Kenka Matsuri: Fight, Fight!

By Erica Grainger and Vivian He

When: Saturday 5th October
Where: Iizaka Onsen (not in the actual onsen – heavens no! Around the local town).

“A fight will ignite at the end of the night” (E. Grainger)

My mother had always encouraged me to attend such festivities since she’s from Hofu City, in a southern area of Yamaguchi prefecture. Anyway, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to follow my mother’s cultural advice. So, what happened I hear you asking?

Hmmm…where shall I start? The weather as usual was being disagreeable and quite temperamental, with light drops of cowardly rain, but that didn’t prevent us from having a jolly good time! We spent most of the day parading around the streets with a heavy shrine over our shoulders and singing, “Washoi, Washoi”. Some of us clearly couldn’t keep in time, perhaps some music lessons are in order? We also had the guidance of a mother hen figure, Hisako Kanazawa, who always seemed to be ruffling her feathers or ours with her various quirks. For example, tying balloons onto all our heads, so we bobbed along while we walked. Quite a funny sight to see! We even had the support (physically) of the Fukushima pro-soccer team. I’m still not quite sure how they slipped into our group, but one minute we were carrying the shrine, by the next interval (after a long break), they were balancing it over their arms as though it was light as a feather.

By the time we arrived back at the shrine it was late afternoon. Some of us had sore shoulders and muscles, but we were all still in high spirits with the knowledge that it was onsen time! A chance to get up close and personal with new friends and old friends, including Kanazawa-san (our mother hen), even she joined us in the women’s onsen!
Let’s just say that it was an unforgettable onsen experience!

Kenka festival was being held on the 5th October at the Iizaka hot spring area. We arrived at the Iizaka station from Fukushima city at 12:10 and were greeted by the people from Rotary Club who organized the event. The actual Omikoshi parade started from 1:30pm and it continued until 5pm. We all went to an onsen hotel called Yoshikawa-ya where a party was being held to celebrate the success of the event.

Dinner was served after the onsen and we enjoyed a set menu containing all kinds of yummy Japanese food! Mmm mmm!!! There was also an entertaining array of speeches and social chatter with the local Rotary Club. The evening drew to a close around 8pm and that’s when the festivities of Kenka fighting began. What a thrill it was to see and hear the smashin’ and crashin’ of shrines. At times it was a little dangerous and a few men were even injured and carried away in stretchers. Oh dear! Thank goodness yours truly was behind the barriers and from what I know, no JET or anyone we knew was harmed during Kenka time!

A huge thank you to Vivian, the International Association and the Rotary Club for organizing this amazing event. Kenka was a huge hit (excuse the pun)!

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