Megumi took us to her hometown for their local harvest festival "Hyogematsuri." The town was quaint and beautiful, and I loved hearing Megumi's stories of walking the entire 2-hour course of the parade with her sisters when they were children. Before the parade we ate at a cute little cafe, all wooden and cozy. Hannah played peek-a-boo with the bamboo curtains and flirted with another little boy before running off with his ball. Smart cookie. She dined on rice and black sesame pudding between laps around the tatami room. These coffee cups were so cool!
Amidst rice fields and farm houses, locals gathered at the parade "rest point" where men wearing yam leaves for hats and yam stems for swords drank beer and sake with a hearty gaiety that only a festival organized by hardworking farmers who have spent the past summer breaking their backs over their precious crops can incite. They were also preparing various floats for the last leg of the parade, including but not limited to a giant horse made from palm leaves and rice straw, with eggplants for eyes and giant gords painted silver for testicles (now I know what these were for). What Japanese parade would be complete without some kind of sacred animal proudly hung like a . . . well, like a horse?
I wandered the festival booths looking for a snack and something fun for Hannah. While the "super jumbo" octopus on a stick sounded apetizing, we ended up with shaved ice and a blow-up Minnie Mouse hammer . . . traditional symbols of the Shikoku harvest, I guess. :)
The parade finally reached its end at the lake. Men too drunk to walk carried a shrine made of pine and bamboo, hassling nervous traffic cops on the way, to the lake shore. Having nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, they jumped in. And that was Hyogematsuri.