Sunday, 2 December 2007

Part 2: Chichibu Yomatsuri (Sunday afternoon + evening)

Sunday 2 December is still all 'warm up' for the main day, 3 December (this year falling on Monday). All 6 yatai (floats) make their way towards the Chichibu Shrine down the main street. They are spaced apart to allow for the hundreds of feet of tow-rope in front and for the signalling and turning manoeuvres at corners in the road. This also separates (somewhat) their independent taiko music. The woodblocks (3 pairs) give 3 claps to indicate the pullers should be on the move again.

One stage-float has a small kabuki set on its front. At the main shrine, they performed a short kabuki play for the crowd/priest. The shamisen players and singer are seated behind the actors and the lady in dark kimono is helping the actors change costume during the performance. The priest of Chichibu Jinja blesses each float and offers prayers with the men participating on the yatai when it reaches the shrine steps.

Originally, the main agricultural produce of Chichibu was silk and still bundles of silk-worm cocoons are offered in thanks at the shrine. Very many people are also visiting the Chichibu Jinja (shrine), making prayers and donations and acknowledging the reason for thanksgiving. All 6 floats 'park' at the main shrine for the official ceremony. Running concurrently, a group of Shinto priests perform ritual dances with a small 'band' consisting of several flutes and a drum to the priests dancing with fans and a jester figure with mask, a comic.

At night each float is illuminated by elegant lanterns in rows along the side and hanging from the rafters. Hanabi (fireworks) light up the evening sky. celebrating in the evening. Sunday is a mini-show in anticipation of the several-hour show on Monday night in explosive punctuations when a float reaches the city hall. Finally, at the end of the evening, the Kami-machi yatai is reversed into its garage for the night until festivities resume the following morning.