January 20, 2009

Manly Festivals Part 1

Recently, I was treated to my first mochi-pounding event (a もちすき). Some neighborhoods get together to pound mochi and then offer a couple dollops of mochi (glutinous globs of smashed rice) called a kagamimochi (鏡餅) topped with a relative of the orange (a 橙*). The pounding things with a hammer is indeed very manly, and I may make a video of that, but today I wanted to tell you about a manly event I just discovered recently.
It seems in some festivals around this time of year, men see how far they can carry the platform that the kagamimochi is usually put on.
If I may transummarize** the article I encountered yesterday, leaving out a few details:
In Tokushima prefecture, strong men (and women) from 4 to 45 gather to to fight in a battle of hefting ginormous kagamimochi [or 力もち大会], seeing how far they can carry them, while big crowds look on.

The tradition has been around since the Warring States period [approx. 1467-1568 CE], when a feudal lord endowed with great strength carried a stone monument to the Daisan temple as an offering of thanks for his superhuman muskles, or so the story goes, and the festival has been happening for about 400 years.

The events are divided into four weight categories, with mochi weighing from 10 to 140 kilos, for kids and adults respectively. The warriors are cheered on with clapping and shouts of "endure!" and "you can go the distance!"

32 year old worker Hiroshi has pulled of three successive championships, with a personal record of 42.8 meters. He breathlessly said with a smile that he wanted to continue as long as he has the strength to compete.

Now, knowing my Japan, I figured there had to be other contests of this sort. The following video looks like the same event, but at a different place, where they've been doing it a mere 70 years. Look out for the guy in the loincloth; now that is manly***!

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*interestingly, 橙色 was orange before オレンジ was orange.
**: translate-summarize
***: We'll get into loincloths next time...