(click the headline to see photo!) The day of the festival started early. We were all up around 5:30AM since we had to get going by 6:30. When we arrived at the starting location, the dock, it was obvious everyone was still a little tired from the pre-matsuri party the night before, but still full of excitement for the festival. We were lucky to be invited to participate in the festivities. First, the boys were ushered in to change into their festival outfits then the girls. We all had on bright blue outfits representative of Tanohata’s kami (god). Once everyone was dressed and ready, we made our way up to the temple right across from the dock to start the festivities with a prayer for continued good harvests and good weather for the future. Once that was done, the true festival began. We made our way down towards the maikoshi, which we had helped to decorate our first night in Tanohata. All the boys participating got under it to lift it on their shoulders and the girls split up between the four ropes. We then carried the maikoshi around the town, gathering donations along the way as well and chanting “wasshoi!” to keep the energy strong. Before the tsunami of 3/11, it was custom that the maikoshi would be carried throughout the whole town, but due to the tsunami splitting up the town, we carried the maikoshi through some areas and we would then all get on a bus to take us to the next location, and the whole process would start over again. Everyone was chanting, cheering, and bells were rung.
To conclude the matsuri, everyone gathered together one more time for eating shaved ice and bento, drinking, and laughing. We were even asked by people to come again next year and help, creating key connections and building relationships cross-culturally all in one day. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience!