As a new JET, I was really excited to get involved in some of the unique festivals in Japan. Higashiyama Onsen is one of the most popular onsen villages in Tohoku for its outdoor hot springs by the riverside and waterfall. お湯かけ祭り means “water tossing festival” where a mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried around all the onsen lodges, and hotel guests are encouraged to splash buckets of their hotel’s onsen water on the mikoshi. Standing on the mikoshi are two girls throwing 5 yen coins, threaded with different colored yarn, representing luck in love, health, and fortune. The girls and mikoshi are carried by a bunch of drunk people, including JETs tall enough carry the bars. Being short, I was only able to touch the mikoshi carrier for maybe 2 minutes before feeling almost trampled. For non-mikoshi handlers, the other option was follow the mikoshi and respond to “Seiya!” (or was it “Shoya”? or maybe “Sorya”?) with the same. Whatever the call and response was, it was a great opportunity to shout at the top of your lungs and let out that genki spirit. Before heading out, everyone is offered a can of beer. This is so you enjoy the moment rather than getting annoyed by all the hotel guests who splash buckets of water at you because they missed the mikoshi. Or because they just want to splash the gaijin. You can even break rank and throw a couple buckets of hot water on the mikoshi (or your fellow JETs) yourself! With the humid summer heat, it was great getting soaked and cooling off on the way to the next onsen.
This event was arranged by the Aizu Wakamatsu International Association.