Friday, 22 October 2010

Aki Matsuri

Aki Matsuri~!

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 ^^

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Doesn't Time Fly

So I have been incredibly busy lately with lots of work and general distractions. It's amazing how time is flying, only feels like I've been here 2 weeks when actually I've been here...errrrrr....MATHS >_< 7-8 weeks. Which is basically almost 2 months. We're already halfway through the term (they use the American simester system here).

Well on the 5th October I went to Body Line after running into a girl the day before who was wearing a really nice purple wig. It was under cheap and she told us where to go. So after school me, Cassy and Linda all went! Then on the 10th October I went again with Brittany, Mandy, Jacob and Cait to Bodyline and to Shinsaibashi and the area. I did my research for a site report of the Lolita clothes store ( and actually didn't buy anything this time around, but the first time I went I got 2 really nice costumes and only spent 5000yen! Which is UBER cheap! ^^;

At some point after me, Brittany, Tyson and Cassy were going to Kappa Zushi (a shushi-go-round place) and on the way I found this TINY kitten! SOOO CUTE! But it was obviously abandoned, so we tried to ask the Seminar House Okaasan what we should do but all she said was that we weren't allowed to keep it. The RA Erika told us where we could find a vet, so food was put off while we went on a mission to find the vets! It wasn't too far but the vet said he couldn't take it in because it was a milk kitten. We were then forced to abandon it in this apartment building entrance. I was worried for the little guy, but only today I found a poster in the local supermarket with a photo of our little kitty! It had been found and someone was looking for a person to adopt it! YAY!

Ahh yeah, I can't remember if I've mentioned already but I managed to find people who do table-top-RPGs. YAY! So I've been spending the last 4 weeks every Tuesday night playing DnD which is going...well. It can be slow, but most funny as it always is when playing games with people. It's inspired me to do my own and I've organised a game of Shadowrun for this Sunday with some eager newbie girls from my dorm. I also want to chat about the weekend that just went because that was SO MUCH AWESOME FUN! But next time because I need to stop procastinating and revise for an exam tommorow. I the mean time here's a photo video tour of Kansai Gaidai (Or Kansai Gaikoku Daigai)! I've meant to do this for a while and there's another video that goes with it, which I'll make later. ENJOY!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Best Day Ever

Best Day Ever

If you want to see my photos of random things I’ve found in Japan you should go to my photo blog!

Aaaand onto the other stuff.

This is kinda gonna be on the best day so far in Japan. Thanks to varying coincidences and a rain check I had the oppatunity to go to the Fushimi Inari shrine which was organised by the religion class. Brittany, Cassy, Caitlin and I all went together in a little group. We started going round with the larger class but got distracted and when we turned around they’d gone ahead. Woops ^^;

Fushimi Inari Jinjya (shrine) is a HUGE shrine on a mountain. The shrine was to the god Inari who is god of rice and he generally has fox minions, so it’s the image of the fox that is connected to Inari shrines. Well the main temple itself is at the bottom of the mountain and then you can walk up various paths up and around the mountain. The magical thing is that these paths are lined with THOUSANDS of red tori, which are the large gateways you see in pictures of shrines. Then as you climbed up the mountain there were individual family shrines clumped together in what looked like little shrine villages.

It was just so beautiful and serine and quiet. Being separated from the main group was fantastic because we could go at our own pace, we went our own way and stopped and hovered around the shrine villages exploring all the little crevices.

On the way up the first shrine village was were we got separated because we were exploring the little family shrines and there was a pond with HUGE koi fish. Then as we were wondering up there was a stopping point where the path forked and you could see the view of the city in the valley bellow. That was the only point in the mountain where you could see the city, the rest of it was surrounded by forest. After picking a way to go we found this little shop (there were lots of little shops with benches that sold snacks and omiyage) and after Cait bought some little fox charms the woman who owned the shop brought us out some cold mugi (wheat) tea. It was so nice! We sat down and drank the tea and ate the sweets they gave us. I wish we could have stayed longer and talked to them but we had to push on.

Further along we found a different shrine and a plaque in Japanese. I started trying to read and along with Cassy we were trying to read the kanji out loud. I then looked to our right and there was a Japanese woman staring/smiling at us. So she came over and helped us work out what the thing was and it turned out it was like a dining hall for the god where people gave him food.

As we went further along into the mountains we began to run up the stairs that we came to. This then reminded us of Mulan so we began to sing ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ and scared some Americans or Germans (I think) coming the other way. It was hilarious!

When we finally got to the top of the mountain we whipped out our bentou (lunch boxes) and trail mix and dug in. OH! TRAIL MIX is AMAZING! It’s American and it has nuts, raisins and MnMs and is SO GOOD! It’s used for hiking because it’s full of energy. I mean nuts raisins and MnMs taste good on their own but combined and they turn into like a SUPER SNACK! Duhduhduuuh! It’s…good ^^;

Anyway. We then began to head down the mountain which was a lot faster then going up…funnily enough. On the way down we ended up just chatting about our childhoods and growing up into the wonderful geeks we all are now. It was good.

At the bottom the shintou shrines merged into Buddhist shrines which were so pretty. I know that Buddhism and Shintou have merged together over the year, exactly how I can’t say, but they have both exchanged practices over the hundred of the years in Japan.

Wandering out of the shrine and into the town we got some cheap omiyage and icecream and it was goooooood ^_^ There was a chopstick shop that had shinkansen (bullet train) chopsticks! So cool!

After getting back to the dorm we met up with Mandy, Tyson, and Jacob and along with Cait, Brittany and I we went to Obaachans, a restaurant that is like my Super Noodle in Japan. It’s super cheap for a lot of food ^__^ We ended up sitting in the restaurant for hours just talking. After a subtle hint from Obaachan herself we paid and left and ended up talking more when we got back to the dorm.

It was just a really nice, awesome day ^-^