Busshozan Fall Festival cont'd2011.10.31 by Cathy Hirano
"It has strengthened the connections between people. Since we began doing this, local people have become more involved in other community activities year-round and it's created a vibrant and very friendly atmosphere in the town. People get involved in the festival because they take pride in the community and in their heritage, not out of a sense of obligation. We do it for Busshozan, not for ourselves."
My very helpful informant
This community spirit was in evidence everywhere and for me it was one of the fun things about the festival. It is supported almost entirely by volunteers and the whole community gets involved. The volunteer fire department is responsible for crowd and traffic control. Community cultural groups like the local band and an Okinawan dancing troupe join in the parade.
School children dressed in a combination of period garb and school gym clothes race ahead of the procession, supposedly carrying important messages for the daimyo. They have to solve difficult quiz questions along the way as they compete to reach the goal.
Members of an organization for the preservation of ancient firearms launches the parade with a deafening volley of shots. And all participants in the parade except for a few professional swordfighters are volunteers.
Very cool swordfighting hero
Some volunteers come from as far away as Hiroshima and Tokyo and many are repeaters, such as these beautiful ladies here.
The woman on the left is seventy (though she doesn't look it!!) and comes from Marugame, about 1 hour away from Takamatsu. This is her second time to participate. The girl beside her is a junior high school student. They both do it because it's fun! Just for your information, anyone can join. It's advertised each year in the Takamatsu city bulletin so keep your eyes open. There are only 50 spots available though and it's first come first served.
It's good to go a bit early to find a good viewing spot because it gets quite jammed. Being short and also a bit shy, I got lots of crowd shots.
There are several places along the parade route where the procession is attacked by would-be assassins and defeated by what I assume must be the captain of the guard. (See Pat's blog for photos.) It's quite exciting and fun to watch but for the best view, you need to stake out a place. The first attack occurs just after the parade begins. Two more attacks occur along the road (you can tell because that's where it's most crowded), culminating in a final attack in the park. The give and take is quite humorous and even though I had to peer over many heads to see, it was still fun to watch.
Crowd starting to gather at strategic point
The parade route is lined with historic buildings. Many community groups and businesses rent space along here to sell their wares and advertise their services. Such as this group from a local osteopath offering free massages along with demonstrations of curious therapeutic goods.
A leg massage anyone?
This group from a daycare center for the elderly is selling goods to support disaster relief efforts in northern Japan.
Daycare center moss ball bonsai
There are also various types of entertainment, such as this juggling act provided by students from Takamatsu's technical college, Kosen.
In Busshozan Park, the final destination of the procession, there are countless booths and kiosks selling food, plants, and other local products. The proceeds fund the different groups' activities for the year. Community groups specializing in different performing arts also take this opportunity to showcase their talents on the open-air stage. There's lots going on and it's fun to just wander about.
Open air stage
Another good point: Apparently, the festival has increased environmental consciousness. Students from the local schools collect, separate and recycle the garbage during the festival. "We managed to reduce 3 truckloads worth of garbage this way, which has saved us a lot of money." As I sat enjoying a snack in the park, my garbage was indeed whisked politely away by a student volunteer.
One of many student-manned garbage stations at the festival
With or without the festival, Busshozan is a great place to visit and I hope to post a few more articles on it in the future. For anyone free on November 3, 2011, there's a big lantern festival with hundreds of lanterns planned along the historic shopping street up to Honeji Temple from 13:30 to 20:00 to celebrate the completion of the temple's new pagoda. Enjoy!
I recommend going by train, not car, when the festival is on because it's very crowded. It's extremely easy to reach Busshozan by Kotoden train. There are 3 trains per hour and it's only an 18-minute ride from Takamatsu Chikko Station right beside Tamamo Park at the Takamatsu port (620 yen round trip). Get off at Busshozan station and turn left once you get outside. Just a short distance down past the convenience store is the starting point of the festival. There are lots of friendly volunteers dressed in bright pink, yellow and green jackets so ask if you feel lost. It takes about 20 minutes brisk walk to Honenji Temple and the park but during the festival there is lots to see along the way so expect to take longer. When the procession is in full swing, if you need to get ahead, it's OK to weave your way politely through the parade itself as people frequently stop the participants to take photos.