Word of the day: matsuri (mah-tsu-ri)n. it means festival.
So, I went to Shibuya yesterday, but I won't spend much time talking about that, because all I did was get overwhelmed, pop in a department store (walls were closing in on me) called Don Kihote for some towels and wash clothes (a single washcloth cost $3), and then I went to the Tokyu department store at the Shibuya Station (the great white building sitting on top of some of the train lines), and to it's basement to look at all the lovely foods there (Jiffy peanut butter, marshmallows, and tons upon tons of artistic, designer looking cakes and whatnot).
Rather, I'm going to talk about the Matsuri we held at our shrine today. Evidentally, the god that supposedly resides in this particular shrine in Ikejiri, is who you pray to for good harvest and stuff, thus the timing of this festival. At the beginning of the festival, they bring out all the omikoshi (portable shrines), which this shrine here has four, and then the priests call out what I'm assuming are blessings on them, while the head priest, my host father, goes and says the same stuff over the big omikoshi that they didn't take out today, but which comes out tomorrow. Ours has a phoenix on it and has something to do with some lady (lady goddess?), and in front of this one are offerings of vegetables. After the priests are done, the workers present heave the portable shrines off to trucks and stick them in the back, taking them and dropping them at different edges of town. Slowly, with the help of police for traffic, and taiko drummers and chanters, people carrying the omikoshi go around the town all day, showing it off. In the main courtyard, food stalls and a toy stall for children is set up, and prayers or blessings (don't know which) start to get hammered onto this huge wooden billboard looking thing. The main shrine is open, but only certain people can go within, and they sit and drink and do calligraphy, while others come up the stairs to offer prayers. (They shake these colored fabric strips with bells inside, clap their hands twice and pray. On other stand, tea ceremony and flutists are on display.
About halfway through the day, my host mother took me and a friend upstairs and dressed me up in a Yukata (a simpler version of a kimono). It seems she has had special classes to teach her how to dress a kimono. She was so good at it, and she even gave me a butterfly bow tied in gauzy fabric for my back. After that, everyone we met on the street was very friendly and complimented us on our yukatas, saying that they were very pretty, and suited us. At the end of the day, I got to sit up in one of the buildings on a platform and participate in tea ceremony, which was, as always, awesome. It was the cool green tea, so we got chairs, thankfully. And now, I'm totally bushed. It's pouring buckets outside, and it's dark now, but there are still people down in the courtyard, listening to some live singer they have, and if I wasn't so tired, I'd go join them, but for now, I think I'll call it tonight. The big Omikoshi comes out tomorrow, and I think I'm helping with that, so later! (I added more pics to the 'First Few Days' file, as well as making a new file for the Matsuri).