Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Last Sunday a festival was held in Kami-jo, the section of Otaki where I live. For those involved festivities began the day before with a drinking party after we had made preparations.

Many events in Otaki are followed, inevitably, by drink and food. I met with the mayor of the village when I first moved here, and he asked, "do you like alcohol?" My answer came back in the affirmative, and he remarked, "ah, then you'll be OK here."

On Sunday festivities began at 11:00. Various food both lined the street in front of the Kami-jo community center. There was barbecued fish on skewers, steak, stew, fried squid, doughy balls with bits of octopus in the center, fried noodles, a ring toss for the kids, and of course beer. It was a miniaturized version of festivals that occur all over Japan. The difference being that most food stalls at bigger festivals are run by yakuza--Japanese mobsters. I like the local community version better.

The wife and I both volunteered to work at the fried noodles booth, called yaki-soba 焼きそば in Japanese. I've made yaki-soba at home, but this was a bit different. I was thinking "no problem" as O-san talked me through the process, but when I took a break for beer, I found my hands shaky and hard to control.

Beer. . .the cups kept coming as we continued to cook. Bits of food followed soon--samplings from the other food booths--all delicious.

We wrapped up the food at about 1:30 PM and had time for a nap before the festival moved to the local shrine for a prayer ceremony. Two priests in traditional garb led the prayers and local leaders, including the mayor, made their introductions to the god of the shrine and presented sakaki branches.

After the doors of the shrine's kamidana 神棚 (altar, or literally: shelf of gods) were closed, those who had participated in the prayers moved to the edge of the shrine area and threw rice cakes (mochi) to the crowd.

Back down the hill and to the community center. . .the drinking party was next. Our first toast was made with omiki お神酒--sacred sake blessed at the shrine. Soon we were on to beer. . .and, of course, plenty of food. I was given an opportunity to introduce myself, and took a chance to sing a song on the karaoke machine (this was much later in the evening).

the night ended after a "2nd party" at the house of the section chief--more beer. . .and more food.

Going back to the section chief's house tomorrow. . .for my first interview.

1 comment:

kelli alicia said...

those are some very dapper looking karaoke clothes, my friend. I hope you sang "Coming to America."