Foreign students get a taste of a Japanese festival

Oct 02, 2018

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Sunday, September 23, was the date of this year’s Machida Tenmangu Festival, and 24 of J. F. Oberlin University’s foreign students took part. Students from Thailand, Canada, India, Taiwan, Italy, China, Germany, Finland, and the U. S. A. helped carry the mikoshi of the Hara-machida 6-chome Neighborhood Association. The event, organized by the Tokyo Machida Salvia Rotary Club, is now in its 23rd year and is designed to give foreign students a firsthand look at Japanese culture. Dressed in the Neighborhood Association’s hanten, the students shouted “Seyassa!” while parading through central Machida with the portable shrine on their shoulders.

The mikoshi started its journey at the Carillon plaza next to the Odakyu Line Machida Station and wound its way for about two hours through the downtown area, passing Tokyu Department Store and the JR Machida Station. Encouraged by spectators, the students put all their energy into the endeavor. There were two rest stops, at which the students were given yakitori and drinks. Conversations bounced back and forth, with the students wanting to know such things as how heavy the mikoshi was and what the origins of the festival were. The locals, in turn, were curious about where each student had come from.

The students also had a chance to try carrying the lanterns which preceded the mikoshi. Having been taught the proper way to walk with the lanterns by Neighborhood Association members, the students took their role very seriously.

After the 6-chome mikoshi had reached the Carillon plaza again, Machida Tenmangu’s mikoshi arrived. The students expressed surprise at finding that this mikoshi was even bigger and heavier than the one they had been carrying. Ou Chaoyu, a student from Taiwan, said, “It was heavier than I thought it would be, and my shoulder hurts, but I had fun.” Although she was sweating and appeared tired, she also had a happy glow on her face.

After changing out of the hanten, the students proceeded to Machida Tenmangu. After watching Japanese worshippers bow twice, clap their hands twice, and then bow once more, the students also gave it a try. Then they went off to explore the stalls lining the approach to the shrine. They bought takoyaki and yakisoba and tried their hands at such typical festival activities as scooping up goldfish and shooting at targets, all the while taking lots of photos. Chinese student Lin Yuxin said, “I’m interested in Japanese culture, so it was great to be able to carry the mikoshi and listen to the festival music. I really like the atmosphere of Japanese festivals!”

All day long, Mr. Saburo Uchida of the Rotary Club looked after the students. Later he commented, “We hope to be able to share the excitement of Japanese festivals with many more foreign students in the years to come.”

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