So, we went to Yoshika this weekend. What’s Yoshika you might ask? Well, it’s a quaint little town in the mountains out near Tsuwano where we watched Yabusame earlier this year. It’s just over the border from the Yamaguchi Prefecture in Shimane. We packed up the fam and hopped in the turbo charged Mukade Maru and headed for the mountains.
Yoshika has 600 year old rice fields terraced throughout the valley that the village is nestled in. We didn’t visit much of the valley because we were there to see the Headwaters Festival. More on that in a bit. First, the drive out.
Our newly purchased bitchin van handles pretty damn good on the mountain roads and has plenty of room for our two crumb crushers and gear. Not that we were carrying a lot of stuff, but it’s nice to know we can haul the tribe and all our accompaniment when needed. The drive up into the mountains was super cool. The trees are lush and green and the river was rife with fishermen. You could see an angler every thirty or so feet casting his rod and hoping for a fresh catch for dinner. The sun was shining and it seemed the perfect day to get outdoors.
We went by this really windy section right before we dropped into Yoshika. It was a single track road that twisted through pines and Japanese cedars. There were a few breaks in the green tunnel to give you a wide view of the valley below. The more we explore the country, the more we fall in love with it. Japan has so much hidden beauty, it is an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to explore and share with the family.
Once we got to Yoshika, we fell right into the Headwaters Festival. There isn’t much in English that describes this Shinto ritual and we were surprised to see we were the only westerners there to observe (or at least that we could see). So, I’ll do my best to describe to you what we saw and what it means. There were a handful of performances before the actual ritual.
There was a troupe of Japanese Taiko drummers playing in these really cool looking dragon masks. It was intense and you could tell they were playing to the crowd. We were set up under a tent with benches and there was food, slushies, and beerskis aplenty.
Then we saw a couple of dance squads perform with these huge waving flags in the background. There was a photographer who was either drunk or had a spirit alive in him. He dropped his gear and got right up and started dancing with the performers. He was having a blast. Anywho, I couldn’t tell specifically what the dancing and drumming were for, but the festival itself is a Shinto ritual that prays for rain when there is drought.
There is a giant dragon made from rice stalks that the ritual performers snake around the gathering crowd.
They go by and pretend to bite the people because apparently it is a wish for good health to be bitten by a dragon. EB and Rudy were both bitten. Good health for the youngsters, yay! Once the dragon is paraded around, it is plunged into a pool that is the source of the Takatsu River and thus brings rains for a healthy harvest.
That is the best I can do to interpret without actually understanding the ritual to its fullest. If there is more that I am missing, please feel free to comment and add to the experience.
On the way home we stopped at the Bandit Fort (or sanzoku) which is on the border of the Shimane and Yamaguchi prefectures. It’s a pretty awesome restaurant with tons of delicious food. We had the teriyaki chicken on a bamboo stick as well as some pot stickers, udon, steak, and a rice ball that had ume and fish in it (wrapped in seaweed). Yummy!
And it had a hot spring on site that we were able to soak our feet in.
Once we got our bellies full, we headed out and back to Iwakuni. Not a bad way to spend a Father’s Day. Hanging out in the mountains with the fam, eating chicken on a stick, and soaking our feet in a natural hot spring. Good times.
As always, thank you to everyone who is sharing in our adventures.