On Saturday 16th October me and my Japanese and Everyday Life class went to Korea Town in Osaka! But it wasn’t just any trip! We got shown around the workings of Korea town by our AWESOME teacher Prof Hester. Korea town is an area in Osaka City where Korean migrants and descendants of Korean migrants have collected together and created a community. A few years ago it was officially labelled ‘Korea Town’ to attract tourists. There are Korean shops and schools and restaurants and stuff. We saw Korean wedding dresses and Korean popular band shops (which was weird).
The alternative reason for going on the tour was because it was AKI MATSURI! Which means Autumn Festival! A festival the locals hold every year on the 16th October every year. It is a bit of a complicated festival and not one that I’ll even pretend to understand in the fullest.
Aki Matsuri is technically a Japanese festival. So why are the Koreans celebrating a Japanese festival? Well the magical thing is that most ‘Koreans’ are Japanese. Born in Japan and live in Japan after several generations but doe to the government and Japanese mentality they are technically NOT Japanese and are in fact Korean. If you are born of two parents of differing Nationality, then you are that nationality, even if both parents were born in Japan but are of differing Nationality. If one parent is Japanese you can choose your nationality and you can apply for Japanese nationality but I get the impression it’s tricky or that many people would rather not. So anyway. Despite the fact that this Korean community are celebrating a Japanese festival they have every right to do so and are a equally Japanese as anyone else.
As we were walking around a group from a jinjya (shrine) spotted us and invited us into the shrine. They then preceded to let us take photos of the shrine and festival preparations and explained what it was all about. The festival revolved around these HUGE kami (god) carriages called Danjiri. These Danjiri are the only god vehicals with wheels, normally you see Japanese people carrying them. Festival like the Aki Matsuri normally consist of the kami being carefully extracted from the shrine and placed in the danjiri. It is then taken around the town or area where the community live, for various reasons such as to bless it and mark it’s territory. The Akim Matsuri in particular in a harvest and fertility festival to celebrate the harvest and to bless next years harvest. (Apparently 3 out of 10 of the girls who went in our group will have children in the next year). There are normally several jinjyas and each jinya has its down danjiri and each of them do a few circles around the area.
The shrine organisers then performed a bit of the dance they practice. I still don’t know the significance of the dance but it looked really cool. The music that was played was done by a few guys who sat inside the danjiri and played the instruments in. I can’t describe it very well so I’ll include a video so you can see!
Actually, one thing I should mention which was a tad embarrassing. You see the guy in the back playing one of the instruments with the ginger ponytail? He told me I was ‘his type’. WTF >_<>
We then gave our farewells and carried on the tour which consisted of free Korean mochi (rice flour cakes) which is different from Japanese mochi which is sweeter. The Korean one had a deffinate…Korean flavour, which I can’t describe unless you’re tried Korean food XD In fact we went to a Korean restaurant afterwards and it was quite nice! Certainly not what I expected and I got to try intestines…it wasn’t that nice >_<>
Then it was festival time! The evening is when the festival proper happens, when the whole community comes out and follows the danjiri and go to the main shrine in the centre where they have stands selling things like squid and toffee apples, and stalls with the game where you catch fish with rice paper (as seen in animes).
So our group of about 19 gaijin (foreigners) followed the nearest danjiri that happened to pass us (unfortunately it wasn’t ‘our’ danjiri from earlier). It was quite an experience. There were families following behind and walking ahead. The danjiri itself had guys all around it (women can’t touch the danjiri, it’s not sexist just tradition) with some guys ontop dancing with a blessed fan. Then people pulling the danjiri ahead with girls following ahead and behind dancing and jumping around. When ever someone donated the money to the shrine the danjiri procession stopped and everyone clapped their hands to bless the provider.
Our teacher does this every year but he gets a student to do it. So I eagerly volunteered along with Alice. So prof Hester ahead with his video camera and us following behind with our cameras we went to the front of the procession. On the way Hester ran into another one of the families he knows (he lived in Korea Town from 4 years studying the community and knows almost everyone it seems). And the guy we ran into looked at me, looked at Hester and said “Oku-san?” or “wife?” in English. To which I replied “EEEEE!? Chigaimasu!” which means ‘no’ or ‘different’ and I said I was a student. Hest just stood there smiling. He’s like that a lot I think, always quite serious but always finding everything around him amusing and will happily sit back and throw things in to confuse people and see how they react. He’s an interesting character.
We did finally manage to make it the front and he handed me the little envelope with the money all ready prepared. I held Alice’s arm with my video camera in hand and recorded the procession as it came towards us and I handed them the money and everyone clapped and they gave me a towel with the areas name on it. I’ll include the video of this too! ^_^
After that we followed it back to the centre where the main shrine is and went inside the shrine where we got jumped by another family that Hester knew. The mother was INCREDIBLY drunk and talking Osaka-den (Osaka dialect)…わからなかった！！! I could not understand anything!!! A group of us managed to escape and go exploring. I had some candied grapes, which is like toffee apples but with CANDY! Omnomnomnom ^-^ Then the main part of the festival happened with…errr…I can’t explain so I’ll let video help again! YAY!
The festival came to a conclusion after 10:00 when the police literally kicked everyone off the street and opened the road to the public again. We stayed for a little and Alice and I went back to the shrine we were invited to before but there wasn’t much going on at the time. So we eventually returned with those who hadn’t already wandered off and Hester. It was really interesting because I got to find out how he ended up being an Anthropologist in Japan and thanks to him I am even more tempted to be an Anthropologist instead of an interpreter but…who knows ^^