Together with Sophia University and Nippon Information Development Co., Ltd. (NID), the second trip to the Omatsuri Festival of Sawara City, Chiba was hugely a success. Eighteen international students from Sophia university participated in this event, along with staff of APIC, NID and volunteers of Tsuda University. This historical event allowed students to experience a rich taste of Japanese culture and tradition that is desperately seeked in one’s journey to the land of the rising sun.
We arrived to Sawara City midday and started with a bento lunch. During this time, students and volunteers had the chance to come together and get to know more about each other. A time of fellowship, shared among people from all across the world to embark on this wonderful adventure. We were also explained to about the significance of the Omatsuri festival and even the town itself. The grand nostalgia of it all made the excitement in me grow more and more, knowing that I’ll be able to experience the same traditions carried on from 300 years ago.
After the lunch, we then moved on to the streets of the city. The famous, large floats of past warriors and heroes could be spotted from a distance away. These floats were incredibly crafted and stood about 13 ft tall and made almost entirely of wood! Many people filled the city in beautiful, traditional clothing, and a spirit strong enough to bring back the time of olden days. It was especially exciting to watch people, old and young work together to push and pull the heavy floats. Rhythmic drumming, precise coordination and a strong chant of “wasshoi” is what was called to encourage the movement. The excitement was escalated as the whole group of us were able to participate in the action. Locals of the area, and all walks of Japan had welcomed us foreigners warmly. Their encouragement and willingness to let us also help pull the large float was incredibly touching.
After much of the fun, the group and I took a relaxing boat ride down the very same canal that had been used in the past to transport goods. We took advantage of this time to recharge ourselves, and again fellowship with the new friends we were making! Some other activities we were able to partake in was cooking our own Yakitori! A simple and yet satisfying act of grilling our little sticks of chicken to perfection, and finishing it with our topping of choice. A few of us were also able to experience a some specialties of Sawara City, such as their Shoyu flavored ice cream! A delectable flavor that one would hardly think would be so good.
The night was still young, and our bellies were running on empty. We delighted in a wonderful Chinese oriented dinner. Delicious food and good company allowed us all to feel prepared for the evening activities. The great float parade began again as the sun went down on the city. The massive floats appeared with the same greatness as if it were the first time. The magesticeness of the lights, and music had escalated the entire festival to higher level. This time the floats would come to an intersection at the road and spin a few times before moving on. This job is more than just a simple twirl-around. Massive and entirely made of wood, the strongest men of the city work together to lift and push with all their might. I was especially a fan of the many members in the crowd cheering them on as if it was a battle to be beat. This then left perfect, wood dusk circles on the ground, marking it’s accomplishment and moving on. Truly a great sight to see. Before it was time to head back home.
Our trip to Sawara City to attend the festival had provided me with the opportunity to experience something I never imagined I could. The beauty of it all lies in the strength and bond of the community. One another working together maneuvering the floats, the coordination of swift and graceful hand movements of the dancers in the parade and even the happy food vendors ready to serve. The respect for this nostalgic event had many of us, including myself, in pure awe and amazement. Thank you to all who made this special trip possible for us, and I look forward to allowing many other international students experience the same.