The Japan Times: “The death of a Japanese countryside festival”

Amy Chavez for The Japan Times:

“The residents, 60 percent of them over 60 years old, are garbed in festival gear: strips of cotton hachimaki cloth tied around their heads, colorful happi coats belted around their waists and their black tabi shoes gripping the pavement. They’re pulling a large wooden mikoshi festival float down the narrow street past rows of houses, just as their ancestors did over 300 years ago.

This is my neighborhood, on an island of just under 500 people in the Seto Inland Sea. I’m pulling this mikoshi too. We’re celebrating the autumn festival, which used to ring in the seasonal harvest, but which now serves as the one day of the year when people let their guards down, let bygones be bygones and just have fun together. The sake is brought out and the locals dance in the street. Some have grown-up children who return with grandkids to take part in the annual festival. But most do not come.”