I went to the Dragon Boat Festival in town last Saturday and it was amazing! Even K said that this year was better than most. The Kagura was excellent. Kagura means “dance of the gods"
where Japanese mortals put on fancy frocks and dance around in that jerking Japanese way to appease the gods, who fortunately do not lament the passing of the disco era.
I have recently learned that the folks in this area are frowned upon by their more urban neighbours because the kimonos are too gaudy and the gestures too bold for the likes of the gods, but the people here seem to think "so what?" and they put off a far more exciting and aesthetic show to the untrained gaijin eye.
Kagura consists of a realm of stories linked together that are supposed to go on all night. Since most people won't stay around that long anymore. most people only know the classic stories.
This year's Kagura boasted the usual fare with princesses, kings, gods, commoners, swordfights and dragon slaying (Kagura's grand finale climaxes with the slaying of one or more intoxicated dragons) but this year's festival broke the rules of Kagura and left the audience applauding at the end (something that doesn't happen much since the invention of the television) .
One group stomped and danced around to an almost jazz style beat. Another group had seven devils walk through the audience to the stage where they engaged in some fighting and another group made a dragon fly above the stage.
One group either invented a new one or found a little known story where some nobles go off drinking with some young cuties under the beautiful autumn leaves only to find out they've been merrymaking with some cross dressers! Now we know where the Kinks got their inspiration for Lola…
And all this entertainment for free! Of course the venue is outdoors but that is part of the fun. They lay out these huge tarps and everyone takes off their shoes and finds a place to sit on the tarp. It can be pretty tedious if you forget where you took off your shoes!
There was also fireworks and dragons boats to look at. The men in traditional "fundoshi" (the kind of wraparound underwear that the sumo giants wear) were rowing their boats around the river. The sails were paper lanterns, which made quite a beautiful sight as the boats lit up the river and fireworks lit up the sky. The fireworks this year were WONDERFUL and at one point they came out of the river?!
I wore a yukata (a kind of summer kimono) for the first time in a long time and was one of about 4 foreigners doing the same.
We ate crushed ice (slushies), and I got a free beer ticket to help keep me cool. There was corn on the cob, squid on a stick, roasted trout, cotton candy, doughnuts, yakisoba (ginger fried noodles in spicy sauce) and lots of yummy snacks to be had. Next time I won't eat dinner before I go.