Monday, October 25, 2010

16th Century Chic.

So last weekend was the Myouenji Mairi.  It basically is a celebration of the battle of Seki ga Hara. In the end I didn't learn more than three of the song verses.  However, every time we got back around to those verses I sang them whole heartedly.    It turns out the people wearing armour were not expected to sing.  Dang it.
Now lets talk about the armour I was wearing.  We started off by putting on what basically felt like pajamas.  Then they do the arm coverings.  This if followed by a sort of apron which covers you from waist to almost knee (if I were a samurai 400 years ago it would have probably been below my knee).  Then they buckle you into the torso portion.  Imagine a giant garlic press.  Next they strap on the shin guards and shoulder plates.  By this point you are feeling pretty packed.
 Of course you have no idea.  Now you learn what the long white sheaf of fabric that you purchased with your tabi (one toed socks) is for.  It is called a sarashi. They basically in teams of two, seal you in with this as a belt.  They start by cinching it tight and then proceed to twist it into a sort of braid, all the while smiling and asking if its too tight.  There is nothing to be done for it so you just answer no.  I thought this might be the worst of it.  I was wrong.  Imagine someone takes an impression of your face and then fashions an iron mask of the lower half for you to wear.  Now imagine they do it for someone much smaller than you but still strap it on to your face with the straps for an iron helmet that is also too small for you.  Yeah, it was kind of like torture on a small scale.
It wasn't too bad to start with but after a 25 minutes slow march down the main street of town it was starting to be a major pain.  This inspite of my kids running along beside me trying to get me to look over and recognize them.  They were great. For the last week we were specifically instructed that the whole eyes forward serious thing was important for the spectators so I took it too heart and tried my best to play the part.  The kids took their roles pretty seriously too and at the after party (more later) every commented on them saying "Daddy, daddy" the whole way along the route.  So where was I, right 25 minutes.  I am starting to think I might not be able to take this when we start crossing a bridge and I realise we are like 200 meters from the temple we are bound for.  I feel something like relief.  Then the parade stops.  We wait ... and wait.  It gets slightly darker... we are still waiting.  I am thinking there is a traffic mix up or some other group that is parading in front of us is late and we have to wait our turn.  We wait some more ... it gets darker.  I am basically in agony and the best part is the teacher-helpers who aren't wearing armour are all walking around asking if anything hurts.  Now they know full well that we are all basically dieing and there is nothing they can do about it but they ask anyways, of course the answer has to be no.  What am I going to say, my mask is killing me and I want to take off my helmet.  The answers would be no and no.  In Japanese the word is "Gaman", it means to hold on or hold out.  So I did.  It was dark so no one could see me close my eyes and grimace in pain.  How long could we wait.  Then there was an explosion and it all became clear.  We were waiting here for the fireworks they had mentioned three days ago to start.  After a few minutes of fireworks (it felt like hours) we started marching again.  We got to the temple and after negotiating 2 sets of stairs without looking down we finally had our helmets taken off and the masks lowered to our chests.  It was like finally surfaced after being 200 m deep in the ocean with 100 m worth of air.  The ceremony in the temple which we had practiced for the last week and they had warned us would be incredibly difficult was a walk in the park after finally getting that damn helmet and mask off my face.

We drove back to the staging area/community center in a little bus.  Everyones' faces said the same thing.  Thank whatever higher power you believe in that that is over.  Back at the base we quickly changed out of our gear, wrote the date, our names and addresses on the list that came with our armour for posterity's sake, and then sat down and got ready to eat and drink.  There were some speeches and then everyone who had worn some armour got up and did a self introduction.  The basics of mine were name, thanks to guy who got me involved, man was that every tough, however sharing it together made it not so bad.  It was well received.  After that we received our completion certificate (framed), our bento, and a cup.  Finally we could relax, drink some beer and reflect on the conscious decision we had all made to participate.  Many people pledged to go again next year.  Maybe their helmets fit better.

Love out. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are all kinds of awesome.
Hugs to all of you,