The festival is an all day affair. By all day I don't mean a wimpy 9-5 working day kind of all day or even a more hardcore farmer's 4:30-8:00 kind of all day. Oh nooooo. This is a 4:00am (yes four in the morning...) until about 2:00am (yes two in the morning...) 22 hour affair kind of all day affair. Not that it's amazingly exciting hauling floats around all day or anything like that. It has a rather more quiet buildup than that.
After a loud start that is.
4:00 am the two delegates will be out there banging their drums going door to door proclaiming that today is festival day. Despite the fact that it is the rather antisocial hour of 4:00am all my neighbours will be out on their doorsteps greeting the drummers. As K is one of the drummers this year and unfortunately my community spirit/ festival fever doesn't kick in until dawn I am begging off that task. Told K he can pretend we're there... We will be there in spirit... we'll definitely be listening (rather hard to ignore taiko drums on your front porch...)
From 7am all the important men-folk will be down at the community centre with mini-cranes and other mini heavy machinery having a grand old time pretending that hoisting the two massive 'FESTIVAL HERE TODAY' type flags many metres into the air is an arduous job rather than an excuse to play with machines and engage in whose flag is bigger competitions with the other neighbourhoods.
During the day last minute preparations will be made to the two floats. The big one on wheels that the important men haul with big (obviously bigger than the other neighbourhoods) ropes and little kids ride on to play the flute and mini-taiko drums and the little one that the young men (19-20 year olds) thrust around while yelling and jumping and shaking their heads at the crowd in a not very subtle display of virility.
From midday big lanterns will be delivered to each house in the neighbourhood to hang outside the door and proclaim that we are in a festive mood.
From 6:30 the kids, the young men and the important men (who have been there all day drinking and snacking on UFOs- unidentifiable fried objects) will suit up in their different happi jackets- denoting position, rank and seniority and start getting into the mood (more alcohol.)
At 8pm the send off festivities will begin with much dragon dancing and bellowing and thrusting (it's a fertility festival...)
From about 9:00 the procession will leave (flanked by many many men, the odd chaperoning mum and all intrepid high schools girls from less strict homes within a cooee of here.
The procession heads to the local shrine and I'm not sure what happens there as I am neither a chaperoning mum nor a high school girl. The evidence (the state and time K gets home) suggests perhaps a wee smidge more alcohol and much dancing. Followed perhaps by a whif more alcohol...
Phew. So yeah, big day tomorrow.
And tomorrow it is forecast to rain.
That much everyone agrees on.
The scope of the rain shower, the power of the deluge and the effect this will have on festival festivities is however quite contentious.
Much bandying around of i-phones with weather applets, local paper weather forecasts, NHK news updates, local commercial news updates and JA farming weather outlooks is going on. Which of these services trumps the others is a hot bed of political manoeuvering and decades old one upmanship. Eons ago there were kids to spare around here and only the eldest son in each family was able to participate in the festival. (These days it's all hands on deck and we'll shanghai a cousin here or there to boot!) So immediately any of the old men arguing the weather who is not the eldest son is having his opinion disregarded as what would they know- they weren't even official youth participants after all. Similarly blow-ins like K don't even get a 'what do you think?' thrown their way.
And did you know the size of your tomato crop is directly related to your ability to accurately predict the weather?
Apparently the weather argument was dealt a final and conclusive blow with:
"Well, I am the only farmer around here registered as a business (rather than self employed) and I phoned the Bureau of Meteorology and I say it will stop raining in the afternoon!" I can't imagine how that phonecall went. Did he quote his business registration number? Offer to send them a carton of tomato juice? Does he have a direct line to the person at the bureau in charge of neighbourhood festival weather predicting? Can you really pinpoint a weather prediction on a village living at the foot of a mountain range? Curious minds want to know...
I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight wondering about the rain... what will happen if it doesn't stop by noon? Eating of humble pie? Ohh the suspense!
Hope I get some sleep before my very own drummer boy does his thing though.