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Ma Na (China)
Patrick Vincenot (France)
Ayaka Kawakita （Japan）
13 magnificent Hikiyamas parading through the streets in Otsu offer you the cultural richness of Japan through ingenious puppeteering, traditional music and tapestries classified as cultural inheritage. We were granted the honor to participate to the assembling of one of the 13 Hikiyamas called Gekkyudenzan.
On the 2nd of October (exactly one week before the festival), we had the honor of seeing the mounting of the Gekkyudenzan.
The soon to be mounted Hikiyama is actually put to pieces every year after the festival, and stocked inside a storehouse.
The pieces are then taken out one by one.
Outside, the pieces are alligned in a very specific order to build the Hikiyama with as much efficiency as possible.
This piece of wood was manufactured in 1776. Let's touch it !!!
The wooden log is being carefully oiled… I really wonder why?
Here come the big wheels. That would explain the oiling.
The wheels are very sensitive to humidity. That's why the owner has to be very careful it.
The Hikiyama is being assembled not only by locals, but by carpenters too (for total safety).
FYI : This entire Hikiyama is being built without a single screw and without plan. The assembling method is safely kept in the master carpenter's head.
A part of a very old tapestry representing the fall of Troy will be hanged at the Hikiyama. It is a very important cultural asset.
Sadly we won't be seeing it today. It is only taken out for the festival.
Here goes the final step : the roof. On it figure gold statues representing the Chinese zodiac signs. It was really magnificent.
Hayashi (musical accompaniment played on traditional instruments) players in Kimono climbed on the Hikiyama and finished preparing for departure.
The younger ones play the bell. Once they grow older they will be able to pick a more technical instrument as the Taiko (drum) or the Fue (Japanese flute).
Beginning to pull. Locals are pulling, guided by the leader, while the carpenters, gathered at the foot of the Hikiyama, direct it.
We were invited to take part in the pulling. Going down the slope was quite funny.
However, when we had to go uphill, we could really feel the heaviness of the Hikiyama. To give us strength, the music passed from a calm mystical atmosphere to a high tempoed battle-like style.
To let us see the mounting and participate to the pulling was really a unique and fun experience.
Up until now everything was just a rehearsal before the real festival that will take place the 9th of octobre between 9:30am and 5:00pm.
The day of the festival, between 12 and 1pm, the Hikiyamas are aligned on the main road, allowing people to have a good look at the 13 of them.
Every year, the main road is filled with people waiting for the parade.
A shinto priest leads the parade.
Although it isn't as fun as pulling ourselfs, the tradition still moves everybodies heart.
At this point, the Hikiyamas made a very technical U-turn.
The Hikiyamas stop at predefined place and make a short traditional puppet show, accompanied by the musicians. They throw some good luck charms to the viewers and are especially generous towards the people at their balconies.
The puppet shows were really very funny and raised everybody's enthusiasm, regardless to the age.
The puppet masters were hidden directly behind the puppets, articulating their arms. The red one was performing Kagura and the white one was performing an exorcism the music played by the children behind.
The stories that were counted were in relation with Japanese and Chinise traditions. So sadly we couldn't grasp all the meanings. However the puppetry was enough to dazzle us.
The Hikiyamas were copiously decorated and overcrowded.
On some of the Hikiyamas, beautiful flowers were arranged for the occasion.
Here comes the Hikiyama we pulled at the rehearsal. One of the participants spotted us and threw us a good luck charm.
Here it is, our Chimaki (Happiness charm).
The both of us managed to get 2 Chimaki and a Tenugui (tastefully decorated hand towel)
We couldn't finish this without mentionning the energy put by the 3 Fue players standing at the back of the Hikiyama. They really showed us the soul of the festival.