The day we went on the tour of hearts, opening up of the Karatsu people and their personal traditions and houses to us. The Karatsu Kunchi Matsuri festival was such a human event filled with family feeling, I can not imagine where to begin on that thought. The colors moving through the small, tight knit, competitive, small community whose youngest members at the front to strongest and healthy men close to the float carts. Everyone pulling the long fresh white rope new for the season in Shinto tradition.
The generous open tables of food and drinks. the Karatsu people have a special house that host the participants as they move through the village streets. The constant chant of Enya! Enya! with the chatter of cheers and harmless verbal pokes filling the air with human energy. The Tables as long as a Las Vegas Buffet spread out with care. On huge plates large cod and huge snappers laid in between towers of carefully cut finger sandwiches of cucumber, also salmon, egg salad.
I kept thinking how can everybody be so inviting and take such care of the obviousness of a foreign traveler. My Japanese abilities to function are so limited and still this is really happening. I meet a young man that just graduated from Boston University and had returned home. he became a great resource of understanding what is really exciting about the matsuri Karatsu Kunchi. I learned of the man Mune whom had delivered us from house to house and experience to experience. We were instantly in a real time life moment. I am in … a house that is three hundred years old and a garden in the yard in the rear that is older. surreal pine and moss and rock and fare fauna all set in a picture you imagine a japanese garden to look. This is the part where you close your eyes and imagine a japanese style garden. Yes! it looked just like that. Through paneled glass sliding doors that seemed to make framed images out of each square and each different from the other. I couldnt even take pictures to do it justice. i left it a private moment.
We move to the street just outside this matsuri host house as the Hikiyama and their teams pulled their carts past, they would intensify and the fierce strong unified sound of Enya! Enya! Enya! The house empties as we all go to the street and watch as everyone yells to family members and boyfriends, all puffed up in their handsome fashion, old style clothes but the hair was styled in current waxes, styles and gels, awesome. The younger girls of the town were all dressed up in their coolest current fashions and make up forms on the face. Like any small agriculture family based cultures, their were a lot of young parents and many generations living together in harmony once a year to reestablish ties of their ancestors past that celebrated the same way. The huge Hikiyama being forced
through and directed around obstacle after obstacle through the streets. Avoiding the power lines, the tight houses lining the street, the signs for the businesses that are positioned on long tight streets, claustrophobic walls and tight turns around corners, the crowds of people bleeding into the streets to get the best look at the giants roaming. The two hundred year old paper mache and lacquer Art built around wooden frames. Being pushed from the inside in a rocking motion as two men travel atop, they direct the changes in direction to avoid hitting the edges of roofs or power lines. The tightness and timing is impossible to describe.
The Music and drums ring from the carts as the song repeats with each group but the tone and intonation of the sounds slightly differ. young boys with goggles on their eyes throwing the white salt from beneath the colorful bonnet above them to purify the road ahead of the cart. All this followed by old respected members of the community closely following the Shrine that is housed in the Shinto Temple that their Hikiyama represents. The shrines themselves were very old and amazing. the gold and lacquer finishes shining in the sunshine of a perfect fall day. the rain that day stopped and cleared to relieve the participants and viewers the torture of standing in the cold rain, it felt as though the weather was ordered for the day as one would order cases of sake or beer for a celebration. perfect to the end.
The matsuri then changed for us to the norma events of shopping and wandering the booths of food and fun. the goldfish games and tornado potatoes, bbq’ed corn. ice cream. the offerings and prayers at the main shrine sited by the masses that line up to give their 100 yen pieces for hope in the next year. the lanterns coming on as the sun dipped out of site and the air chilled.we start to go back to the train station and still with every turn is just more smiles and cheer.