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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kuromatsu Matsuri

黒松祭り

Listen to music from the Kuromatsu Festival

Kuromatsu matsuri boat

Went to an unusual matsuri on Saturday at Kuromatsu, a small fishing village on the Shimane coast near Gotsu City. The central part of the matsuri is the carrying of the mikoshi (sacred palanquin) around the village. At a normal matsuri the mikoshi leaves the local shrine and circles the community before returning to the shrine. What is unusual at Kuromatsu is that the shrine is split into 2 parts, and the part where the Kami (God) resides is 2 kilometres away on a small uninhabited island.

First, a purpose-built boat carrying the mikoshi, priest, and musicians in happi-coats leave the beach and head to the island to pick up the God.

Kuromatsu matsuri

A small flotilla of boats, decorated with bamboo and brightly colored banners follow along. On the main boat and simultaneously on the beach, musicians keep up the beat.

Kuromatsu matsuri

Once the island is reached, the priest and villagers carrying the mikoshi climb to the island shrine and the priest "calls down" the kami and then carry her back to the boat.

Kuromatsu matsuri

By now dusk had settled in so the boats turned on their lights which had been set up on the boats in patterns of kanji. As we headed back to the beach the matsuri space there lit up with fires and lanterns. It was a magical time, the sea was like a mirror and the pink light of dusk added to the festive atmosphere. Shimane has some beautiful coastline, most of which I have seen from a friend's yacht, but with the lights and music added it was truly other-worldly.

Kuromatsu matsuri

Once we arrived back at the beach and the mikoshi was placed in its spot, the matsuri began in earnest.

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