Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Story Telling Festival - Ikukunitama Shrine

I recently got to go to a Rakugo festival at a local shrine here in Osaka. Rakugo is a story-telling style that is practiced in Japan where the speaker must tell a long, complicated, and funny story. Each story and its wording are precisely defined and the story teller uses only their voice, limited body gestures, and tempo to vary it and make it their own. The story teller also uses a small hand fan and a small towel as props. For example, the folded fan could be used as chop sticks and the towel as a bowl of rice.

The Rakugo story tellers practice for years to become experts. Much like in the Sumo tradition, they join a "family" where they live in a house with others who are practicing the art. They learn from a master and are responsible for chores and other things. They graduate to higher levels as they refine their art. The festival at the Ikukunitama Shrine is an annual event where they get to showcase their talents.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get any decent pictures of the performers telling stories but this is a shot from the side of the stage towards the end of the day:

This one shows the stage from the back of the crowd:

The event itself is like a fair and was held on what was probably the hottest day of the year here in Osaka. I think it was over 105F (40C) with 95% humidity. The folks in attendance were in really good spirits considering the weather. This is the central walkway area where there was food and other types of displays:

I got to see a couple of kids games that I had seen on TV while here. Both are fishing style games with the first using balls and small hooks:

The second was my favorite. Kids are given a small paddle that has a paper "net" in it. The paper seemed to be like tissue. The idea is that they can scoop up (and keep) as many fish as they can before the paper rips. It was fun to watch the different techniques. Some kids tried to basically push a bunch of fish into their bowls while others tried to pick up individual or small groups of fish. Not being an expert or anything but, if I were playing, I think that I'd go for the one-big-scoop method as the paper only seemed to last for about 30 seconds before it ripped. Here's one little girl playing the game:

The Ikukunitama is a Shinto shrine that is somewhat unique in Japan. It combines several different types of shrines that are usually in separate locations into one place. I liken it to a convenience store where it's a one stop shop. :-) The next photo is of a couple of the shrines with the "wish" boards out front:

Finally, this is the back corner of the whole complex that shows some more Torii Gates and shrines:

This festival was fun for me (even though the heat was enough to kill) because it was another chance to see daily-Japanese life and culture up close and to learn more about shrines in general and about the Rakugo story telling.

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