Eric's friend Jun was there and he grew up in the area. He was telling us how the main mikoshi for this matsuri, the portable temples that they carry around, was one of the biggest in the country. It weighs over 4 tons!!!! Although that sounded interesting I've seen lots of mikoshis being carried around so I wasn't super interested.
But then he started telling us how important this was for people and how they get into fights to try to carry it.
First we saw hundreds of police coming in. That was not that big a deal although it may be the first time I've ever seen lots of police gathered in one place in Japan.
But, a few minutes later we saw the riot police show up with full padding and all of them carrying plexiglass shields. That's when I started to take it seriously.
Jun said that they are there to try to prevent people from jumping into the center of the street to try to carry the mikoshi. I never did get all the details but this particular mikoshi is shared by several groups.
All the groups have different outfits. While we were there we saw guys in blue outfits, orange outfits, purple outfits, grey outfits and I'm sure a few others.
As the mikoshi came down the street toward where we were standing the police game by and announced that they would trounce anybody that jumped into the street past the fence they had put up and so to please just be good citizens and watch.
The first thing you see coming down the street is all these lamps. All the lamps being held up and all the lamps on the mikoshi are all candles. Jun says they have to be careful. Sometimes they catch on fire.
About the time the mikoshi got to us there were a bunch of guys, many dressed in just matsuri underware, attempting to jump the fence and carry the mikoshi. You could see the police frantically trying to push them away and smacking them with long sticks.
According to Jun the people that want to get in there actually get into fights with the people already in. They go right up to the people carrying the mikoshi and pop'em one. You can see in the pictures on the right the mikoshi tipped over. That's when enough people get into a fight for position that they can no longer hold the thing up. Remember it weighs 4 tons! People can get seriously hurt. There were two paramedic vans pacing the back of the group just in case. It took them almost an hour just to move the thing the final block and a half into the temple. Every 20-30 feet it would fall again, people having gotten into a fight over it.
Of course the crowd would cheer when they got it back up. Especially because it's not an easy task. Once it's on everyone's shoulders it's slightly less difficult but getting it on everyone's shoulders even when people are not being punched is extremely hard. In fact usually they have a stand to put it on before people get under it but here, since they are basically putting it down in the street they don't have any such luck.
Jun says next year we can carry a smaller one in another matsuri if we want. The fighting is not something that happens at most of these things as far as I know but this one in particular has this separate history. It was super interesting.