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the feisty festival

Festival review
Danjiri Matsuri in Kishiwada, Osaka

When I told people I was going to attend the Danjiri festival, the most common response was a look of horror and a single word: "abunai" (dangerous).

Apparently, every year many participants suffer a variety of injuries, as do spectators. These usually occur when a float, being pulled at high speed along the streets, tumbles over - sometimes onto the watching masses. Occasionally people die.

In fact, I was so in fear of my personal safety that I decided, for my own protection, to attend the event in a reinforced cardboard box.

Here I can be seen making my way along the main shopping street in Kishiwada....

However, although I could hear ambulance sirens at most times throughout the day, I'm happy to report that I witnessed no tumbling floats. The worst I saw was one participant on crutches, and another with a black eye. I was unable to verify whether these injuries occurred at the festival or at some point the night before during a domestic dispute with the wife.

I highly recommend the Danjiri festival. It's lively, colourful and has enough energy to keep Japan up and running for the foreseeable future, should the nuclear power station in Niigata be shut down due to it being on a major fault line.

The festival has been held annually for about 300 years. If you decide to attend, you'll see numerous heavy wooden floats hurtling through the streets being pulled with ropes by hundreds of people, a bit like this....

On the top of each float is a guy who performs a kind of "David Brent dance", which is no mean feat considering the float is moving along at the time.

Let the Brent dance begin....

The massive crowds were, as you would expect, impeccably behaved throughout the day. The police appeared to have nothing to do thanks to the orderliness of the spectators, who were lively but did not feel the need to get arrested...

Bored police officers

The lack of criminal behaviour gave this policeman a chance to knock out a quick karaoke number....

The floats are pulled along the streets using ropes - and judging by the look of pain on the faces of the pullers, it looks like hard work....

But there's always time for a relaxing smoke....

An assortment of food is available throughout the day, provided you can locate the stalls among the crowds....

Ambulances were glimpsed from time to time....

An ambulance on its way to scrape something or other off the street.

The idea that the festival can sometimes be a little dangerous was reinforced when I stumbled across this signboard listing the injuries that had occurred in only the first hour of the event....

A young lad ponders the meaning of "stable fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine".

In reality, it's not really that dangerous. It's actually very much a family event - not only are there lots of children enjoying the spectacle, but there are also plenty of local kids taking part.....

dogs too.....

Creative haircuts also feature heavily....

The various groups race through the streets at such high speed that it's hard to catch everything. It was only when I looked at my photos later that I noticed something rather unexpected....

The festival runs late into the night, as do the ambulances....

Festival breakdown:
Fun: 10 out of 10
Most dangerous place: Along the main shopping street
Least dangerous place: Inside Lawson
Noise: Lots of it
Kawaii factor: 10 out of 10
Kowai factor: 4 out of 10
Verdict: Try it
More info: Here and here.

First, a short sample of what you can see at the festival.

Second, the David Brent dance (from The Office). So this is where Ricky Gervais got his inspiration from! The original dance can be seen here.

If you're still reading this post, then I recommend you take a quick look at this video taken in 1997 - it's a thrilling compilation of the festival's feisty festivities.
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On Monday, 17 September, 2007, Anonymous MattFM said:

Hahahah! This is a great post. Very funny, good photos and videos. Keep posting and I'll keep telling people to visit.  

On Monday, 17 September, 2007, Blogger Jon said:

I absolutely love this festival - it's one of my favorites, just because it's so insanely fun and funny. I can't wait until I see this when I go to Japan, in person :D

P.S: I know it's an annual festival, but what date is it?  

On Monday, 17 September, 2007, Blogger William Deed said:

Probably the best blog post I've read all year. Truly brilliant, thank you.  

On Monday, 17 September, 2007, Anonymous mountaincat said:

It was really funny! Thank you! :)))  

On Monday, 17 September, 2007, Anonymous Harvey said:

I was there too! I saw the cardboard box man parading down the shoutengai as well :-) Maybe I caught a glimpse of the EnglshMan in Osaka himself!?

But yes, yo hit the nail on the head. I have NEVER been to a festival with that much energy. That was controlled insanity at its finest. Gotta love it!  

On Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, Anonymous good old japan said:

Interesting article...

I heard a lot about craziness of kishiwada.. We got a quite similar festival in Kumamoto as well.. You will never understand how enjoyable that is until you participate in, i guess.

A lot of great photos!! Nice one.

http://goodoldjapan.blog118.fc2.com/en/">Japanese Beauties in Kimono  

On Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, Anonymous Michaels said:

Of course, that cardboard box might not be a disguise, but a bum's version of a mobile home that just got caught up in the Brent-fest.

All hail, David Brent!  

On Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, Blogger Invader Stu said:

...or do the float pullers look like they are in pain because of the police singing  

On Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, Anonymous Michaels said:

...and that would explain the huge number of injuries and/or deaths on that list.  

On Friday, 21 September, 2007, Blogger eleKtrofly said:


this was an entertaining post.

glad i stumbled upon it...  

On Friday, 21 September, 2007, Blogger LSL said:

God, I got a laugh out of that "Strangers in the night" bit. Love your blog!  

On Saturday, 29 September, 2007, Anonymous Alex Case said:

From the look on the guy's face, I reckon he's pulling the rope by grasping it between his buttocks!

In the Kanda festival in Tokyo this year the police decided the best way to crack down on the yakuza shooting spree was by stopping them standing on the floats. I'd love to see a running of the bulls in Tokyo, do you think they'd put cushions on the bulls' heads??

TEFLtastic blog- www.tefl.net/alexcase  

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