I was lucky enough to catch an exciting announcement on TV this morning: the full dates for this year’s Hyakumangoku Festival! It runs for 3 days, the first weekend of June, this year on the 5th, 6th, and 7th. Events include an evening of candle-lit lanterns floating down the Asanogawa (the river that runs beside Higashi-chaya), a huge parade, and bon-dancing as well as many cultural events and plenty of festival food. The whole celebration is in honor of Lord Maeda Toshiie’s triumphant visit to Kanazawa Castle in 1583, when rice production in the prefecture topped 5,000,000 bushels (as indicated in the name of the festival). The big parade is a reproduction of what that procession might have looked like, with hundreds of participants decked out in period outfits – noblemen and women, the Lord and his Lady, and hordes of foot- and mounted-soldiers with impressive weapon arrays.
As you saw in the last post, a group of gaijin are asked to participate in the big parade each year. For girls, you’re transformed into beautiful handmaidens complete with gorgeous wigs, multi-layered kimono, make-up and footwear. For guys you can feel rough and tough in your foot soldier armor and weaponry.
All the participants meet up around 11AM at Daiwa for a quick walk around the corner to a hotel the parade rents out for the day. Soldiers and attendants split up onto different levels – all us girls found ourselves in what is usually a gym or large conference room. You see lots of these little bundles on the tatami:
There’s lots of bloodshed over who gets what pretty color or the kimono with the big sleeves… Nah 😉 Prep continues! First you get strapped into the white “underwear layer,” essentially a white sleeveless kimono-style top and a koshimaki, hip-wrap. Then comes the first kimono with small obi.
Next comes makeup. A row of artists sponge you down from elbow to fingertips and neck to nose. Before you get color you feel a bit like a ghost.
Next, the outer layer of kimono.
Last but not least, wig application! Courtesy of the opera house, the wigs are usually used for a production of Madame Butterfly (or so says the scuttlebutt).
I think everyone should have fun doing something like this once in their time in Japan. It’s great fun, you wear beautiful Japanese costume, get lunch, meet all sorts of interesting people… go for it!
~MadSilence the Younger