Say the word Matsuri, and I will smile. Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival.
It is a time when humans thank and pray to the resident deities (known as kami) of Japan.
This is not typically a Buddhist festival (though there are a few that
|The most common matsuri are the spring and autumn rice festivals. Rice is
still the national food, and the kami of rice is the kami of fertility, so it's an
The kami is invited to inhabit a portable shrine, called a mikoshi. This mikoshi is paraded around town, to spread the power of the kami. The kami loves a good time, so this is not a stately procession. It's a noisy, boisterous celebration marked by a healthy blend of chanting, yelling, sweating, drinking, and flirting (remember, this is also a fertility festival).
On the night that I returned from climbing Mt. Fuji, I stumbled on the
Tachikawa Matsuri. An older man insisted on dragging me and my burning, aching calves into
I carried as long as I could, at least 30 or 40 seconds, and then backed
out. No way, he took me to another mikoshi, then another, then a final one. He listened to
me describe the pain in my legs from climbing Mt. Fuji, then nodded and ran off. I thought
I scared him away.
I slept well that night.
Matsuri are never boring. We probably attended a couple dozen. Some are wild, with fighting shrines. Some are stately with hundred year old carts displaying silk cloth. Some are at night, some at day. Some involve fire or water, depending on the gods involved. The procession can have drummers, musicians, dancers, and priests, so there are a lot of photo opportunities.
I can happily report that this is not a dying tradition. While many things change in Japan, I cannot picture the day when matsuri are not an important part of Japanese life.