Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wet and exhausted

Today was fun. One of the people at the gym I go to asked me to help carry an omikoshi, a portable shrine, around town. The deal was, we'd carry it into the ocean. I didn't know exactly what they meant by that, but I said yes. It's something I've always wanted to try out.

I met a group of people from the gym in the early afternoon, and we wandered down to the beach area. I swear people wouldn't do this if there was no alcohol involved. So we started drinking before we even picked up the shrine. They told me to bring a small towel, fold it up, and stuff it under my hanten (the gray coat I'm wearing in the photos), so I wouldn't bruise my shoulders too much. Good advice. When we got there, someone looked at my shoes and said that since we were headed into the ocean, my shoes wouldn't do. Some random person made off with my giant purple shoes and gave me a random pair of flip-flops.

We took that thing into the sea a few meters, but then took it out, set it on sawhorses and went off for a break and a beer. Then we picked it up again and marched it through the streets. I'd signed up to just take it into the ocean, I didn't realize I'd be carrying this monster around for the next few hours also.

We got it to a warehouse-type area and set 'er down again, this time for a food break. We had some potato croquettes, onigiri (rice balls), and juice or tea, rested and washed off our feet, then picked up the big omikoshi and set off for the shrine. I helped out with the big one for awhile, but it was too much for me and my back. I'm about 1.85m tall. The average Japanese person is well below that. So I had to squat down in order to carry the shrine at the same height as everyone else, doing a double number on my back and legs, not to mention my poor shoulders. Around this time, I lost my left flip-flop. I never found it again, either. I spent the next 2 hours walking around with one flip-flop either on my right foot, or jammed in my waistband.

I eventually moved up to help the smaller teens carrying the omikoshi I originally helped with, and stuck with that until the end. We wound up in the dark, bouncing the shrines up and down on our shoulders at the main shrine, then set them down and had a free meal, complete with beer.

After that, we headed to a bar, of course, and drank a lot, then ended up in a ramen restaurant. I wobbled my way home on my bike and here I am. My laundry's done, so I'm going to leave you all so I can hang my stuff up to dry. I'll try and post photos tomorrow, and linkify this post.

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