Thursday, November 3, 2011

Culture Day [November 3rd]

Yesterday in Japan, we celebrated Culture Day [文化の日 Bunka no hi] in my village. This holiday was established in 1948 to commemorate the post-war constitution. Before that, November 3rd had been celebrated as the Meiji emperor's birthday, [天皇誕生日 Tennō tanjōbi].

Culture Day is a time for villages and cities to hold parades or festivals. In my village, groups of volunteers carried small mikoshi through the streets, performing rituals and collecting donations to be used in future village-sponsored events. The mikoshi, or divine palanquin, is a small shrine carried on the shoulders of four or more people. The shrine is said to contain a god.

In the ritual, the mikoshi is brought to the door of a home or business. The occupants make a donation and the mikoshi's attendants perform a short dance. The occupants imbibe a small amount of sake and receive a long-stemmed flower for their donation.

I walked around, carrying one of these palanquins, for no less than ten hours. It was an arduous task.

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