Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I went to okagura last night again. I've been seeing a lot of okagura recently. It is the okagura season, and okagura also seems to be very popular in the country side.
Okagura is a Shinto festival which coincides with harvest time, consisting of traditional Japanese dancing and music. The dancers act out a traditional Shinto story about a dragon that is killed with a magic sword. The dancing is mostly improvised, and the thing can drag on for hours. Most of the older men just sit around and get real drunk.
Every little neighborhood within Ajimu has its own Okagura. Last night I got invited by a co-worker from the board of Education to her neighborhood Okagura. It was in a small little neighborhood in the mountains far removed from the center of town.
Quite a beautiful place actually. The mountains are all carved out into little rice fields, somewhat difficult to describe if you haven't seen them, but it looks like a bunch of steps on the mountain. In a valley, between these step rice fields, was a temple hidden away, and they did the Okagura there. There are often times when I wished I lived in a bigger city for a variety of reasons, but this is one of those times where I'm really glad I live in the country.
I spent a lot of time arguing with the old men, who wanted me to drink Shochu with them (Japanese whiskey). On paper Japan has very strict drinking and driving laws, but in the country side these rules are frequently ignored, and in the very rural areas they might just as well not exist.
Japan is a drinking culture, and older people are by custom able to demand at times that younger people drink with them. (Perhaps that's a harsh way of putting it, but it is rude to refuse when an older person tells you to drink). These old men refused to believe that the fact that I was driving was a legitimate excuse for not drinking. Even when my co-worker intervened, they were still quite upset. Eventually I gave in and had a couple glasses.

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