Showing posts with label atoichi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atoichi. Show all posts

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rice planting maidens. Saotome.


Saotome, rice-planting maidens from last weekends Tauebayashi Matsuri up in Atoichi.


Saotome appear in all kinds of rice planting ceremonies and rituals all over Japan. The link between agriculture, fertility, and sexuality was common to many rites in agricutural societies, though as far as I know in Japan the explicit link still exists at only one shrine up in Asuka.


Nowadays the maidens come in all ages.


It is difficult to overstate the obsession Japanese have with rice.


To the horror of any Japanese who know me, I don't like the plain, white, sticky, stuff!

Barbarian that I am.


Actually for most japanese, rice only became the staple food relatively recently. For most of japanese history the common people subsisted on a porridge made from various grains. White rice was reserved for special occasions.


The rich lived on white rice, and it is believed emperors and lords sometimes died from beri-beri.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Atoichi Children's Tauebayashi Matsuri


I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at the Atoichi Children's Tauebayashi Matsuri.


Following a small ceremony in front of the school, the procession made its way to the rice paddies that belong to the school.

For those whose only experience of Matsuri is at the major sites in the towns and cities, you are missing a very important aspect of matsuri, and that is community. In village matsuris there is a real festive atmosphere not based on alcohol. As at the rest of the time in these remote communities, people are friendly to visitors and one genuinely feels like a guest.


All the generations were involved, even the school principal, seen here on the drum.

The children come from the elementary school as well as Junior Highschool, Highschool, and even a couple of college students.

While Tauebayashi may have its roots in days long gone, it, like Taiko drum groups, Yosakoi dancing, etc are mostly a late twentieth Century phenomenon.


The festival in Atoichi is in its sixteenth year, and I would say it was a success in its aim of keeping alive the sense of village community.


As we were leaving we were given a couple of bags of mochi, rice cakes, made from last years harvest.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Atoichi Elementary School


On Sunday we drove up into the mountains to the village of Atoichi where we found a wonderful example of an old, wooden school building. It was built in 1931, and apparently that makes it one of the oldest.


Most Japanese schools, especially post-war, look like abandoned prisons or factories (which is pretty much what they are in my opinion), but all the wood of this one made it feel quite humane.

One man I spoke to, about my age, said that when he was at the school there were 400 students.

Now there are 19.


There was a big room for practising Tea ceremony. On a chart in the entrance hall was a list of all the local community members, mostly elderly, who volunteer at the school teaching things like art, tea ceremony, etc.

In one of the hamlets that make up Atoichi, the youngest member of the community is 78.


There was a computer room with at least 10 computers, which probably means it has the best computer to student ratio in any Japanese school.

I wonder how many more years it will be till the school is closed and the building begins its descent to becoming one more Haikyo.


It was Sunday, but most of the student body were in the playground, dressed up for Matsuri.


Behind the school buildings are some paddies, where the students grow their own rice, and today was the annual Tauebayashi (Rice planting song and dance) Festival.