Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Inage Lights Festival - Yotoboshi

Inage - a town with memories of the sea.

Long before the shallow coastal area in Inage was reclaimed to look like how it is today, it used to be a resort for beach activities and shellfish gathering; it was a town that relied on agriculture and fishing as its main source of income. The memories from the sea still remain up to this day and they are still visible around the town today. During the new moon, a fishing game in the sea using lanterns as the source of lights was introduced and it was known as "Yotoboshi fishing" (夜灯漁). It was the sights of the illuminating lights from the beach that used to be a seasonal tradition back then, that a unique festival was born five years ago.

"Inage Akari Matsuri - Yotoboshi" (稲毛あかり祭 - 夜灯), or "Inage Lights Festival - Night Lights" is held annually using the fishing game as a background motive, to reproduce the scene of the lanterns from the sea along the streets in the town, and to further nurture the relationship of the people living in this community.

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稲毛あかり祭 - 夜灯

Just like any other festivals in Japan, it is held for two nights - Zenyasai (前夜祭) or "festival eve", and Honmatsuri (本祭り) or the "main festival" over the weekends along the main street of Sengen-dori (浅間通り) and Inage Park (稲毛公園), as well as around Inage Sengen Shrine (稲毛浅間神社). From where I live currently, all those areas are accessible within five minutes on foot. Obviously, I wouldn't wanna miss out and join the fun with the local people at this festival.

This is my second main festival I have attended in this area since I moved to Inage early this year. The first one was the Inage Sengen Shrine Festival in July.

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This is the Sengen-dori (浅間通り), where hundreds of lanterns made of papers are arranged along the street.

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It is a nostalgic old shopping street that is beautifully decorated with lanterns.

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There were huge lanterns as tall as 1.8 meters and they were hand-made by the shopkeepers.

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The railway track is just a few steps down this street.

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There are various motifs on the lanterns, each of them unique from the rest.

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Christmas is around the corner.

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The imaginary character of the yotoboshi (lantern) a.k.a the mascot of the festival - "Yotoboshi-ane-san" (夜灯姉さん).

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A huge lantern of Yotoboshi-ane-san by the tea shop.

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Having a date with you loved ones at a festival like this is not a bad idea.

Sengen-dori goes pass the Keisei Inage station and it is also one of the location where the lanterns are placed. These lanterns are individually made by the kids from the local kindergartens. These lanterns, placed along the station platform, would welcome and bid farewell to people who come to Inage.

Besides that, there are also old photographs hung on the wall at the train station, to reminisce the town in the olden days.

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This is the Keisei Inage station, where I take the train to school everyday.

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The kids are free to draw whatever they want, and it was a pleasure to see many kinds of interesting drawings on each of the lanterns.

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There were workshops held at their schools since early September to get the kids to draw these lanterns.

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A young family taking a photo in front of the station signboard.

The "Akari Hiroba" (あかり広場) or the "Lights Square" is the location where the main events of the festival is held. It is just a few steps from the main street of Sengen-dori. Here is where a stage is set up for various kinds of performances - band, traditional dance, karaoke, choir groups, etc. Along the small street that leads to the main stage, there were lanterns hanging along the lamp posts, bearing the names of the sponsors for this festival. Although all these hanging lanterns were hand-made as there was no budget for it, it still created a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere in an autumn night.

Any festivals in Japan will never be complete without the food stalls. At Akari Hiroba, there are several stalls selling local food. The food are nothing special, just the normal ones like takoyaki, yakisoba, yakitori, taiyaki, karaage, and ramen.

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The narrow street that leads to the main stage.

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The temporary wooden panel to display the list of sponsors of the festival.

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Looking at this small lamps somehow reminds me of Wesak Day.

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Everyone can write down their wishes on the paper cups and place it on the shelves. Here, the wishes were for good health and to pass exams with flying colours.

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It reads "Love Inage" (LOVE 稲毛).

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This festival even attracted a sheep all the way from New Zealand haha!

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Local food and snacks like dango and onigiri.

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Takoyaki and taiyaki.

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Japanese satay, yakitori and beer.

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The number of people who came to the festival was much more than I thought earlier.

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Besides food, there were stalls for kids to play some games too. Anyone has any idea what's the name of the two characters on top of Pikachu?

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Prizes were simple stuff like toys and snacks.

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I don't think this is Paul the Octopus haha!

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The paper lanterns from the top.

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This guy was not bad and the crowd certainly loved it a lot. They named their band "Inage Old Man Band and Dancers" (稲毛オヤジバンド & ダンサース) haha!

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A Spanish dance group - Bonitaz (ボニータス) who gave a flamenco performance. 

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Though they are not that young anymore, their performances was top notch.

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The group leader giving a few words to the crowd after completing their dances.

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This Chinese restaurant took the opportunity to set up a stall outside their restaurant as well.

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Rows of lanterns made of bamboo leading to the Nihonmatsu-benzaiten (二本松弁財天), a small shrine for the God of Wealth.

Another main spot of this festival was the Inage Sengen Shrine, which is just about ten-minute walk from the main stage. In conjunction of Inage Akari Matsuri, there was a special kagura performance called "Jyuniza-kagura" (十二座神楽) or "12 Zodiac Kagura" on the Kagura stage. It is performed five times a year.

This kagura was first introduced to the local people more than 500 years ago. Originated from Kyushu, it was brought to this area in 1504 and was in listed as one of Chiba prefecture's cultural heritage in 1962.

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The road leading to Inage Sengen Shrine.

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The main gate to the shrine. It was believed that during the olden days, worshipers sitting in boats would go pass this gate to visit the shrine.

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Took a photo by the magnificent bamboo lanterns at the entrance of the shrine.

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The shrine is on the top of a hill, so one has to walk up the slope before reaching the main shrine.

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The main shrine hall of Inage Sengen Shrine.

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Kagura performance on the stage.

It was not my first time watching the kagura performance, so I just stayed there for a while before there were other interesting events going on along the Sengen-dori and the main stage. After spending some good short time there, I left the shrine and returned to the main area.

Besides the areas I visited, there were still a few places where the illuminations were held, including Inage Community Centre (稲毛公民館) and Inage Park (稲毛公園). Unfortunately, I missed out on those places. I will make it a point to visit those places next year.

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In total, there were approximately 6,000 paper lanterns and another 500 lanterns were made of bamboos that decorated the area at this festival.

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Tokyo Tower and train, something very common to Japan.

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There was a Yosakoi Soran (よさこいソーラン) dance performance by team "Let's Mihama Yume" (Let's 美浜 - 夢).

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Despite having to perform in a limited space along the narrow street, it didn't stop the team from giving an energetic performance in front of the crowd.

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Yotoboshi-ane-san also joined them dancing haha!

The festival ended around eight in the evening. It started to drizzle towards the end of the event, but fortunately for everyone, the rain wasn't heavy and the event ended without any major problems. In all, it was a wonderful and interesting festival that I enjoyed it a lot. Looking forward to it again in one year's time!

But for Yotoboshi-ane-san, I guess she has to prepare an umbrella for herself next time.

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Someone lend her an umbrella so that she won't get wet haha!

I am starting to fall in love with Inage.

19 comments:

death said...

taiyaki???why does it sounds like err i dunno...tai*??? LOL!!!
anyway nice entry the festival is beautiful i hope i can go 1 day..
why they put lantern in the road what if all the lantern got hit by a car??? but if that happens make sure take a picture >:D

calvin said...

@ death:
literally "taiyaki" means "baked sea beam" and is written as 鯛焼き. "tai" (鯛) refers to sea beam, while "yaki" (焼き) means baked. so, it is not that thing that you were thinking haha!

the road is closed to vehicles for a certain period of time during the festival, so there isn't a problem about cars hitting the lanterns on the road =)

D-T said...

hehehe... any rewards for guessing correctly what the 2 character above pikachu?? :P それはオバケのQ太郎です. and the other on should be dorompa ... wow this cartoon is a classic. U recognise it? Its not even ur generation's cartoon leh... hahahha :)

D-T said...

watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVSGpeibFfA&feature=related

calvin said...

@ d-t:
wow, you are really good!
and do you speak japanese? 'coz i see you can even write in japanese as well. i have nothing but to say here that i am really impressed!

i think have seen them before, but never know what are they called >.< and you're right. from a quick look-out, i found out that this anime has been around many years before i was even born!

thanks a lot for the info. i guess i owe you a meal =)

mg said...

wats dango. pretty impressive pics from LX5?? :)

mg said...

wats dango. pretty impressive pics from LX5?? :)

D-T said...

nah.. i am not tat good lah... just that when i saw ur pic... i somehow recall seeing it before...the hongkong's cantonese dubbed version. remember the name has a "Q" in it. Did a google about it and found it lor.

My japanese still very basic. Currently enrolled at the local Japanese Society for a beginner' course. Learned to read the hiragana and katakana. But still dun quite understand the words. I find it funny being able to read but not knowing wat is the meaning of the words.

Hoping to revisit japan some day :)

calvin said...

@ mg:
dango? it's a kind of japanese dumpling made of rice flour and quite similar to mochi. i bet you will love it :P

hmmm, i think the photo's quality is not bad. what do you think?

calvin said...

@ d-t:
wow! you even googled for it! it's my pleasure to have a reader like you =)

haha, don't worry. i was like you at one time as well. don't give up and good luck! がんばってください!

i guess now is not the best time to visit japan, as the exchange rate doesn't favour malaysians with ringgit. maybe a little while more >.<

D-T said...

thanks for the encouragement. :)
Yes, the exchange rate very high. But if u continue asking questions in ur blog and I continue answering them correctly .... just maybe i can get u to sponsor all my meals in Japan to save money... hahahahah!!!
now oredi got 3 meals .... :D
kekekekke!!!

calvin said...

@ d-t:
perhaps by the time we finally get to see each other, you are able to talk to me in japanese =D

haha! good thing you reminded me about that because as far as i remember, you have gotten quite a few free meals from me. three so far, was it?

i guess i have to either stop asking questions, or make my questions harder to answer =P

D-T said...

hahahah... well if u make ur questions harder to answer, does it mean the value of the meal rewards will increase in tandem... :P

calvin said...

@ d-t:
hmmm, the value of the meal rewards is not necessary proportional to the level of difficulty of the questions =P

i will make sure the next question will be almost impossible for anyone to get the right answer xD

D-T said...

hahahah!!! getting intimidated? ;) was hoping to get a reward of seafood buffet with free flow of sashimi and tarabagani ... :P nowadays in the age of google.... are there any question which is unanswerable?

calvin said...

@ d-t:
haha! not really felt intimidated, but yeah, a little bit =P
wow, i just learned that tarabagani refers to the red king crab! i bet it shares the same status as kobe beef.

hmmm, i think there are still certain questions where even google will never have the answer. say, what i am thinking at this moment, for example xD

D-T said...

hahaha... most likely u r thinking on how to pawn me wif ur question next time. :P

Haf u tried kobe beef in Japan? Nice? I heard its not as expensive when u get it fresh from the depato and cook urself vs having it at a restaurant which may cost rm300/pc.

calvin said...

@ d-t:
hmm, not really la. i'm such a nice person.
haha! self-syiok mode lol!

errmm, nope. i don't think the quality of the beef at the supermarket is as good as the one you get from the restaurant. hmmm, don't know, just have such feeling ;)

Anonymous said...

Lovely sharp post. Never thought that it was this easy. Extolment to you!.