だんじり danjiri—festival float

Our village is getting ready for the autumn festival next weekend. The people will parade through the narrow streets of the village, pulling a danjiri (a wheeled float or portable shrine).

4 children will ride in the danjiri, playing bells (kane) and drums (taiko). Yesterday morning they were practising in the square in front of the shrine. They had a pretty good rhythm going. Each village has its own signature rhythm. You can hear them playing in this short video.

In this area, there are two kinds of float: danjiri, which is on wheels and pulled through the street using ropes, and futon daiko, which is carried through the streets on people’s shoulders. In the southern part of Osaka prefecture, south of the Yamato river (the ancient province of Izumi, where we live) there are a lot of danjiri festivals, some big shrines having dozens of very elaborate danjiri.

Our village shrine has one danjiri, and it is small; it is a kodomo danjiri—a children’s danjiri. The danjiri is traditionally made of keya-no-ki zelkova wood without the use of a single nail.

The children take off their shoes before climbing into the danjiri.

All the other children of the village sat patiently in the square, waiting for their turn.

Early this morning there was a dress rehearsal, and the danjiri was brought along the parade route. Here they are arriving in our street.

People were already in a festival mood, and our neighbours all came to their doors or windows to watch.

While the children sit inside the danjiri and play the bells and drums, some adult participants stand precariously on top. During the festival, they will perform feats of balance like spreading their arms wide and standing on one foot.

The danjiri is guided and steered through the street to the sound of a “heave-ho” that sounds like “sorya … dorya“, led by the man standing on the front of the danjiri.

Note on the word of the day:

I have no idea of the origin of the word danjiri.

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