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Monday, August 21, 2006

The end of Matsuri season


river boat rides For my final blog on the delights of rural summer matsuris I visited 2 daytime events on the Gonokawa River.

About 5 miles downstream from my village is the village of Matsukawa, and their Matsuri is held on the rocky beach of the river.

There is a stage for Kagura, Yosakoi, Taiko, etc, and lots of awnings to sit in the shade and eat and drink, but most activities take place in or on the water. There are kayak lessons for the kids, and a water slide has been built, but one of the most popular attractions is the free rides on the river boats. These long, narrow boats are used by locals to fish the river for Ayu (sweetfish). shrimp, and crabs.

catching sweetfish Far and away the most popular event though is fish catching. Every matsuri will have a stall where you can catch miniature goldfish with a scoop and take them home in a plastic bag.

Here they take the fish catching a little more seriously. You take off your shoes and socks and climb into a pool and catch the fish with your bare hands. Its not little goldfish, either, but eating-size Ayu.

grilling sweetfish Located conveniently nearby were half a dozen BBQ grills. The ayu needs no preparation, just plop em on the grill for a while then eat the whole thing.

Dragonboat racing Next day I headed downstream to the mouth of the river in Gotsu where the annual Dragon Boat races were being held.

Dragon boats were introduced into Japan from Okinawa, who got them from the Chinese. They are not sleek, fast boats like canoes, being more like steel bathtubs.

I took part in the race last year, and my arms hurt for a week afterwards. No way would I do it again.

This year there was a strong onshore wind, so the race distance was reduced. Still it took most of the day to run the various heats and finals.

That evening there was a big matsuri held on the banks of the river, topped off with the obligatory firework display.

Dragonboat racing

Buy organic gree tea grown on the banks of the Gonokawa

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