Do you know how a sumo match works? Basically, the loser is the first one thrown out of the ring or the first one to touch the ground inside the circle with anything other than the soles of his feet. Now imagine for a moment that you’re watching a sumo match; except instead of a pair of 350 lb men, the competitors are 350 lb shrines carried on the shoulders of forty men. Now imagine that there are men standing on top of these shrines taunting the other team as they crash into each other at a full run. Does what you’re imagining look about like this?

This is a picture I took yesterday at the Matsuyama Mikoshi festival, just before impact. A mikoshi is a portable shrine, a spiritual vessel used to carry around the patron god of a normal Shinto shrine once a year when it’s paraded through the streets of the surrounding neighborhood to bring its inhabitants and businesses good luck.
Speaking of good luck, the chosen route for my neighborhood’s shrine took it right past my apartment on Monday night. I took this picture and video leaning out the window by my stove.
They’re louder than I expected, but I still have no idea what they’re saying.
The men’s shrine was followed shortly by these two teams of cute (kawaii!) kids carrying their smaller versions.
Surprisingly, they left the shrine in the empty lot next to my apartment overnight before the matches Tuesday morning. Here’s the team about to maneuver the shrine into the place.
Here’s the team actually setting it down.
And there it sat until morning.
So I took some more pictures.
Most of the actual matches took place early in the morning on Tuesday. The crowds were thick on every available viewing place.
What does it actually look like in action, you ask? Here’s a video I took of an actual bout taking place. You can see the initial charge with the whole team pushing on the backs of the men in front of them, the initial impact when the shrines hit each other, the teams slowly turning while each team is trying to push the other backwards (100 men in a giant disorganized pirouette…), and the shrines and teams pulling apart when the match is over.
The winners were happy enough to do some crowdsurfing from the top of their shrine.
After the bouts were all over, there was a closing ceremony with all eight of the shrines that were in the day’s competition.
There were also some food vendors set up to catch the foot traffic.
I bought a frankfurter on a stick and fresh french fries from two of the stands. Then, feeling rather weighed down by the grease, I stopped by a Lawson’s convenience store (it’s so much easier to just say “conbini”) and grabbed an onigiri rice ball and a drinkable carton of active-cultured yogurt. Walking away from the site, I was surprised to see some of the contestants and other event participants leaving in the backs of open-bed trucks.
Overall, a highly enjoyable and exciting festival.
3 Responses to “Matsuyama Fall Mikoshi Festival”
  1. What an awesome event!

    What’s the difference between a hot dog on a stick and a frankfurter on a stick?

  2. I am loving your blog! Great to hear from you.:)

  3. […] because I didn’t want it to get rained on, so I’m glad I got decent photos and video last year. The pics snapped with my phone camera are pretty useless, but Kevin got a decent video or […]

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