※※ Gifu Nobunaga Festival 2011 REFLECTION ※※(4)
Last weekend, I was able to attend the Gifu Nobunaga Festival 2011 in Gifu City, a festival that honors the great historical figure Nobunaga who did so much for both Japan and for Gifu (which he in fact named). Exiting the train station, this is the sight with which I was greeted: taiko drums! One of the three essential parts of any Japanese festival, taiko performances are pervasive, and yet...for me at least, their power to enchant never fades.
Along one of the main streets of Gifu City, the long parade began at around 1pm, and it was headed by this marching band.
Following them was this group led by Minamo, the official mascot for the upcoming National Sports Festival of Japan to be held in Gifu in 2012. "Minamo" literally means "water surface," and indeed, Minamo is supposed to be a fairy that lives on the surface of a beautiful river, evoking images of the pure rivers on which Gifu prides itself. You can make out the water surface around his torso area.
Next came the ceremonial firing of matchlock guns by this group of 16th century warriors. To be honest, I could not see very well with the crowd before me (the camera is way over my head here), and I was not expecting the incredibly loud firing shots when they came. I was quite startled, to put it mildly!
After firing off one round, the men in armor continued to parade...they would later fire off several more rounds at intersections farther down the road!
Standard bearers marching in front of the nobility.
And here is the man of the hour, Oda Nobunaga himself!
Following closely behind is Nohime, Nobunaga's wife.
And then Oichi-no-kata, Nobunaga's youngest sister.
And another noblewoman.
After the parade ended, the "festival" part of the day began, with crowds assembling around the food stalls and game booths, both elements that traditionally mark Japanese festivals. The above photo is of a man making what is known in Gifu as "pon-haze," which is similar to popcorn except that it is made with rice instead of corn kernels! On occasion, it made a "pop" just as loud as the matchlock guns and released just as much smoke...but with much sweeter results!
The finished "pon-haze" was shaped and packaged in different ways...like rice krispies treats, but also in bags in which all of the kernels remained unattached to each other. Either way...it was delicious!
A little further along at a hands-on pottery station, a ceramist was helping this girl and another boy shape clay on potter's wheels.
It turned out that the Gifu Nobunaga Festival was not the only festival in town this last weekend. There was also a festival promoting kimono, traditional Japanese garments. And here, at the end of one road, I spied a bunch of birds sitting along the rim of some portable swimming pool-like object. Lo and behold, they were cormorants! Again, something for which Gifu is well known...cormorant fishing on the Nagara River! This fellow on the left was the only one that would spread its wings, though.
And here's a closer look at the proud, impressive bird.
All in all, a successful day!
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