I love festivals in Japan. Every town, even very small ones, seem to have one. Each one has a unique theme. There are kite festivals, snow festivals, fire festivals, bull fighting festivals, doll festivals, festivals dedicated to genitalia or fertility, and there's even a festival where men strip down to their underwear and run around in the snow. The festival I went to last weekend was one of my favorites so far: The Innoshima Suigun Matsuri, or in English, Pirate Festival!
Innoshima is an island in Hiroshima prefecture. Hiroshima is just north of Ehime, where I live, so it's not too far away from me. Long ago, the island was pirate territory. There's even a pirate castle on the island (which I still need to visit sometime). Suigun Matsuri celebrates the pirates.
Now keep in mind, these are not the Western, Johnny Depp (*swoon!*) style pirates we're used to. (Though I did see some foreigners who showed up in Western-style pirate garb.) These are Japanese style pirates. This means they're pirates in samurai armor. As you can see from the photos, the festival had lots of people dressed in this armor.
The entertainment in the festival started with lots of awesome taiko drumming. Here's a short video I took of it. Sorry it's not the best quality:
After that, a group of people dressed as pirates came out and shot some targets. Here's some videos. Again, sorry for the video quality:
Next, the schools on Innoshima did some dances to the town song. Here's a video of some of the elementary students dancing:
Then some of the junior high school students dancing:
The dancing got even cooler as the night went on, but I had to save my memory card for the fire tricks at night (more on that in a bit). After all the schools performed, every group came out and danced together:
Pirates, dancing, pirates, taiko drums, pirates...how does it get better? Just add fire!
There was tons of fire at night. The best part was when they started doing tricks:
The night finished with some fireworks, which I ufortunitely missed. We were a slave to the ferry schedules that night, and the last boat left right when the fireworks started :(.
Oh well. More reason to check out this awesome festival again next year!