Author: Emily Nielson
Location: Hirakata, Osaka, Japan
Golden Week is something that I first heard about from my mom. Essentially a pre-summer break, Thursday and Friday combine with the weekend to create a marvelous mini vacation for Japanese people. Everyone seems to have big plans for this holiday, and the crowds everywhere testify to that.
I spent a good part of Golden Week doing homework, but I did manage to go outside and experience some new things thanks to the invitation of friends. Mason, my former roommate, invited me to Kyoto for a barbeque hosted by her friend’s restaraunt. We enjoyed a wonderful variety of food, including grilled beef and pork, corn on the cob, shaved ice, and takoyaki. Beef is especially expensive in Japan, as there is little space for farmland, so this was especially tasty. Takoyaki are spherical golden shells made of batter that’s filled with octopus, grilled to one’s liking. I also tried whale-and thought of Finding Nemo the whole time. Whale has the consistency of beef and the taste of fish, which was a little unsettling, but perhaps that’s just me.
Adding another event to my cultural bucket list was watching Japanese men carry mikoshi, which is a kind of portable Japanese shrine. Wearing traditional white robes and headbands, they carry the shrine for a short distance to honor deities. According to Mason, they believe that the gods become bored sitting in their shrine, so they jostle around the mikoshi as much as possible. Spectators gather to watch them hauling the shrine. When the men took breaks, some of them offered mini cans of Asahi beer and tea, although the beer was strictly reserved for the men doing the heavy lifting. Ironically, many people took smoke breaks in between hauls, and I eventually got a bad headache from the air.
After making several loops around the neighborhood, the men finally returned back to the temple. Several men took turns beating the taiko drum, applause following each round. Finally finished, all of the participants were rewarded a bottle of sake and a whole pack of beer! They all seemed really happy.
It always interests me as to how much Japan enjoys honoring tradition yet also welcoming, or at least showing curiosity in, innovation and the latest trends. Holidays like this often give us a glance into what was once a norm in the lives of a people. It makes me wonder what the U.S. will look like in a few centuries, and what holidays the whole world could partake in.