How old does one get before they learn not to overdo it? I can’t answer that question just yet because I’m nowhere near figuring it out. Friday night I headed to Hatsu Warai, a local bar and grill which seats about 12, to check in on festival preparations. I let them know that I had found white shorts and a sarashi (晒). Several other volunteers for Sunday’s activities also showed up, so I was obliged to stay longer (read that: eat and drink more) than I had planned.
Saturday I went to calligraphy class and practiced the cursive shuji model. I cut out a little early, rushed home to wash out my brushes, and headed back toward city hall for the festival (津祭り・Tsu Matsuri). Every year a dance group from Hokkaido comes and they also set up a large food booth. Grilled scallops and miso soup with salmon, potatoes, and other Fall flavors really hit the spot. A friend insisted I should visit their bazaar, but when I got there they were gone, she invited me to a “home party”. I went, but it was one of those situations I refer to as “kidnapping”: basically I was taken to a place away from train stations with no method of escape for 7 hours. We had a good time drinking wines and eating imported cheeses, and I hooked up with a couple teachers I’ve been wanting to chat with for awhile.
Sunday morning I got up a little sleep deprived and headed for my main activity this weekend. I put on white tabi (足袋) and white shorts. Then someone wrapped my lower torso in my sarashi, which is basically a 9.3 meter long swath of bleached white cotton fabric. It is the 1300 year old version of a weight belt. Over that I wore a white happi (法被) and a nice old lady wrapped a long red swath of cotton, criss-crossed around my shoulders and tied a big bow in the back. I looked like a big Christmas present. We split into two teams of about 30 people and tied hachimaki (鉢巻) with red or blue polka dots around our foreheads. A priest gave us each a large cup of sake (酒) and we took turns carrying a 300kg portable shrine around a 10km course, stopping several places to dance around while shouldering this burden. At each stop we were offered drinks and snack foods. I don’t get drunk easily but, starting at 8:40am and finishing around 5pm, I was a bit loopy. After carrying the shrine, several of us were invited to a complimentary sushi dinner at Hatsu Warai, but I didn’t stay long before excusing myself to an early slumber.
Monday morning I headed to Ise for some shopping with my girlfriend and then we headed North for lunch and then back to the shrine to watch a friend play in a shamisen concert. Serious housecleaning followed at my house. It was nice having help, but my girlfriend takes the whole process a lot more seriously than I do. By the time this was all done I was totally run down and settled for a simple dinner of okayu with egg.
My right calf and throat still hurt from the activity and lack of rest (and drinking everyday), but it was a blast and I learned a lot. I will probably carry the shrine next year, but I will buy tabi with air soles; and I will try to drink tea at several of the stops. Coincidentally my health check results came back today: other than bad cholesterol and BMI (which I ignore anyhow), it’s all good news.