asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Hana Matsuri 30 December, 2009

Filed under: customs — johnraff @ 1:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday we got a postcard from a village in Toei Cho in the mountains of Aichi prefecture – the same prefecture as Nagoya but a completely different world. That region is known for the Hana matsuri (“flower festival”) held around this time of year and which seems to be a sort of fertility rite to encourage the return of the warm weather (not to be confused with Buddha’s birthday, in April). That postcard was to remind us of our visit in 2004, in case we wanted to go back I suppose. It’s tempting… anyway, here’s a bit from a letter I sent home that year:

This January we went to the Hana Matsuri in a place called ToEiCho a
couple of hours drive from here. It’s still in Aichi Prefecture, but in the
Northeast corner and quite isolated in the mountains. The Hana Matsuri takes
place in a number of villages in the area from late November to sometime in
March, depending on the village. In the 28 years I’ve been here I’ve been to
this festival 3 or 4 times, and it really is quite special. Because the
place is so isolated the ceremonies have been preserved much more completely
than in most other places, it runs continually for about 36 hours, there are
some impressive devil masks worn by the dancers, and the beliefs behind it
are really interesting if you’re an ethnologist. Of course it’s now a
“National Treasure” and well supplied with photographers, not to mention TV
cameras, but it still has a special atmosphere, especially if you pick one
of the smaller villages as we did. At 4 in the morning, freezing cold,
watching two huge devils dancing by the light of a couple of pinewood
torches, Japan feels like a pretty exotic place after all…

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