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Monday, May 08, 2006

Suijin Matsuri


Suijin matsuri - the portable shrines are carried down to the river to the accompaniment of traditional music
Living on the largest river in west Japan, the Gounokawa, its not surprising that Suijin, the water God features a lot. Today was Suijin Matsuri. Following a ceremony in the neighborhood shrine, the local men carried the mikoshi (portable shrine) to the accompaniment of flute and drum.

Suijin matsuri - the mikoshi are placed on boatsInstead of parading the mikoshi around the village as is normal in most Matsuri, it was taken down to a boat waiting at the river's edge. One boat carried the mikoshi, the musicians, three priests, three boatmen and myself, while a second boat carried a group of young men and several ceremonial bamboo, gohei (a ritual wand) and sakaki (Cleyera japonica) branches.

Suijin matsuri - carp streamers are strung across the river The 2 boats headed slowly against the current to a spot upriver where 100 Koinobori are strung across the river from a high cliff to the other bank. Protruding over the river from the top of the cliff was a 10 meter length of bamboo with a huge gohei at its tip.

Suijin matsuri - a shinto priest reads prayers
While the young men clambered about replacing last year's ceremonial offerings with this years new ones, the three priests conducted another ceremony and read prayers to the kami (gods). Afterwards we all partook of the o-miki, the sake that had been offered to the kami.

Suijin matsuri - the mikoshi are floated on traditional boats
We headed back to our starting point and from there the mikoshi was carried on foot to a point on the main tributary, the Yatogawa, where the procedure was repeated. Until the rivers were dammed, the mikoshi would go all the way by water, but now the river level is too low for navigation.

Japanese festivals in May

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