Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Local festival

Here are some pictures and a couple of short videos to make up for the lack of blogging recently. It has been too hot, and I have been uninspired. On the first and second of August, however, I did manage to drag myself to a local festival. This is a danjiri festival. It is not famous, but it is rather dangerous. Last year, I was told by a student who lives in the area, the danjiri fight was cancelled because two people were killed. (Accidentally, I mean.) This year there were police all over the place trying to get people to behave. I don't know whether they were successful, but as far as I know nobody died.

On the first day they only paraded the danjiri. I took some pictures, very few of which turned out any good. I have not mastered the art of taking good pictures at night from a distance. I suspect this art may involve the use of a tripod and a good vantage point, neither of which I was able to manage. This is not a famous festival, but it is popular locally. A friend and I were the only foreigners there that we saw at least, but there were plenty of locals making it difficult to get a good view, especially later in the evening.

The daylight pictures were better, partly because of the light and partly because the crowds weren't very big yet. The floats paraded through the streets, which were not cut off to normal traffic, leading to some interesting situations with costumed festival-goers rushing around and helping the police to direct cars and other traffic. I raced around on my bicycle trying to get good pictures, occasionally getting directed out of the way. I was a nuisance, but so was everybody else, so that was all right.

This first picture shows a danjiri on which someone is holding a photograph, presumably of one of the people who were killed last year.

This next one shows a danjiri waiting for some traffic to get out of the way.

Here is another traffic jam. There are two danjiri in this picture, but neither of them are moving.

Some of the performers (I'm not quite sure what else to call them) got a little bored, waiting for the road to clear. The guy in this next picture had hair to match the carving on his danjiri

Trendy young cool guys take part enthusiastically in this festival (i.e. that is his everyday hair, not a part of his costume), and as far as I could see there was no alcohol involved. They seem to manage to work themselves into a frenzy without any artificial aid. I always find this interesting. They lose their cool completely and go berserk. This picture shows a trendy young cool guy between attacks of berserkness, however.

This is the same danjiri, paused alongside the elevated railway tracks.

Here is another danjiri.

And here is a danjiri moving along beside the podium thing along the street where the fight would be held the next evening.

As you may have noticed, I am not giving very much information about the background or the format of the festival. That is because I didn't really understand what is going on, and everybody I asked seemed rather vague about it as well. Perhaps I am asking the wrong people. From what I do understand, though, each float represents a different shrine. I think there are eight, or possibly seven or nine. I tried to count them but they were all over the place, and when I tried staying in one place and getting pictures of them all as they came past, I lost count. It all took rather a long time, and I forgot which number I was up to. There was also one very small float, which I suspect represented some sort of shrine god or something. It used a different, deeper drumbeat, and went past rather soberly and sedately compared to the others. Also, the people carrying it did not have to do the dramatic maneuvering the others did on corners, because it was so much smaller. They didn't dance, either.

I tried using the video function on my camera as well, and on the first day got one good shot of the guy on top of a danjiri going into a frenzy. This video is only fifteen seconds long, for which I apologize. It is short because of my fabulous skills as a cameraperson created such terrible camera wobble right after this that it looks like a UFO crashed while I was having an attack of nausea. I cut that bit.

Unfortunately, on the second day when the danjiri fights happened it was much darker, I didn't have a very good vantage point, and the videos I got were mostly lights swaying in the dark. This was the only one where you can get an idea of what was going on. It was not the most dramatic clash, but it was the only one I got decent video of. In fact, for the most dramatic one (where one of the danjiri tipped sideways and almost fell, then crashed back down as the crowd went OOOOOH!) I was pointing the camera RIGHT AT THE WHOLE THING. Then I realized I'd hit the wrong button, and had taken one still picture of a couple of lights in the dark.

What you can see here (I have to explain because the video is so dark you probably can't tell what is going on otherwise) is first a danjiri moving forward, then back, on the right. Then there is an amateurish cut to get rid of a lot of nothing, and then you see another danjiri approach from the left side. The two move together and do the equivalent of, "Who do you think YOU are?" then back off for a good run, and then charge. They rear up, clash, bump back down, and then there is a little general messing around where nothing much happens.

Before you ask, I do not know how you can tell who has won. In several of the fights they clashed several times, so perhaps it's hard for anybody to tell. It's possibly something like pirates boarding a ship, though, because although I was a bit far away to see properly, I saw some guys clambering up the poles and across to the other danjiri while they were head on, in one of the fights. I could easily be wrong about this, though. It's possible they'd become so tangled they were just up there to untangle themselves.

Anyway, see for yourself, if you can. This video is way too dark, but perhaps you can at least get an idea from the sound.

I'm afraid that is all there is. I know it's not very good, but at least you can see why I enjoy this festival so much. I am sorry about the poor quality, though. The video function on my camera is rather limited. Maybe I will try to borrow a real video camera for next time.