[Note on this post: This is a joint Tara & Jen effort, since Jen got the photos posted and started the post but ran out of time, so Tara is finishing it up and posting.] This weekend we went down to join Vida for shrine-gazing and merriment! There was a massive shoulder-shrine parade at Yokosuka base with hordes of cheering crowds.
It was amazing–beautiful weather, great shrine-carrying teams, and of course good company.
We also noticed quite a few more participating munchkins in this parade [tara wonders if mikoshi parades on an american base are a good opportunity for training munchkins with little chance of embarrassment since we can’t tell the difference anyway!] — they blew whistles, banged drums, led cheers, and eventually zonked out on Dad.
Many of the costumes were also a lot of fun. The hats to the right were worn both by the troup of girls with painted faces, and also by the pack of old men behind them.
One of the more alarming things about these parades for westerners is the tendency for men to wear really short robes and thongs only. Some of them wear pants, but for the normally demure Japanese to wander around with their rear ends hanging out seems… odd.
There’s a bit of a kid theme to this gallery, but you couldn’t have resisted them any more than I could. 🙂
We tried to cheer/clap for the mikoshis that looked like they were reaching the end of their energy, and to encourage the kids. The only problem with showing too much support is that they get excited and grab Jen to help carry the mikoshi. Jen’s about the right size, but Tara’s usually safe because she would tip the Mikoshi since she’s so tall.
The base has its own Mikoshi, but there were a lot more Americans carrying it, and they all looked pretty bushed. The Japanese maritime Defense Forces (at right) were also looking pretty exhausted, and their mikoshi was weaving back and forth like a drunken salaryman.
There are also a lot of drum players in the parades. Some of them get to ride in little trucks in the shade, but this little fellow was banging away as he walked. Many of the drummers were kids, the older ones teaching the young ones as they went.
There was one really good taiko team that was bouncing their truck up and down with their energy. They were a lot of fun, but very loud!
Among the other odd mikoshis, there was one that had porn (classic, painted porn, but still porn0 painted on the side. That was a bit of a surprise.
There are also the Japanese equivalent of clowns that wander along with the mikoshis and drums.
This fellow was one of those… note the short robe, as mentioned earlier. I don’t know exactly what that mask is about, but a lot of the “clowns” had them. They strike poses, try and get people clapping, and play with the kids.
You get used to the odd antics, the short robes, and clapping along with the mikoshis, but there are some things that are just wrong…
Take, for example, having some guy shake his… bells at us.
Potentially the only people more weirded out than us was the little american boy in the next family over who looked simultaneously horrified and bored. Vida, Vicky, Jen, and Tara agreed that even the Japanese must find this guy a little weird… we hope.
I mean, the short robes must be nice and cool in the warm weather, but butt-bells?
Anyway, moving on from our scarring, scarring experience…
This character was another dancer/clown/character wandering down the parade. He was approaching and biting all the kids on the head, which I suspect must be some sort of blessing. Most of the kids were cool with it — some looked a little weirded out, and a couple got quite scared and screamed.
One of the other things going on was that the local Japanese population all streamed onto the base in numbers (they’re not usually permitted on without an escort) with little apparent interest in the parade, instead they all wanted American pizza. A LOT of pizza. They’d buy 6 large boxes of pizza, tie them up in one of their fabric bag thingys, and carry them home. The pizza-stand was a mad-house.
Many of the kids (mostly Americans) were running around crazy, but it takes a long time to finish the parade, and a bunch of them also crashed, particularly the Japanese kids who’d been helping with the parade.
Some of the parents in attendance were doing double-duty carrying their mikoshis and their kids, others were marching along in their costumes with passed out munchkins draped all over them.
Mostly kids pulled drum-carts rather than carrying mikoshis, although some of them had their own small mikoshis.
Other kids put their back into things… even when the parade had paused for a moment. “Why aren’t you guys pushing? This is heavy!”
There were a bunch of kiddie-sized mikoshis (like the one at left), which look like they’re about the right weight for us… 😉
The array of jackets on display is also impressive. And fortunately for us, these types of jackets appear to be one of the few things that regularly comes big enough for foreigners to wear.
Some teams have real uniforms, while other wear certain colors, or all have various coats with certain symbols on them. Some of the big teams have a whole crowd of alternates who switch in when the mikoshi carriers get tired, while other are less well supported, and start to look pretty haggard by the end. On the other hand, the really popular mikoshis tend to be bigger and heavier as well…