This is one of my favorite things that I’ve been apart of since I’ve been here in Japan. This is the Souhei Matsuri: a festival put on by my town to bless the businesses in our mountain’s resort area. I was asked if I wanted to carry the women’s shrine for the festival and I reluctantly said yes. Did I really want to carry a heavy shrine, up the mountain, for who knows how long? Even up until the hours before the festival, I was thinking about how I’d rather just watch, but I’m so glad that I wasn’t a bystander. This was such an amazing experience and I would definitely be apart of it next year if I have the chance. Even as I write this post, I’m still so happy about everything about this festival.
We got dressed into the festival, shine carrying outfits. I love how they tied the bow because it made me feel like a butterfly princess. It was really cute. After we were dressed, we were driven to the starting point of the shrine route. Underneath a shrine, we were blessed by a monk, before starting our journey back to the main festival area.
Then we were off! We stopped in front of various businesses, giving them our blessings. We were also given a few rest stops and free food (gotta love the free food!) to help us with our energy.
I overhead my co-worker say that we walked about 2km (about a mile) with the shrine, up and down hills, then back up to the main area. That’s a long way, but thankfully, it didn’t feel as far, with the little breaks we had. Throughout the whole time, I felt like a celebrity because so many people were watching us and taking pictures. It was so much fun and there’s no way I would ever have the opportunity to do something like this back at home. Sometimes you need to take that leap outside your comfort zone and do things you never thought about doing, because they may just be a once in a lifetime experience.
The most exciting part about this festival is the men’s shrine. Near the end of the shrine route, they light it on fire and by the time they make it to the end, the whole thing is in flames. It was such an amazing sight and was giddy like a little kid, because it was so exciting. I am happy that ours isn’t on fire though, because that would have been… hot…
I’m still in awe that I was able to make it through the entire festival carrying a heavy shrine on my shoulder, but it was a lot of fun and I was able to bond with some of the ladies on the JET Program. I’ve learned my lesson about volunteering for events: just do it (isn’t that a slogan for something… Nike?). No, seriously though, just do it. You may never know what amazing stories you’ll have to tell after the fact. Don’t let a mountain and a heavy shrine keep you from having a once in a lifetime experience, because these are the moments you live for in life (I’m trying to pep talk myself and whoever else wants a pep talk at the same time… so I’m not sure how that’s working out…).
This is my life. This is my life in Japan and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.