Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to Explain a Neri

The last two nights of the festival I participated in a neri. These are kinda like neighborhood parties you have to sign up for in advance. The Suzukis signed us all up for the neri in Shinzu neighborhood. I live in Soude and they live in Hikuma. But Miyoshi's bar is in Shinzu, and adjacent to both Soude and Hikuma. Everybody who participates wears the same short kimono style coat, called a "hapi". And you buy a badge to sew on the coat, so you can participate in this year's neri. Then this mob of people, all dressed in the same coats goes in organized reveling. The neri was already in progress when we caught up with them. We were dressed in hapi and had lanterns. The first stop of the neri happened to be Miyoshi's bar. The group of revelers is led by a couple of flag bearers, and people playing horns and drums. The neri parades from place to place, with the horns and drums leading a cadence, and all the paraders yell some form of "Yaisho", and others respond with their own "Yaisho". Yaisho doesn't mean anything, just kinda like "Yeah" or "Woo-hoo". When you get tired of yelling, you switch to using a whistle. Like I said first stop was Miyoshi's, where they appeared to praise her bar/snack and wish her a good year. Then we all yelled "Banzai" several times, and then everybody circled the flag bearers a few times, and then mashed themselves into the middle of the circle, kinda like a mosh pit, and yelled Yaisho some more. And then break, banzai again, and mosh pit again. And maybe a third time. This is all while you are carrying a paper lantern with a real live candle inside. And of course everybody has been drinking. Then we fell into formation again and went marching to the park...which was all of 20 feet down the road from Miyoshi's. We banzai'd and moshpitted again. Then some men put another man on their shoulders. He was the father of a child that had been born in the last year. We then marched and yelled until we reached his house. Which was a whole 20 yards from Miyoshi's bar. At which point the mother of said child was also raised on some shoulders and much praise and good wishes were lavished on them both. More banzai'ing and moshing. And then dinner was served. We all sat in the street in front of their house, and people came around with free alcohol and food. After about 45 minutes when everyone had had their fill, some sort of drinking ritual occured. The father was given some sort of large plate, with an entire roasted fish in it, surrounded in some sort of liquid. And as everybody yelled in cadence, he chugged down the liquid. The the mother was given a huge bottle of champagne and she chugged as much as she could. Then the bottle was passed around so everybody had a go at the champagne, including me (I'd already had a shochu cooler with dinner). More yelling and mashing ourselves together. Then we set off in the other direction. We met with another neighborhood neri (they must've been only a third as large as ours) and combined for a mass march along the territory lines, with more frenzied action. Mikio and I got separated in one of the frenzies, and I my shoe came off. I found some guy holding it during one of the lulls between frenzies. We just marched and yelled for a long time, until we ended back at the park in front of Miyoshi's. Mikio and I decided to call it quits for the night at this point, but the neri moved on I gather. We participated the next night as well, more of the same. It was soo cool. I'm so glad I got to do this!


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