November 3rd is Culture Day in Japan. I knew it from before as a freebie day off and usually used it to visit friends or go hiking. This time I noticed all the posters up around the city advertising festivities and thought I’d join in.
I arrived toward the end of the main parade and was disappointed to have missed the samurai and princess display. A group of people carried the Omikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine, through the streets. This is to move it from one area to another, or just to display it throughout the neighborhoods that ascribe to the shrine before returning it to its home.
There were plenty of things going on that day all around the city. Most of the roads were blocked off to traffic and thronged with pedestrians. I stumbled across a Taiko drum performance. The performer’s joy and energy was infectious. After them a marching band came through the street, led by a group of cheerleaders. There were dance performances on a stage with both traditional Japanese music and modern pop. A calligraphy group came out with giant brushes and wrote a message choreographed to music. There was a big fleamarket and lots of little booths of people selling things throughout the city. I got a sweater and a camera case, each for 100yen, the equivalent of a dollar. One stand was selling a snack for about 30cents. It was a banana dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with salty ramen pieces and peanuts. There was also a gospel choir charity performance that day. It was beautiful to see the lively clapping and soulful music in such a typically reserved country.
Just before sunset I went to see the Matsumoto castle one more time. It’s presided over the festivities in this town for over 500 years and is fittingly called a National Treasure of Japan.