FUKUSHIMA -- The annual Kenka Matsuri (fight festival) held in the city's Iizaka "onsen" hot springs district had a distinctly "foreign" feel to it this year.
Typically, 30 or so foreign nationals join in the day program of festivities. But this year, about 50 non-Japanese representing 12 countries took part.
Raucous cries of "Wasshoi, Ganbare, Wasshoi, Ganbare" (hurray, hurray) echoed through the streets as the festivities got under way Oct. 1.
The Iizaka Hachimanjinja shrine festival, which has a 300-year history, is held to give thanks for a rich harvest.
The high point comes at night when yatai floats, each supported by dozens of revelers, deliberately run toward each other and collide, much to the delight of the crowd.
The idea is to prevent the yatai from entering the grounds of the shrine.
Visitor numbers to the Iizaka onsen are down sharply this year due to radiation fears following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Most of the foreign nationals taking part said they returned to their home countries immediately after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake but returned to Japan after the crisis eased.
"I want to do what I can for the reconstruction of Fukushima," said one foreign participant.
Another participant, a 23-year-old language teacher at an elementary school, said, "I want to tell the world that we can live in Fukushima safely and that it has a great traditional culture."
Hiroshi Tanno, an executive committee member of the festival, vows to preserve the time-honored local festival.
"Undeterred by the disaster and scaremongering, we want to preserve our tradition," said Tanno, 70.
- « Prev
- Next »