No matter where in Japan you go, there always seems to be some festival or another going on. They vary in size from gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people to the smallest of local events, and not one of them is alike; except that they are all a marvel to watch.
But have you ever considered taking part in one? Many festival participants are restricted by organisation, however some, such as the Katayama Hachiman Jinja Grand Festival in Nagoya, actively seek out all willing participants.
The Grand Festival takes place annually in Higashi-ku (near Ozone). This year’s festival and parade takes place on October 26 and they are looking for 150 males and 80 females to take part.; but, be warned, participation is no light undertaking.
The 4km parade passes Ozone Station and Tokugawa Koen, as well as many other local areas, and takes 4 hours to complete. One kilometer an hour, you’re thinking? That doesn’t sound too grueling. However, it is not the distance nor the pace that is the challenge, but the large mikoshi (portable shrine) that you are burdened with. No, this is no cake walk.
But then neither is it the brutal chill of February’s Hadaka Matsuri naked festival nor the mortal danger of the Suwa Onbashira log riding festival. In fact, people of all ages take part, however it is recommended that you are in relatively good shape, as lugging the shrine around can be pretty tiring work.
So, how do you take part? Well, you can either contact the shrine directly, or if you want to huddle in the safety of other foreigners, you can contact the excellent Kikuko-nagoya.com website (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tag along with them. If you do the latter, they will be meeting at the shrine at 11am, where you will be provided with a hanten Japanese jacket and festival pants called patchi. A shinto ritual will be performed at 12:30, and then off you go.
If you are worried about being on your feet for all that time, you will be relieved to hear that there is an hour break at OZ mall at 14:30 for water, a bite to eat and (if other such festivals are a good judge) a glass of sake or two.
So, what do you say? Do you want to take part? If so, it is advisable to make contact quickly as the deadline is October 20 2014 ( or until full ). Japanese traditional events are always a spectacle to watch. From the inside, they really are something else.
By Mark Guthrie
Image: Wikipedia "Mikoshi1" by Jmills74 (CC BY-SA 3.0) – Modified