Sunday, October 04, 2009

Festival preparations

Next week we have our festival, Insh'Allah. And so today, in spite of it being Sunday, I rose at 7:30 to join my neighbours at 8 for the 'michizukuri' or 'roadmaking'. This is a jolly business of going along all the roads pulling up weeds, trimming the verges with weedwhackers, and setting fire to the banks of dams. It's also a good chance to shoot the breeze with one's neighbours, most of whom have lived here all their lives and offer some interesting descriptions of how things used to be. Now that most pathways are paved with poured concrete, the literal meaning of 'michizukuri' has largely vanished, and the petrol-driven weedwhacker has also made things a lot easier, if a lot more noisy.

Women sheltering in the shade of a shed. It was hot.
I wonder what they talk about together.

One bloke who farms was showing me where a wild boar had entered a rice paddy and knocked down a lot of stalks. As we walked, I failed to notice the dip by which the farm equipment enters the paddy, twisted my ankle, and nearly ended up in the paddy myself. It didn't hurt at the time, but now it does. I obviously haven't been here long enough, because nobody laughed at me.

Moonlit shrine on Friday night.
The boys were practising their Drum n' Bell while the girls
were pasting 3,000 little flags on bamboo twigs to decorate the

In the afternoon, it was time to put together the 'danjiri', or what might I suppose be called a 'juggernaut'. This involves getting enormous wooden poles from inconspicuous storage next to the shrine, and various parts from the storeroom adjoining the village hall. Also, bamboo is cut from the mountain to make fenders for the main unit. These bits and pieces are all tied together with ropes which are pulled and hammered tight until they feel like steel.

Roping up the poles to the body of the danjiri.
Lots of headscratching about the method of winding.

Putting the cross-braces on. Everything wound and hammered.

Putting on the bamboo fenders.

All wrapped up against the typhoon expected tomorrow

The Japanese passion for 'monozukuri', or 'making things' is apparent in the collective care that goes into making a good, safe danjiri (English monozukuri also made itself apparent in a rather fanatical zeal to take the sharp edges off the cut bamboo with a lathe, since this alone is something one knows how to do...).

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