There are three dashi floats in Tahara, each one dedicated to a different local shrine. Drummers sit in the bottom while girls with flutes walk behind. The music is sedate while they walk down the street but it quickly picks up when they have to turn a corner, to inspire the men pushing and pulling it. Every ten minutes or so they stop to take a rest while the puppets on top perform traditional Japanese dances. Several of my students were up front, carrying flags and holding onto the long ropes that attach to the float. They were so excited to see me.
At Tahara Castle they had food booths set up and a large stage where they had dancing. One nice older man bought me some flavored ice and then asked to take his picture with me before showing me over to where the dancing was starting. All part of my celebrity status here in Tahara.
Other than the dashi floats there are several others that wander the streets throughout the day as well. This one had many of my students helping to pull it. The floats act as their own traveling party so the festival is never really in one place at a time but moving around town. They stop and perform like the dashi floats, first with two cute elementary school girls doing a fan dance and then some drunken men dancing to a pop song. The party continues into the night.
On Sunday all three of the dashi floats come together at one of the temples where a special service is held. Large fireworks are carried around town and then shot off in the evening. The festival ends with a large fireworks display. I went to a party hosted by City Hall Sunday evening and then got VIP seats for the fireworks. Because it was still warm, I jumped at the chance to wear my yukatta, or summer kimono. At one point, they let me help make mochi. Using a big hammer, I beat at ball of rice. They do that until it sort of resembles taffy and then add different things for taste like sesame.
All in all, I had a great time. It was very different than the festivals I'm used to in Cincinnati, which are generally parish festivals that consist mostly of rides, beer, and gambling. I'm glad I had Marie with me though to scan the newspaper so we knew which floats would be where and when. Maybe next year I'll don my own hoppi (blue vest everyone is wearing) and help pull one of the floats.
Click on the links for two short videos of the dancing and floats.