So due to a series of complicated circumstances, I found out that Shiroyama Hachimangu (remember when I mentioned it about a million years ago?) was having a festival today, and I only live about 20 minutes away by subway. It was pouring rain this morning, so I was afraid that the festival was going to be cancelled, but then it cleared up in the early afternoon, so I hopped on the subway and rode on over.
The shrine is beautiful--it's situated in the middle of a forest on a hill--and I would show you pictures, but I somehow managed to take my camera with me...without the xD card in it. To make matters even more confusing, my camera "took pictures" for about an hour before informing me that my memory was full...at which point I discovered that I didn't have the xD card in the camera. So I'm pretty sure the camera was just hallucinating or something.
ANYWAY, I could talk a lot about the shrine, but it's late and I'm tired, so I'll save that for another day (when I have pictures).
They had opened up the honden of the shrine for the festival and had tents with seating right outside the honden, and when I asked one of the miko if I could observe the festival, she directed me to the tent. Anyway, once I was settled in the tent, another miko came over and told everyone in the tent that, actually, not enough people had shown up who were supposed to be sitting in the honden, so all of us were allowed to come inside and watch the festival from the honden. Awesome.
The ceremony itself was very, very similar to the one which occurred at Gosha Shrine last week, just longer and with more people involved. There were five (!!) priests involved in the ceremony, plus an additional two guys dressed in semi-priestly attire whose job seemed to mostly consist of putting down mats for the other priests to kneel on and then picking up the mats.
Super quick outline of the ceremony (some events may be slightly out of order because I couldn't take notes and also couldn't see everything going on because there was a pillar blocking my view):
1. Norito by younger priest
2. Purification by younger priest
3. Offerings to the kami
4. Kagura by miko
5. Song and music by court musicians
6. Norito by guji
7. Norito by older priest #2 (they kept calling him "kenpeishi," but I can't find that in my dictionary)
8. Offering of sakaki by various groups (the shrine staff, then the soudai, then two guys who I couldn't figure out (I think one of them might have been a politician?), then another local group, but no people-without-a-group group this time)
9. Removal of offerings
At this point, all of us filed out of the honden and I realized I HAD MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.
You see, when you have participated in a ceremony and you're not shrine staff (and not observing with the shrine staff, as I was at the wedding ceremony), you're offered sake as you leave.
And I don't drink.
So there I was, in line to leave, and everyone was being handed little plate-bowl-things of sake.
My train of thought went something like this:
OH NO HOW COULD I FORGET
Maybe they won't notice me...oh shoot, they've handed me a plate. Shoot shoot shoot.
Okay, maybe I should just say no thank you. No thank you, I don't want any sake, thanks, I know it's supposed to purify me and all but I don't drink thanks.
They are going to lynch you alive.
Maybe I should just drink the sake. I mean, it's probably two sips. How bad could it be?
Remember the ibuprofen?* Remember the chocolate-covered espresso bean?** Remember general anesthesia?*** Is now really the time you want to be experimenting with alcohol?
OH NO THEY JUST POURED ME SAKE
GOTTA DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH IT IN THE NEXT FIVE STEPS 'CAUSE I GOTTA PUT THE PLATE DOWN ON THE STACK
I wound up just pantomiming drinking and then putting the plate full of sake on the stack and running for dear life, which, in hindsight, was probably not the greatest way to deal with the situation, but given that they had to wash all the plates anyway, it didn't really make any extra work for anyone (I hope). Ironically, a woman behind me just declined the sake, so now I know I can do that without being lynched.
There was supposed to be mochi throwing afterwards, but the rain had started up again during the ceremony, so they decided to cancel it and instead hand out the mochi to the incredibly large crowd who had suddenly showed up. This turned out to be a disastrously bad idea, as the crowd rushed the table with the mochi, leaving the guy with the microphone to scream, "Don't push! You're going to hurt someone! Stop pushing! Please, stop pushing the people in front of you!" over and over and over again. It probably didn't help that, even though people were only supposed to get four mochi apiece, some people went back for seconds...and thirds...and fourths...and were very aggressive about it. There was a little old lady who filled an entire shopping bag full of mochi and was shoving people out of the way to get to the front. It was terrifying, and I stayed clear of the whole mess.
Once the mochi ran out, pretty much everyone left. I wandered around the shrine a bit more, picked up some pamphlets, and then headed back to my dorm.
And I shall finish with that, because I have another long day ahead of me tomorrow and I'm really tired. G'night!
*The last time I took ibuprofen, I became horrifyingly ADHD for four hours. I couldn't think straight, I couldn't hold on to a thought for more than about five seconds, I retyped an entire paragraph of my thesis word for word, I got distracted crossing the room to my bookshelf and then couldn't remember what I was doing, I wrote one of the weirdest emails I have ever written in my life... It was terrifying. Needless to say, reacting that way to ibuprofen is really not normal.
**At Javaspook (Tech House's Halloween party) last year, I had ONE chocolate-covered espresso bean at about 6 p.m....and was awake until 4 a.m. Not fun.
***Long story short, general anesthesia makes me have really bad panic attacks.
Basically, drugs and I don't get along, and I'm honestly not all that interested in finding out what alcohol will do to me. If ibuprofen screws up my thought processes for four hours...yeahhhhhh...