Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ebisu Festival

Ebisu is one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. He's the dude carrying the giant sea bream and a fishing rod. The one with the great big smile on his face. (He's also known as The Laughing God.) Ebisu is thought of as the god of fishermen, good luck and laborers.

His story is creepy-cool. One version says that he used to be called Hiruko no Mikoto (note: Hiruko means leech child) and is the third son of the two gods that formed Japan. He was born without any bones and by the age of three was thrown into the ocean by his truly un-understanding parents. Still, he was able to make it back to shore and from then on was raised by a man named Ebisu Saburo. Soon Little Leech Boy managed to grow a skeletal system and become the god Ebisu. Despite his dysfunctional childhood, he is a jolly fellow, although some say he has a limp and is slightly deaf.

My town's main industry is fishing so Ebisu is an important symbol for the fishermen and dock workers. There is even a shrine dedicated to him.

Once a year in November the roads in front of the train station close down and an all-day/all-night festival dedicated to Ebisu erupts. This year I decided to go early before the nighttime crowds showed up.

Here you can see the stalls selling all sorts of goodies lining both sides of the street. By nightfall you can hardly walk for all the people. Half of them drunk. It really is a lively celebration.

The main reason everyone goes to the festival is to buy the good luck charms that are sold. Charms insuring good fortune, good health, and good wealth. Oh yeah, they also go to visit the small shrine dedicated to Ebisu to pay their respects. Maybe some go just to get drunk.

Here is a good luck charm of Ebisu and Daitokoku (another one of the Seven Lucky Gods). Ebisu is in the red hat. They could be twins.

Here hang all sorts of other good luck accessories for sale. The whole festival is so jangly and colorful, lots of gold and red.

Here are some other fun things I found for sale.


This guy is selling super balls for the kids. Children pay a few hundred yen and get a ladle that they use to scoop up as many super balls as they can.

Chocolate, strawberry and melon dipped bananas. With sprinkles!

And a stall that sold chicken steaks displayed several rubber chickens strung up by their necks.
And if you didn't think all the above was reason enough to respect a leech boy turned god. Remember that Ebisu is also the image character for Yebisu beer.

Yah, baby.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Scary Caves and a Great Deal

We had a meltdown in our family last Friday night. Excuse me while I huff, stomp my foot, and grumble loudly, "The #&% school system!"

Yesterday was the first Saturday since January that my son didn't have school or club activities and I wasn't banging on rocks, so I decided we should go somewhere to relax, see some autumn colors, and not think about linear equations and Japanese classical literature for awhile.

We drove up to Mount Fuji's five lakes and were pleased to discover a sign that read the Bat Cave. They had these posters everywhere.

I've visited a lot of caves in the States and quite a few in Japan, and there really is a difference. First off, as far as I can judge Japan's aren't nearly as spacious or deep, no vaulted ceilings and pretty colors. I mean they are just hollows in volcanic rock and hardened magma, right?

What Japan caves do have though is a healthy dose of Fear. I've always loved how the Japanese don't feel they must protect you from yourself, or any crumbly rocks, darnit.

Here's a shot of us entering the bowels of the Bat Cave. You might notice a few things: no lights, no convenient bars to grab, and no one has previously come along to build some vaguely walkable surface upon which we can trudge.

I swear I have had nightmares made up of this stuff. Descending into darky depths where the deeper I go the narrower it gets. It's wet and hard and cold and my feet keep falling into crevices and my head keeps banging into the ceiling which is fast meeting the floor and before I know it I must get on my stomach and scoot and I can't back up because someone is behind me.

I'm serious, stomach scooting was involved!

Here are the kids taking a picture of me. They're probably laughing. I was in near freak-out mode by this time. They're all crouched down because they can't stand up.

It wasn't until I surfaced that I realized we saw not a single winged varmint and no Adam West. Still, it was cool.

Now for the bargain of the day. I found this guy in a souvenir shop selling nothing but gorgeous pieces of blown glass. It was in a dusty, unlit corner all by itself.

The Robot from Lost in Space!

The only one left and marked down from eight bucks to four!

And, I'll have you know, I did NOT buy the five dollar bag of pine cones.

No, really. They were selling pine cones for five hundred yen. Small bags at that.

Finally, a couple of shots of the beautiful scenery.

There are two dots waaay in the background. That would be J and his best friend stretching their legs after a long-ass drive.