Kunchi

Today was rather entertaining.. It all began around Noon o'clock when Brian and I arrived at the nagasaki station to meet up with the other americans for a fun filled day of kunchi. Once we met up with everyone, we took off to the Suwa Shrine, exactly where brian and i were last night. Most everyone took the train, but that was far too good for us. The gods gave us these fancy walking legs for a reason. Several people followed us and we made way to the Suwa Shrine. We took a little short cut, and came across a convience store.

"This would be the start of a most beautiful day," i thought as we all piled into the convience store and picked up some more Beer. Whooo hooo, 2 more stickers closer to that TV watch. We regrouped outside, and continued to the top of the suwa shrine where we met up with everyone. There was a liquor store right outside the shrine where most of the students bought some provisions. As Brian, Morgan and I finished up the booze we had purchased 10 minutes prior, we began to ponder.. "hmmmm... let's access the situation. the plan is to stand in line for the next 3 hours to get free tickets into this thing and we just finished up our beers.. uh... HOLY CRAP. festival stuff"

and there they go. These are the monks of the temple, bringing the money offering chests down from the Suwa Shrine, continuing through the city and arriving at the harbor. Following them would be the 3 shrines of the gods, brought from the Suwa Shrine to the harbor. During kunchi, festival it is said that the gods are confused and cannot find their way back to the temple. Therefore those who are clensed must bring the shrines down to the harbor in an open area for the gods to find their way back to the temple easier.. The shrines will stay at the harbor for two days, and then brought back to the temple.

I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit, because i have pictures of that... First off, Morgan, Brian and I figured that we should just stop thinking about running back to the convience store to get booze and just fricken do it. We broke away from the pack, and got our asses to the convience store. I pick up another 3 beers, and added the stickers to my card. Whooo... now i have 7 or so stickers. It seems we weren't the only ones that thought alcohol was a great idea at 1pm.

This monk picked up some tall boys, while Morgan and Brian decided to be a bit more creative with their drinking. The both bought 2 liters of orange juice and some cheap $5 vodka. I finished off one beer pretty quick, and we dashed back to the top of the Shrine.

We got inside the open area and began to wait for the clensed souls to carry the 3 portable shrines down from the shrine and on-way to the harbor. Everyone was quite impressed with the ingenuity of Brian and Morgan, as i finished off my second beer. "Whoooo... kunchi festival," i said celebrating the day. "Hey, here comes the shrine guys.. Imma gettin' a closer look." I stumbled down the steps all the way to the front, to snap a couple of pics:

Everyone took off after the shrines as they were transported down the long staircase to the streets below. Now, rather than following the shrines all the way to the harbor, we were to stand in line in the shrine area, itself, to nab ourselves some free tickets for the kunchi show. After running after the shrines, everyone sort of left me and went to the line, so i had to play a little catch up. I climbed back into the stands, and went back to where we had entered. Empty.. ok. They weren't that far way though, they were just up the street and around the corner in line. It was pretty easy to find actually.

Oh yeah, baby. Nearly front of the line. We are totally going to get free tickets. As i got to my place in line, Brian handed me my third beer which i had left where i was sitting earlier. "Whoo hoo... let's all get drunk in the hot hot sun," i suggested. Since we weren't going anywhere, the other students had already caught on this idea. Alex started working on his 6 pack, and others began working on their beers too. Wheee.. It just so happens that quite a bit of people were drinking their delicious Asahi, so i was able to fill in some more stickers on my Beer card. Oh man... we've hardly seen anything and kunchi festival already kicks ass.

A whole lot of line sitting.. I took a panoramic to commemorate the day: whee

"Alright! The line is beginning to move.. now the simple task of standing up... I .. uh... whooooaaa... yeah, i'm good." In case you're wondering, Beer is a bit more alcoholic in japan. Even the cheap stuff. So 5 beers is a pretty good investment for some entertainment. Especially the big cans, which i had purchased.

"Yosh!.. now we've got our free tickets and get to sit down on the steps." ugh... These are solid stone steps, and they stuffed in as many people as possible. My ass did not appreciate the rock hard surface that it's soft gluttoness cheeks had to be placed upon. The event was to begin around 4pm, and we sat down around 3pm. I took some more panoramic shots as the stands began to fill with more and more people: one and two. Wheee...

I got Five an extra ticket, so he joined us as soon as he could. Around 4pm the event began. I took about 300 pictures of the actual kunchi, but each, in itself, was rather boring. It was the same view, from the same spot, far away. You can't see any detail, nor anything really compelling. So.. instead of maticulously going through the photos to pick out the best ones, i decided, there and then, to combine them all into an Animated gif. Perhaps 300 bad pictures could produce something rather remarkable. So here it is:

Kunchi Festival 2006 (11.6 mb)

This takes place over 3 hours beginning at 4pm. It consists of all 6 acts of the kunchi festival; however, the first couple are a little nerfed because i got REALLY tired of dragging and positioning all these photos half-way through. The ending acts are better anyways..

Each act begins with the kasaboko, an umbrella-like portable shrine in which a single person carries and spins it around. They do switch out the people, so it's not the same guy. The quality of this performance is measured by the height of the kasaboko, and amount of spins the person can do. This part is rather boring since it's just a guy spinning around in circles. After each performance, the crowd yells out, "motekoi! motekoi!" or... "one more time! one more time!" it's an encore, though it's really annoying. Why would you want to see the same thing get spun around again? It's boring, get on with something else.

The first performance was a song and dance routine. It had geisha... I don't really remember much else. Right before this dance routine, several ushers began throwing bandanas in the crowd. Duuuude. Bandanas! We were so high up though, there's no way one of those old guys could get it to me. Sigh...

The next neighborhood's routine was a bit more entertaining. After their kasaboko spun around and got off stage, the neighbor men wheeled out a gigantic ship in which children played music while riding. The routine seemed to tell the story of a fisherman out at sea catching fish rather successfully. Each of neighborhoodsmen wore their specially designed kimonos which represented waves in the ocean. It's rather beautiful if you look close enough. The movement of the men moving the ship represent waves crashing against it and moving it about the ocean. After the child caught his fish, it was time for the 'waves' to do there thing... but first, the usher's began throwing bandanas into the crowd again. This time there was an usher right next to us. Duuude. I tried to grab one, but alas, None were thrown to me.

Anywho... the 'waves' moved around the boat a couple times, then were called back. Moved the ship around, called back, moved ship, called back, moved ship, and finally left. Wheee... spinning a ship is so cool.

The next neighborhood's routine was probably my favorite of the night. This is the dance of the foreignors. Once again! Before the dance began, the ushers began throwing out bandanas. The first throw went right into Morgan and Five, so they scooped some up rather easily. I, once again, missed out. "This is going to take drastic measures," i thought. "i'm totally going to get a banner before the day is done."

Anyways, those townspeople dressed as chinese began doing a chinese dance. It was very syncronized and flowed quite well. The real amazing part of the show were the two solitary dutchmen. This is now as the dutchmen clown dance, and was developed while the japanese were fascinated by the westerners weird ways. They thought they looked like clowns in their weird outfits and crazy customs. Even though this dance really rips of the dutch, the dutch see it as a sign of admiration and honor.

The next neighborhood did another song and spin the ship routine. This time i totally eyeballed the usher on his way down to sit next to us. I was TOTALLY going to get a bandana this time. All the townspeople came out and bowed, then performers began singing. The usher got up and began throwing out bandanas.. "OOOOIIIIII!!!!" i yelled. "OOOIIII!!!!!" as loud and annoyingly as i could. Kyle and Five could not help but burst into laughter at my over the top attention getter. However, it was totally ineffective. The bastard didn't even throw anything near me. ugh....

The neighborhood spun around their ship as the sunset. "mottekoi!.. mottekoi!" again and again and again and again...

The next neighborhood would performance a song and dance rountine that hadn't been performed in the last 41 years. Come to think of it, the last time it was performed was the last year that an emperor to the thrown had been born. I was wonder if that's significant... Anywho, once again, i totally eye-balled the usher coming down the aisle with a new basket full of bandanas. By now, Five had taken a look at his bandana. Each bandana had been a specific bandana for the performance about to be given. Five and Morgan both got the Dutchmen dance bandana.

Once the townspeople bowed and presented themselves, the bandanas flew.. "OOOOIIIIII!!!!! DAMMIT! OOOOIIIII!!!! OVER HERE!". Five and Kyle cracked up again, but i wasn't laughing. A spray of bandanas flew past me quite out of grasp. "FUCK!!... well whatever. There's one dance left, and it's the most significant out of them all. By every fiber in my being, i was get that fucker's attention and cletch victoly.. VICTOLY!!!" Anyways, i really don't even remember this dance, so i guess there was a reason it hadn't been done in the past 41 years. Though, that didn't stop the audience from yelling out that lovable phrase, "motekoi! motekoi!"

Once, they retreated down the steps of Suwa Shrine it was time for the fated hour: the whale dance. Their kasaboko came out into the open spinning around. The same kasaboko i had seen early in the week on Tuesday. It was rather beautiful in the lit up realm of the shrine basen. There he is... There's that usher. My eyes was dead set on the usher to my right. I paid close attention to his every move, and bid my time for him to rise and begin chucking the bandanas into the audience.

Once the kasaboko retreated down the steps, the townspeople brought out several transporting boats representing a starving village. The history of the whale dance is that a starving town would prey to the gods to bring them food. Everyday they would set up fishing, but would catch nothing. Enividably, they would put all there resources into hunting down a whale that would feed their villages for the entire winter. Something like that, anyways... The little kid yelled out his chant, as the townspeople recanted the phrase with a booming sound. It was quite powerful. The song had ended, and the ships began to vacate the arena. That's right usher, i've got my eye on you. The first sign of movement, and you know exactly what you're going to hear. The townspeople bring out the whale to spin around, and usher began his stand.

"OOoOOOOOOOIiIIiIII!!!!! DAMMIT!" i screamed as to cletch my hands on a whale bandana. Come to think of it, my little story here is somewhat similar to the town's story. All they need is that whale to feed their town and they would be full of riches, though the whale is elusive. It's difficult to catch and even more difficult to keep. "OOOOOoOOOOOIIIII!!! Throw some of those things over heeerreeeeyyaaaa!!!" An opportunity, a spray of bandana went aloft over our pearched seats. I saw the fabled bandana drift through the sky across the people and within my grasp.. I extended my arm and.....

YOINK! fuck yeah! I plucked the spinning shimmering bandana from the sky and closed my hand tight. Oh yeah baby.. cubs win! cubs win! Truthfully, i think it was drifting toward a little kid, but screw that. This was destiny. The destiny of a very tall guy who could reach over everyone else and grab something floating in the sky. Such as it is. Another such bandana went directly to Kyle, sitting right next to me.

I think Ryan got one of these bandanas too. Anywho, with the tossing of the bandanas complete, it was time to watch the dance of the whale. The dance was special because our very own history professor, Seb, was the first non-japanese person ever to take part in the kunchi festival. He married into this neighbor, and since has become a shinning icon of cultural sharing, understanding, and prosperity. So many others not part of Nagasaki had been pushed away from and shunned from taking part in the festival, but Seb is such a master of the japanese culture.. he is the chosen one.

But yes, they spun around the whale a couple times. The whale is also unique, as inside, two men pump water from the whale into the sky. It's a real eye catcher compared to the ships which don't really have moving parts. Off to the side, was the whale's boats though with children playing the song of the whale. Encore, after encore, after encore, after encore, the whale spun itself around and shot water into the sky.

I was rather impressed by the festival. I thought it was pretty neat to see such an old tradition continue today was such an awesome amount of support from the entire Nagasaki city. Once the whale exited, everyone got up and began to leave. Five, Kyle and I ventured to the shrine area to look around. The actually shrine area was quite empty without the 3 shrines..

We had already lost everyone else at this point, so Five recommended we check out this restaurant of his in Hananomachi. "Sure sounds good. After a kick ass day of festivals, boozing, bandanas, and rudely yelling my head off, i'm quite hungry."

In Hananomachi, we came across one of the ships from the kunchi festival that was giving respect to those businesses that had supported it throughout training, niwamise, and everything really..

"Whoooo... i'm hungry." The restaurant Five brought us to was extremely quaint. It was a very small two story area, with a bar downstairs and seating upstairs. The speciality of this restaurant is Gyooza, which is alot like a pot-sticker. We had 6 orders of Gyooza, and 2 orders of this egg stuff, i forgot the name. The gyooza was pretty tasty, though i don't really think they constitute as a meal. It kinda reminds me of eating a bag of Doritos for dinner. The egg stuff was also pretty good, but equally non-filling. To be fair, it was about 9pm, and i hadn't eaten all day, so nothing of this magnitude would really fill me up.

I should really buy some eggs and vegetables and make something delicious too. This restaurant also needed to leave a picture of water at the table so we could actually quench our thirst, rather than build it. Luckily, we did leave about the same time a whole rush of people entered.

We stopped off at a convience store to grab some drinks. I picked up another beer since it's cheaper than anything else, really. Huzzah! Sticker #18 I'm halfway to my TV Watch... whee!

That was pretty much the end to an awesome day of kunchi. Bandana bitches! I played a quick game of DDR at taito on the way home to discover that they changed the amount of songs from 3 to 4 for 100 yen.




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