about 5 years ago

We returned our rental car this morning. The gas station we went to had a brilliant way of saving space in a crowded city. The gas tanks were above us!

The staff was amused when I explained to him that this does not happen in the US.

We walked to 生国魂神社 (Ikutama Jinja) which is beginning its 2-day summer festival today. Called いくたま 夏祭り (Ikutama natsu matsuri), it is one of the three major festivals in Osaka. Participants of the festival include many local school kids and volunteers, and the event is highly enjoyed by locals, as it will become apparent later in the evening.

During the morning, things were still in preparation and the shrine was relatively quiet. But outside you could already see tons of food and game stands setting up.

We passed by kids from the nearby Ikutama Kindergarten. They're a cute bunch! >///<

We briefly left Ikutama to go to Osaka's equivalent of 秋葉原 (Akihabara). Here it is the main strip of 日本橋 (Nipponbashi) that has all the video games, manga/anime, and electronics.

A PS Vita here seems to be cheaper. I got a brand new one (Wifi-only) for 19800 Yen (~198 USD). On Amazon it's 247 USD right now. I also got some second-handed PS Vita games. This place is a second-hand game heaven!

Of course, a visit to the manga store is inevitable. I'm more of an anime than manga fan these days though, probably because I like listening to seiyuus >///<

Around 5PM, the festivities return to the shrine. First are the kid's taiko (子供太鼓):

They were first carried on trucks (as they have toured around the city earlier in the day), then, as they approach the shrine, the taiko cart is pushed by men.

The procession is succeeded by other returning marches. Here is the kid's lion dance (獅子舞/Shishimai):

The dancing lions are accompanied by fan wielding dancers:

In the center stage, there is constant drumming of the makura taiko (枕太鼓):

So far, I have been trying to write this blog using as few pictures as possible. Yet today the only the way to convey the atmosphere is by showing what the locals look like on this day.

Little kids were dressed up in bright colored kimonos and yukatas:

While participants of the festival are clad in bright colored uniforms:

Around 6PM, the place was bustling with activity.

This only got more so as people got off school and work and are now at the festival with their friends and family:

The highlight of the evening is 枕太鼓お練り (makura taiko oneri). The taiko is fixed to the cart with three drummers standing on either side. As such, people can push and pull the cart around while the drummers continue to play the taiko.

At first the men only pulled the cart around the shrine. But then they started to attack the cart! They jump on one end to force it to tilt, then violently pull it down from the other end like a see saw.

Yet the drumming continued as if they had never left the center stage.

In a few instances, the men spun it around and around:

Again the drumming remains constant.

Now the men topple the cart and it falls to the ground! The drummers hold on to the rope behind their standing seat while drumming with their other hand. They never missed a beat and continued to chant at the top of their lungs.

Finally, after what seemed like a lot of cart torture, the taiko returns to the center stage. Now they can drum some more without falling on top of each other :)

A lot of the drummers look really young. Some of the local folks behind me were saying that they were high school students.

This was my first time experiencing a summer shrine festival, and it was definitely an eye opener. I loved that a lot of kids and young folks performed. It just showed how the locals were contributing to keeping a local tradition. And then there's all that delicious food outside that I stuffed myself with!

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