Octopus’s Garden

2 02 2009

Pre-Setsubun Festival at Yoshida Shrine, Kyoto, 2/2/2009

Living in such close proximity to a temple is both a plus and minus at times, and I definitely drifted in both directions today when I woke up and found surrounding my apartment. Setsubun is coming, and with it come multitudes of festivals, packed with booths selling their wares, from takoyaki (a sort of fried batter ball filled with octopus) to goldfish scooping. It’s all very lively and fun and unfortunately kind of a pain in the ass when you actually need to wade through all of it to get to class. I bought a bicycle yesterday (and went to a church- I’ll try and write about that later, though I didn’t take any photos), and riding through the teeming masses of people gave me new found respect for people who brave these sorts of crowds everyday. I find the possibility of hitting people really stressful, so it’s an intense ten minutes to the KCJS building.

One thing I noticed is children run a lot freer in those sorts of public events than I'm used to in America. Parents and guardians are definitely keeping a close eye, but it's not an obsession like it is for most American parents when they bring their children somewhere.

One thing I noticed is children run a lot freer in those sorts of public events than I'm used to in America. Parents and guardians are definitely keeping a close eye, but it's not an obsession like it is for most American parents when they bring their children somewhere.

The surfeit of available cuisine, most of it fried or grilled, has created a potpourri of aromas that has settled over most of the area. There’s a tangible “meat” smell to everything that may or may not be enjoyable for some people- I thought it was a little much.

I think these are a type of okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake filled with various vegetables and seafood) but I've never seen them made entirely of lettuce like that.

I think these are a type of okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake filled with various vegetables and seafood) but I've never seen them made entirely of lettuce like that.

The aforementioned goldfish scooping. The challenge is that the nets they give you are paper, so you have to be careful not to rip when picking up the fish. I kind of feel sorry for the fish, though- I don't think most of the "prizes" have long to live.

The aforementioned goldfish scooping. The challenge is that the nets they give you are paper, so you have to be careful not to rip when picking up the fish. I kind of feel sorry for the fish, though- I don't think most of the "prizes" have long to live.

The stall owners operate a wide variety of ventures, and wait intently for each festival for a chance to hock their wares. They’re a little like the American carny, except probably less angry and careless.

There also seems to more of an emphasis on presentation. While in America you can stick pretty much anything on a stick and fry it and expect a profit, some of the food I saw was rather visually striking.

There also seems to more of an emphasis on presentation. While in America you can stick pretty much anything on a stick and fry it and expect a profit, some of the food I saw was rather visually striking.

Of course, this does have at least some religious or symbolic value. There was quite a lot of praying and veneration going on, though I’m not quite sure to who or what. There were also some preparations for what looked like might be a pretty sweet bonfire.

These look like pork buns, but I'm not sure, and I have no idea what their significance is. I do know that a guitar capo is pronounced "cap - po" in Japan. Had a hard time at the guitar store until I figured out that.

These look like pork buns, but I'm not sure, and I have no idea what their significance is. I do know that a guitar capo is pronounced "cap - po" in Japan. Had a hard time at the guitar store until I figured out that.

That's mostly small change in front of the pork bun(?) there- one, five, and ten yen pieces, about equal to the American pennies, nickels, and dimes.

That's mostly small change in front of the pork bun(?) there- one, five, and ten yen pieces, about equal to the American pennies, nickels, and dimes.

Preparation for what I assume will be a bonfire. Also an excellent opportunity for people to dump their paper bags, apparently.

Preparation for what I assume will be a bonfire. Also an excellent opportunity for people to dump their paper bags, apparently.

They're a little hard to see, but there are arrows around the perimeter of the cage. Arrows have a variety of symbolic meanings in Japan, and special ones are often considered sacred.

They're a little hard to see, but there are arrows around the perimeter of the cage. Arrows have a variety of symbolic meanings in Japan, and special ones are often considered sacred.

There were also people in costume for the purpose of scaring children and creating crowds even more aggravating than the usual jubilation glut.

I think these would be "oni", or Japanese demons.

I think these would be "oni", or Japanese demons.

The festivities continue tonight and tomorrow. I’m also going on a field trip of sorts with my Japanese language class tomorrow to a more provincial celebration for the holiday, so hopefully I should have some more photos. I’m off to go eat taiyaki.

Taiyaki, for those who don't know, is usually red bean paste in a sort of pancake-like batter. It's also what God would eat, were he forced to live as a man every hundred years in order to better understand the world he had created.

Taiyaki, for those who don't know, is usually red bean paste in a sort of pancake-like batter. It's also what God would eat, were he forced to live as a man every hundred years in order to better understand the world he had created.

Music I’m Listening to Now: The Killers, “Read My Mind”

Advertisements