Last Sunday there was a traditional religious celebration held at the local shrine. It was a small gathering of one small community in the town only. There was no performances like traditional dance, music or parade or anything. It was just a prayer by Shinto priest followed by a festival feast, I heard.
I didn't go but my mom needed to be there to cook festival food with several other women in the neighborhood. Now, as I once wrote on my previous blog to disillusion the readers, cooking at this type of traditional community event is usually much more stressful than successful. :P Especially at a small event like this, no budget is allocated for the feast, and local housewives always spend some time beforehand deciding who would bring in what ingredients, or who would cook what dish at home to bring in.
My parents' house is close to the shrine, so mom always chooses to cook at home. Of course, it's easier and much less stressful than cooking at somewhere else under the supervision of some grannies who have to season every dish strictly their way. Haha...
So last Sunday, mom got up at 3:30 AM to make some traditional salad, deep-fried dishes and somen noodles. (For the record: It was ME who actually spent a couple of hours in front of the electric deep fryer in our kitchen.) She had to go back and force between our kitchen and the shrine several times, and got really tired at the end of the day.
BTW, here in this community, when celebrating the deity called Gion-sama, we are not supposed to use cucumbers in the feast. According to the priest here, the symbol of the deity at our community shrine is related to cucumber. Well, I didn't hear it directly from the priest but through my dad, so it could be dad's version of the story. But later I googled and found the same custom in other areas in Japan, too. There they say that the cross-section of a cucumber looks similar to the crest of Gion deity, so the ancient people banned eating cucumbers during the celebration of the said deity.
In the evening, mom came back with a big plate full of leftover food from the feast. At the dinner, my family enjoyed the food -- more precisely, ciricizing the food made by others, and I bet the families of all the participants did the same that night. Hahaha... And the good thing was that mom totally forgot about her hunger strike.
Mom said that there was a visitor from abroad that day. She came to visit a group doing some research on sea turtles here, and someone in the group invited her to experience a traditional community event in a rural Japan. Mom said that she was having a hard time trying to eat somen noodles with chopsticks. Too bad I wasn't there. She must have felt more at ease to see a Japanese who cannot use chopsticks properly.
Actually there ARE some ocean-related, possibly international(?) researches going on in this part of the prefecture. Other than the sea-turtle research I mentioned above, a couple of dolphins are providing animal therapy in a fishing port, not too far from here, and the big rocks on the coast have been found academically important for the research of ancient crustal movement. It feels good to live in a place like this. You know, this rural town may not be rich at all, but by no means "unimportant."