07 May, 2010

Bizzare Japanese festival

Last night I turned the TV on to help pass the time while I ironed. I accidentally flipped it to SBS and found they were focusing on Japan for an hour. The reporter was trying to get underneath the Japanese fa├žade and find the 'real' Japan through looking at a couple of their festivals. The festivals were pretty weird, even to ones who'd lived there for a while.

We learned about the Baby Sumo contest - babies who are pitted against one another at a local shrine. They just sit on cushion and the priest tries to make them cry by waving a fan and saying things. The one who cries first is the winner. To win is supposed to bring good luck to the family.

The second one was even stranger - the Naked Man Festival. Read about it here. Basically it is a bunch of nearly naked men (in one case, up to 10 000 of them) trying to touch a naked man who's been chosen to be the 'holy one' of the festival. The 'holy one' makes his way about 800m through this enormous, drunk crowd. It is tremendously lucky to touch him. It is pretty dangerous too!

The common theme, of course, is getting good luck. These festivals are also key times where Japanese appear to 'let their hair down', especially the second one.

One interesting comment by the British reporter was that after participating in the Naked Man Festival, he felt like he'd made contact with the Japanese at a deeper level, perhaps been considered more of an insider in the culture. Missionaries would like to be accepted as insiders too - but cannot avail themselves of Shinto and Buddhist festivals in order to gain it.


Ken Rolph said...

"Missionaries would like to be accepted as insiders too"

Wendy, don't even think about it! You are not a man. You'd never get away with it. Drunk or not, one of the other 10,000 would spot you.

Tim and Susan said...

too odd...poor babies and strange men...

Hippomanic Jen said...

Yes, it's a problem to get inside a culture when parts of it are taboo from your faith perspective.

It's hard enough with some of the things in our OWN culture!