summer now, which spells the season for various summer festival in Japan. There is a shinto shrine - Inage Sengen Shrine, located about five-minute walk from my place, which organise its festival on July 15 annually. The festival pamphlet stated that there would be approximately 300,000 people who will attend this festival. I was unconvinced by that number at first, because 300,000 is not a small figure. I thought the printing company has some problem with their eye-sight and misprinted an extra zero on the pamphlet haha!

Mention festivals in Japan, and the next thing that will come to one's mind would be the street vendors, yatai (屋台). No matter which festival you attend throughout Japan, the food sold are basically the same. Okonomiyaki, yakisoba, takoyaki, kara-age, banana-choco, ringo-ame, kakigori, and of course, balloons and mini games for children.

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The road was closed for two days, to make way for the stalls.

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Kingyo-sukui, which literally means "save-the-goldfish" lol!

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If you don't feel like saving the goldfish, you can save these tortoise instead.

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The small notice reads: "Taking a break. Do not steal my tortoise!" haha!

I can't imagine this happening in Malaysia. One thing for sure, if the same thing is applied in Malaysia, not only the tortoise will disappear, I think even the whole water tub will be gone when the vendor returns to his stall lol! Not only "Malaysia Boleh", the pencuri also quite boleh-one haha!

Before I go any further, let me bore you with some historical facts about this shrine. Inage Sengen Shrine traces its origins back to 808 when it was constructed by local villagers and prayed in by Minamoto-no-Yoritomo in 1180. It was rebuilt in 1187 by Tsunetane Chiba where it has continued to stand to the present day next to the Inage pine forest.

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The entrance to the shrine.

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More stalls on the road which leads to the main shrine hall.

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The hall sits on a hilltop, hence visitors have to climb these staircase to reach there.

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The festival is held for two days; the 14th night is the festival eve, and the main day is on the 15th.

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That's the main shrine hall.

The shrine was originally intended to worship the god of easy childbirth, Konohana-sakuya Hime-no  Mikoto. Many couples and women with children visit Sengen Shrine, as it is dedicated to the god of easy-delivery and child raising. That explains the presence of many children to the festival at the shrine, when I was there.

The performance of kagura sacred Shinto music and dance routine at the shrine has been recognized by Chiba Prefecture as an intangible cultural heritage. (source)

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Good weather makes it perfect for everyone to visit this shrine.

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A closer shot on the shrine's hall.

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After living here for almost half a year already, this is only my first time visiting this shrine.

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Omikuji, which are random fortunes written on strips of papers. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple or shrine grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer.

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Stalls selling Japanese amulets, called omamori (御守). If the Japanese has Hello Kitty on their omamori, perhaps we can make our amulets with Keluang Man's design. The ghosts sure to get shocked until half-dead when they see the black Keluang Man lol!

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The famous sasamamori (笹守) of Inage Sengen Shrine, which is to wish the child to have a healthy growth.

At another corner of the shrine, there was a wooden hut for performances of some traditional dances and ritual. Not only the visitors to the shrine watched the performances, because there were quite a number of photography enthusiasts, which mainly comprised of members from the golden generations, who were busy trying to get some shots on the performances.

My curiousness made me walked towards the hut to take a closer look at the event that was going on.

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The small hut, where the performances were held.

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A brief description board about the kagura at Inage Sengen Shrine.

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Yes, you saw it right; that's a real baby, who was in his dreamland throughout the ritual haha!

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I bet if the baby were to open his eyes, he would be so super shocked to see the scary face of the kagura haha!

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The kagura then continued with some ritual dance, while holding on to a sword and a golden bell.

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The kagura says, "Peace off!", before signing off lol!

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The whole performance was accompanied by a group of traditional musicians.

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Got fox also haha!

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Not just one, but two foxes.

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One funny thing is that the mouth can be moved up and down, which makes it look more real.

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Luckily, these little kids were not shocked by the foxes; instead, they seemed to be enjoying the show a lot haha!

By evening, more people flocked the area, and the real atmosphere of a festival can be felt.

Although we are all aware that Japan is one of the most advanced country in terms of its technology and economy, I still find it fascinating to see them, no matter young kids, youngsters, adults or the older generation, who will come out in droves whenever there is a festival, while putting on the yukata, while wearing their geta. It indirectly shows how much they are still willing to preserve their culture.

It is also during time like this, where the Japanese youngsters will come out in abundance. Those who already have partners will treat the outing as a date, while to those who are still looking for that someone, they will usually come out with their friends to nampa.

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The convenience store took the opportunity by expending their stalls outside the shop, sellings cold drinks and snacks.

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By seven in the evening, the road was so packed that it was quite hard to move around already.

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This man can apply to the Guinness World Book of Records, for making the largest piece of okonomiyaki haha!

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The process of making ringo-ame (apple candy).

Some stalls were creative in their business, by offering customers chances to get more than what they pay for.

Take this banana-choco stall for instance. The banana is sold for 200 yen per stick. However, if anyone janken with him and wins, that person will get an extra stick of banana-choco. That sounds easy, but it wasn't the case. After standing there for a while, while observing to him playing janken with several customers, we noticed that nobody managed to beat him!

I tried my luck, although I was very well aware that my janken skills suck. No prize for guessing what the outcome was.

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The Janken King.

As expected, I lost to him =.=

And right after that, he gave me that "haha-I-win-again-kinda" smile. I should have asked Paul the octopus for some advice first before I janken with him. Then, I can surely give him back the "see-the-octopus-is-smarter-than-you-kind-of" look.

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Drawings by local primary school students, which were made into lanterns.

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There were relatively more people at night visiting the shrine.

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For just 100 yen, you can try and have a look at your fortune from the many kinds of omikuji around the shrine.

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Traditional Japanese paper-fan dance.

That lady reminds me to Tada-san, the office lady at Nagaoka Kosen haha!

7 comments:

sakura said...

nice colourful post u got there.. the goldfish and tortoise part is funny :p
can one really save the goldfish using the tissue-paper thingy?

calvin said...

@ sakura:
hi, it has been a while since i last see you here :)

personally, i have never tried "saving" the goldfish, but i think it is possible. otherwise, they wouldn't have a national championship for this thing haha!

Christopher C said...

Love this entry of yours :D Very interesting!! Wished I was there !!! :x

sakura said...

oh, was it that long? lol...din realize tat, haha..

national championship? wah, sounds fun though :p

calvin said...

@ christopher c:
thanks!

you know what? i saw nemo balloons sold at some of the stalls, and the first thing that came to my mind was you haha!

calvin said...

@ sakura:
haha, perhaps not that long xD

yea, i was surprised when i found out about that too lol!

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