Masako Terahara, Heejun Kim, Benjamin Taylor, Sean Kelly, Michelle Macau
September 14, 2008... The ETC-JP team made its way to Kishiwada, a city south of Osaka and joined thousands of spectators from all over Japan who came to view the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri Festival.
Described as the “running of the bulls” except with portable shrines (danjiri), the 300 year-old festival began as a spiritual time to pray for an abundant harvest. The 34 shrines or floats, from individual neighborhood guilds, are hand carved by local carpenters, and weigh upwards of 4 tons. They are paraded through the town of Kishiwada for two full days in mid-September.
Not motorized in any way, each shrine is pulled by long ropes by 500 to 1000 citizens of Kishiwada. Men, women and children of all ages join in this celebration. Working both front and rear levers in unison, the danjiri teams literally skid their heavy floats around each street corner…done quickly to the beat of drums and shouts of the pulling team, corner turning is one of the most dramatic elements of the festival.
The excitement was made all too clear when in the late afternoon, one of the floats turned a corner and, right before us, several people stumbled. Quickly, the danjiri team working together pulled on the ropes and was able to slow down and control the heavy shrine. Meanwhile, those who stumbled were assisted by other team members and the tragedy was happily avoided.
The ETC'ers, escorted by Japanese language sensei, Masako Terahara, also had the opportunity to visit the Kishiwada castle and try on happi coats at a nearby second hand kimono shop.
- Michelle Macau