Last Sunday, we went to Megijima, not to see the Setouchi Triennale‘s artworks (we saw them back in April) but to attend its summer matsuri. I don’t know this matsuri that well – it was my first time – except that it’s actually the Megijima matsuri and the Ogijima matsuri combined. Another sign of the terrible depopulation that is slowly killing the Seto Inland Sea islands. As there aren’t enough people on both islands to hold separate matsuri (not even mentioning one matsuri per shrine), they have shared them for a few years now. It takes place on Ogijima with Ogijima’s traditions one year, and on Megijima the other year. This year was Megijima’s turn.
I’ve already shown you Megijima on this blog, but on Sunday, I rediscovered the island as it looked completely different to what I’m used to, even though it is this “version” of the island that most Takamatsu residents know the best. That is a mini beach resort (as Takamatsu’s main beach is actually Megijima’s):
I had never seen that many people on the island. With the Triennale visitors, the beach-goers and people like me who came for the matsuri, there were at least a couple of thousands people on Megijima on this Sunday. (as a reminder the island has about 200 inhabitants).
Actually, that made me understand better why locals behave the way they do with visitors on normal days, they’re used to tourists, so they simply ignore them, almost like in big tourism areas (as opposed to Ogijima or Teshima that are not used to many visitors and are some of the most welcoming people I know).
Should I mention that the heat was intense like it’s been every day since early July? However, as it was a bit overcast, at least the sun was not burning us and it made the whole thing bearable.
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Oh, a foreigner among the taikodai carriers… Actually, I don’t want to say anything bad about anyone, but one of the three foreigners who took part in the matsuri pretended not to see me when earlier when we almost bumped into each other. I mean, he literally turned his head in the other direction as I was making eye contact and nodding at him (to avoid any confusion, it’s not the guy on the picture but another one, you can see him carrying the taikodai in later pictures in this post). I don’t know about you and I know it’s an age old debate, but here in Takamatsu, foreigners are rare and it’d be hypocritical to pretend not to see each other when we do. So when we run into each other, a look, a smile, a nod is usually the proper thing to do. It’s just polite. So usually, when I run into a foreigner here that pretends to not see me, I conclude that they’re either a tourist, from a big city (I understand that in Osaka or Tokyo foreigners are plenty and it makes sense to actually ignore each other), a rude jerk, or an idiot that doesn’t want “his” Japan experience to be spoiled by those other foreigners that pollute his field of view. I wonder which one he was.
Sorry for this off-topic rant, let’s go back on track here, with this side note. All these taikodai carriers are plenty and young. Don’t be fooled, pretty much none of them live on Megijima or Ogijima. Most of them are Takamatsu residents that come only for the matsuri (their family may originally come from the island – or not).
One of the thing I like about Matsuris is that they’re all different. For example, it’s the first time I see that people kneel or squat when the offerings are removed from the front of the mikoshi (that also may be because I’ve rarely seen the religious ceremony part of the matsuri I’ve attended so far).
Then, the mikoshi is carried above the people who wish it. As some sort of blessing, good fortune thing I suppose:
OK, I don’t have much more to tell about the Megijima matsuri. The rest will be more interesting with a video and more pictures than with words (and in case you wonder, no teenagers were sacrificed during this matsuri, but it was a close call at some point):
This little bath is not the end of the trip for the taikodai. Next, it has to be carried out of the water:
Unfortunately, we didn’t follow it to the end (we had another “appointment“) but if you want to see the epilogue, you can see it on this video. It takes place in the shrine that is uphill on the outskirts of the village on the way to the oni cave.
It was another very pleasant matsuri (I had never been to an unpleasant one). I’m afraid it’s going to be my only summer matsuri this year (there aren’t many in the area), but I can’t wait for the fall matsuri that are plenty in Kagawa, including my favorite one, the Teshima Karato matsuri (who knows I may end up carrying the taikodai this year too?). Of course I can’t wait to attend the Ogijima matsuri (couldn’t last year) but I’ll have to wait another year for it.
1) Heard the cicadas! 😀
2) Love the dogs.
3) Gave an evil grin when I read about the other foreigner’s reaction. I ignore all (obvious) foreigners in Tokyo, but on the very few occasions that I bump into one in the inaka’s mountains, I always say hallo.
1) As I told you on G+ they still managed to ruin a couple of shots where sound mattered (like shooting the drum playing)
2) I wish I had moved to a different angle, but I always expected to turn around (and of course they would have done it once I had gone to the other spot), which they never really did.
3) I understand that in Tokyo and such, people don’t do it, but here, it’s inexcusable, unless it’s a tourist. But usually tourists have this confused look when you run into them. I remember, I did too my first time in Japan (“OMG another westerner, what should I do? what should I do?). He wasn’t confused, he clearly looked in the other direction as soon as he saw me.
Funny anecdote: the place where I saw the most foreigners in Japan was not Tokyo, not even Kyoto but Hiroshima/Miyajima last April. 90% of them being tourists of course. At first, as a habit I started to nod at every foreigner I’d encounter then I realized “wow, that’s a lot of them, what am I doing?”
3) You two are very funny. In a good way. I blend in so much that most people, even Japanese think I’m Japanese. I just blend in. I never had this problem to be honest. Then again, in Tokyo, I just ignore everyone, even my friends! I don’t mean to but I just don’t look up enough anymore. I’m trying to avoid stepping on feet, especially in the train station.
That’s one of the (many) things I dislike about big cities, you ignore everyone, even your friends.
On the opposite side, when I go about my day, I look at everyone to make sure I don’t ignore someone I know (I run into at least one of my students every week-end or so). In my wilder and younger years that could have been a problem, but now that I’m a respectable member of the community, I don’t mind.
And yes, sorry, I shouldn’t say “foreigner” but “non-Asian-looking foreigner”. Blame my eurocentrism for that. Whoops.
I sometimes wish I was in a small city again. But then again, I’m shy in public and when I’m out of my natural habitat so I’m afraid to say hi. I wouldn’t ignore people though.
And I know what you mean by “foreigner”. I usually think the same in real life. I never think an Asian looking person is a foreigner, but I know they could be. 🙂
You’re clearly a foreigner that doesn’t understand what this festival is all about, and you’ve failed to realize that as every year passes the islands struggle to find enough people to continue this tradition. Each year that the festival is scheduled to happen the locals question whether or not they’ll be able to find enough people to carry the taiko. The foreigner that you so easily disrespect is half Japanese and half Australian, his father was born and raised on the island, and his participation was greatly appreciated. My stepmother was also born and raised on the island, which is why I also participated, as another foreigner, and an American at that. You disrespect everything that these people and the festival stand for by slandering our participation. I suggest you do a little more unbiased research the next time you decide to attend.
I’m not sure what I did or said to deserve such an unpleasant comment, but I suspect that you put words in my mouth and thoughts in my head that were never there.
So let’s start with my lack of understanding of the matsuri and of the struggles of the island. Honestly, I don’t even know what to answer here, except that this makes me to assume that you haven’t read anything from this blog before commenting, right?
I mean, have you even read the title of the blog or the first paragraph of this very post?
Now,concerning the foreigners being part of the matsuri. Where exactly did I say that their presence posed me a problem?
What posed me a problem is that the foreigner that I ran into earlier ostensibly turned his head away when I tried to make eye contact with him and nod as it is the custom among foreigners in places like Takamatsu that don’t have a lot of them. Looking away when someone looks and nods at you is considered rude in many countries, but it is especially the case in this situation.
And if you want to know my opinion about foreigners carrying taikodai (despite of what you think I’ve never expressed it) here it is: https://www.setouchiexplorer.com/taikodai-karato-matsuri-teshima/
You know what’s funny? I was a bit confused by your comment mentioning three foreigners taking part in the Matsuri as I had counted only two: the one that was rude to me and carried the taikodai, and an older one carrying the mikoshi.
Rewatching the video, I realized that there are indeed two foreigners carrying the taikodai, and that the one that had been rude earlier was not the one I was blaming on the picture (if he read this: sorry)…
The funny part is that it means that the rude person had to be…. you…. right? Are you the one that we can see on a few other pictures quite clearly (and the one who’s on the foreground, back turned to the camera while the teen drummers are being “rolled over”?).
In that case (and seeing that you’re commenting from the US) I assume you enter the “tourist” part and you’re half forgiven for your looking away thing. The nasty uninformed comment putting words in my mouth on the other hand…
I’m not sure how you felt offended by David’s comments, but I can assure you that he does understand the festival and the people of both Megijima and Ogijima. He continues to fight on his blog for the people of both islands and hopes that they will survive. Perhaps the “he’s a rude jerk who doesn’t want his Japan experience to be soiled” (not quoted verbatim) was what pushed you over the edge. Just note that David did say 3 potential conclusions, but left it up to the readers, us included, to make a decision. I highly doubt he thinks that last reasoning is true, but just his own impressions at the heat of the moment.
Also, he was talking about not returning the “nod”, rather that person looked away “intentionally”. I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened, but from David’s point of view, as written here, that’s how I see it. For all I know the other person may not have looked away intentionally, or was just shy. I don’t know.
Lastly, I don’t think David even implied that foreigners weren’t allowed to carry the taikodai, although you seem to imply that he did. I know that opinion wasn’t written in this post, and I never read any implications that he thought that way. I read it at least twice. In reality, the crack pot right wing radicals that blare nationalistic music at Yasukuni Shrine every holiday and all over Japan would probably think that way. Heck, David even mentioned that he would like to help carry the taikodai at the Teshima Karato Matsuri.
I wish you all the best and thank you for helping them out in the matsuri as well. I just hope a more level head will prevail.
What a lovely post. I loved it a lot. I can see why the locals on Megijima are not as “friendly” to the tourists there. With 2000 people or so on the beach, I can understand their feelings. All the drunk party goers from Takamatsu bringing a bunch of garbage and so on. Well, I can’t say for sure that it is that dirty after the fun.
The matsuri looks like a lot of fun. I wish I could go next year but I’m going to pass. I have too many other places to visit before I can give it a go. If my plans go well, I’ll be on Shikoku next year for a short trip though.
Also, thanks for the videos. It was a lot of fun to watch them all. I loved the dogs. It really reminds me of the Chinese lion dance. They have a lot of similarities. The way they raise the head, look left/right, and shake the head and ears is almost the same. I’m sure they come from the same history. Although the dog dance was not as energetic as a Chinese lion dance, it was still fun to see.
I don’t think there was 2,000 people on the beach, but I believe that’s about the number all over the island that day (beachgoers, matsuri-goers and art festival-goers combined). People on the beach seemed somewhat well behaved, but I suspect that it’s not always the case.
You should come next year, as next year the matsuri will be on Ogijima, although I’m sure there will be way less people (and I hope to take part in it, last year I missed it stupidly (forgot it was that week-end, assumed it was the following one)).
I’m trying to do more videos, but I don’t know if my camcorder is getting old or if I’m doing something wrong, but I’m always disappointed in the quality of the image.
The dog dances seem pretty common in matsuris in the area, isn’t it like that all over Japan?
And yes, this dance was a bit tame compared to some other I’ve seen that were closer to Chinese style lion dance.
I guess the beach goers are tame because it was still relatively early. I wonder if they would still be tame at 6pm…
I want to go but I don’t think I can. I have too many trips planned for next year. If all goes to plan, I’ll be cycling the Shimanamikaido around Golden Week. Otherwise, not too sure. I also have some research trips planned and hopefully a trip back home, although that might be delayed a year. 🙁
The videos are great. I’m happy to see them. I wonder if you just don’t have the right setting. Double check the quality that you are recording. I sometimes adjust the quality for quick photos but forget to change it back on my camera. A decent point and shoot camera is actually just as good as a camcorder. A GoPro is also pretty good. I want to get one myself.
I double checked my settings, they seem fine. It’s an old cheap camcorder, I wonder if the recording lens (not sure the real name) is a bit damaged or something.
My old automatic camera doesn’t shoot great films, and I should check my bridge, but every time I tried there was a problem with the auto-focus (it will refocus every time I slightly move, maybe there’s a setting for this)
Love the photos.
Love the narrative.
Rather amused with the comment section, where all the drama seems to be at. 🙂
Yeah, drama indeed. Now I remember why when I started this blog I decided to make it as consensual as possible. And indeed, the only time I post something a bit “controversial” on it, there you have it: drama.