(Video time: 04:01): Akamatsukaido (Red Pine Street) is Nanae’s central road. Its name honors the majestic Japanese Red Pines that line both sides for several kilometers. The trees were planted for two respective visits from the Emperor Meiji, in 1876 and 1881. Although nonnative to Hokkaido, some 1200 to 1300 trees still stand today. These trees are featured in “This is Nanae!”, a documentary by former CIR, Bobby Kargula.
(04:13) Nanamitsuki: Nana, meaning seven, refers to Nanae. Mitsu refers to the sweet, golden flesh at the center of certain apple varieties, such as the Red Gold.
Nanae’s new Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) and Concord native Ben Haydock arrived sweaty and exhausted at Hakodate airport on July 28th. He had a full week of festivities for the Hakodate Port Festival to look forward to, but his true initiation as a member of the Nanae community would not come until the following week.
Five hundred pounds, dripping with golden chains and clamoring bells, Nanae’s O-Mikoshi (mobile shrine) emerges from the stores of Nanae’s Mishima Shrine only once a year, on the shoulders of two-dozen men. At 7:30am on August 8th, Ben and I suited up in traditional happi robes and joined twenty other local volunteers to carry this cherished relic up and down the streets of Nanae for the town’s annual Summer Festival.
“After dancing the Ika Odori (squid dance) in the Hakodate Port Festival, I didn’t entirely know what to expect from Nanae the following week “ Ben said.
“I knew we would be carrying something heavy, but it wasn’t until we started down the street, with the O-Mikoshi in tow, that I realized my role in this festival was more as a laborer than as a carefree festival goer.”
O-Mikoshi all over Japan travel annually among the neighborhoods that worship at the Shinto shrines where they are kept year round. They serve as vehicles for particular Japanese Shinto deities, traditionally believed to reside in the principle shrines themselves. As they are bourn along the avenues of their respective districts, the O-Mikoshi spread good fortune to deferential residents who emerge from their homes and shops to pray and offer donations that support the festival for the following year.
That day our task was to cover all of Honcho, a district in Nanae that proved far larger than either Ben or I had imagined. At eight o’clock sharp, we shuffled into place around the O-Mikoshi’s wooden supports and prepared to march as five pairs of Yakko, or fan-bearers, took their places at the front of the procession. They carried long staves capped with masses of decorative feathers. Two by two they stepped forward and, swooping down to a crouch, swung these ornaments low over the ground with choreographed precision. They were clearing a path for our shrine to travel.
The last of the Yakko moved off, repeating their ritual every few meters. The veteran marchers began shaking the O-Mikoshi enthusiastically to set the mood for the festive procession. This continued for several minutes until a shout came from the front of the group. As one we hoisted the O-Mikoshi over our heads and marched forward from beneath the shade of Mishima’s iconic curving rooftop. Continue reading “Nanae’s Summer Festival: Carrying the O-Mikoshi”
–Translated by Ben Mirin, CIR, and Emi Kimura, Assistant CIR–
March 17th, 2011
Nanae Town Office
Hokkaido, Japan 041-1192
Board of Selectmen’s Office
Concord, Massachusetts 01742
Dear Chairman Wieand and Friends in Concord,
We deeply thank you for your expressed concerns and warm messages following the earthquake. We are glad to inform you that Nanae did not sustain any damage. However, the Tohoku (northeastern) and Kanto (eastern) areas of Japan are suffering from this disaster. The earthquake and the tsunami caused massive damage to their towns and many people have died or gone missing.
This was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since the government started keeping records. Not only did it leave mortal damage and scars, but it also made many people lose their homes and evacuate to shelters. There are no words to express how these people are feeling now or how hard their lives have become.
We are grateful to the American government for sending teams to Japan so quickly. We thank all of our friends in Concord and the American nation for their support.
Right now our government is working with full force for a fast recovery. The Town of Nanae is going to contribute as much as we can in this regard.
NANAE: Today, the Nanae Town Office began accepting financial donations for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief. The Office’s Welfare Section received donations from “Rhythm Friend” Sports Club (30,000 Yen), the Town Office’s General Affairs Section (12,081 Yen), and three private donors, for a total of 63,081 Yen on the first morning.*
Until today, residents in Nanae have been donating money through collection boxes at local convenience stores and through local post offices.
“I was able to send money through Nanae’s post office on Monday,” Nanae Town employee Nami Nishizawa said. “As long as you address your envelope to a national organization like the Japanese Red Cross, it should go through okay.”
It is also possible to make donations with credit cards, though cash donations at local shops appear to be a more popular option among Nanae residents.
For those interested in making monetary donations, the Japanese Red Cross is a good bet. All such donations collected at the Nanae Town Office are currently being sent there.
Nanae is also taking part in an all-Hokkaido human relief effort. The prefectural government has just assembled a team of paramedics and firefighters from towns across the island that will travel to various locations on Honshu to help prevent further loss of life. Representing Nanae are two firefighters and an ambulance loaded with supplies. The team departed early this morning.