Tuesday, October 11, 2011

danjiri matsuri

Danjiri matsuri (wooden cart festival) is one of the more famous festivals in Osaka.

This is held in Kishiwada city to be exact.

The more famous festival for this city was held in September (actually during the time we went to France). October's festival is not as popular, it is held on the outskirts of Kishiwada city and in my opinion, still very festive.

We left our house at 7-ish and got to Higashi-Kishiwada at about 9-ish.

When we arrived, a danjiri (wooden cart) was being taken to the neighborhood shrine for a prayer and blessing.

Most of the danjiri are very decorative and ornate with intricately carved deity figures and is in the shape of a shrine.

Many neighborhoods participate in this festival with danjiri representing their area.

There is one person who stands atop the danjiri, he is called "daiku-kata", and he jumps from side to side on the roof of the danjiri as the danjiri is moving.

One thing you will notice is that only men are atop the danjiri and some play the taiko drum, wooden flute and gong. Usually the higher ranking men of the neighborhood are standing on the front of the danjiri. While at the back of the danjiri, more men are there cheering on the runners/pullers.

I think the men on the sides of the danjiri are there to even the weight distribution, so that the danjiri will not topple over on a turn.

Like with most Japanese festivals, women are forbidden to participate and this one is no different, they are not allowed to stand on or touch the danjiri.

Though many young children (including girls) are allowed to pull the danjiri.

One story of how this festival started was an elite asked the lower class people to do something entertaining for him. This danjiri pulling is what they came up with.

Nowadays, I think the festival is held in hopes of a good harvest for the year.

The whole danjiri including the wheels and "brakes" are made of wood. (I think the only part that is metal is the axle.)

I say "brakes" because there is a huge wooden rod that is shoved at the wheel to make the danjiri stop, kinda like a huge go-cart.

There are no gears to make the wheels turn left or right, the whole thing has to be pulled with a great force and literally dragged on a turn.

This makes pulling the danjiri very dangerous, because the only control is handled by the runners in combination with the "brakes".

I got first hand while taking photos, of how the danjiri can go out of control, and had one of the runners fly into me...luckily neither of us got hurt. (top mosaic:bottom left photo)

Many of the electric poles and corners are padded, and any open rain ducts on the side of the roads are filled with sandbags, so that the danjiri nor the runners, will fall in and get stuck or hurt.

Since there was going to be an exhibition of the various neighborhood danjiri at 1-ish, we bought some food and went to hold a place to view the exhibition.

Most of the sidewalk area had been saved by the locals, and at the last minute the place we had chosen was deemed unsafe, so we wiggled our way into the locals area.

Apparently, the locals weren't supposed to be saving seats in the first place, but if one does it then everyone follows suit...sigh.

Actually most of the locals took the shady side of the street and we actually "baked" on the opposite side of the street. Luckily I had brought my sun umbrella.

Then at about 1-ish, we watched as 11 neighborhoods ran and flew through corners with their danjiri. (Apparently the festival in September had 30-something danjiri.)

It was quite exciting to watch. Some had lots of runners and we loved how each neighborhood had their own happi (coats). Many of the girls had intricately braided hair too.

Since the various danjiri were going round and round the block, we decided to leave after about an hour and walked about a mile to check out the Kishiwada castle.

This area is where the September festival is held and the shopping arcade is one of the areas where the danjiri pass.

Most stores in the arcade have balconies so that they can watch the danjiri pass by.

We spoke to one of the shop keepers in the arcade and she said that with the amount of people from outside the city who come to watch danjiri in September, you'll almost never get a seat nor be able to see it up close.

Hearing this, we were glad to be able to see part of the festival without the massive crowds.

It was a long day, we didn't get to experience any of the local foods, but the weather was beautiful, we got a little lot darker, and we got to experience a festival that has been going on for over 300 years.

If you'd like to see a video of a couple of danjiri on their practice runs, click here and or here and here. (NOTE: the last video was a little sketchy, I rotated it using a feature on YouTube so the beginning is sideways but the rest is okay, it shows how narrow a place this danjiri goes!)

Hope you enjoyed this as much as we did.


Rona Y said...

Is that the festival in which many ya**** and baby ya**** (I feel I have to whisper those words, but I can't whisper on the internet!) participate? I didn't get to most (if any) of the festivals in the Osaka or Kobe area, so I missed out on a lot of stuff!

K and S said...

gosh Rona, never came to mind about them...but I know the Minami area of Osaka and parts of Kobe do have them...

Take care.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

I've never been to Danjiri Matsuri before. I used to spend summer in Osaka visiting my grandparents so I've been to many obon festivals there. I really miss Japanese omatsuri and wish my kids experience it very soon... :-)

Japan Australia said...

Looks like a great event and kind of reminds me of the Takayama Float Festival in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture :)

Japan Australia

K and S said...

I hope your kids will get a chance to experience matsuri soon Nami!

I think they do look similar J-A!

Take care you two.

jalna said...

Wow, what a great way to spend a day! Thanks for the explanations. Sooo interesting.

K and S said...

Thanks Jalna, we were happy to be able to get to see this too :)

Take care.

Rowena said...

Okay wait a minute, now I am curious about what Rona is whispering about! So cool you got to see this and glad to hear that you didn't get hurt.

K and S said...

she's whispering about yakuza (japanese mob) Rowena...I'm glad neither of us got hurt either, the other night someone in another part of Osaka got run over by a different "float" type thingy and died :(

Take care.