Heralding Autumn: All-You-Can-Meat, Flaming Shrines and Other Festivities

I’ve been praying for Autumn since the beginning of Summer, and it looks like it’s finally here. This year, as with every year, the beginnings of Autumn brought my birthday. This in turn brought me a shiny new camera. I had to earn my gift, though, as my husband sent me on a sleepy pre-morning-tea riddle-laden quest around the apartment. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of fun events to test my camera out at since I was awarded it as a prize for my travails,  so I hope you enjoy the photos in this post.

This year was my Golden birthday, so it warranted some extra awesome festivities: All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ followed by a rousing round of karaoke, the memory of which remained with me for days (in the form of moderately traumatized, ringing ears).

Friends saying cheers before my birthday meal.


Everyone thanked me very kindly for being born (and giving them an excuse to eat all the delicious meat they could in 1.5 hours)!

Everyone thanked me very kindly for being born (and giving them an excuse to eat all the delicious meat they could in 1.5 hours)!

Pork slices, steaks, and... is that a vegetable? What manner of indecency is this!?

Pork slices, steaks, and… is that a vegetable? What manner of indecency is this!?

Singing karaoke under the disco ball

Karaoke in Japan is awesome because you get your own room. No need to worry about the drunks you don’t know – only the drunks you do.

Every year since I’ve been in Japan, my birthday has happily been paired with my school’s Culture Festival. I’ve never had to teach classes on my birthday, and can just hang out with students and enjoy all the performances, displays and food. This year my birthday fell on a Saturday, and Culture Festival consumed the following week of school. All play and no work for a week or more is really how all birthdays ought to be celebrated! As per normal, no student photos on the internet, so I can’t show you the best parts.

This year’s highlight was by far a class performance to a medley of K-pop songs, that started off on a serious note with news coverage of some territorial disputes between Japan and South Korea, followed by a quote from a K-pop star about how “There is no politics in music” and “music can help us overcome our differences.” The students then performed a well-blended set of dances with was brought to an epic climax with “Gangnam Style” starring Psy himself.*

Ikebana Flower Arrangement

Ikebana from the school’s flower arranging club on display.

Student calligraphy display

Calligraphy by the school’s Shodo club.

Student-made Nagoya English Guide.

My club’s contribution, the culmination of their summer “research trip” to Nagoya – An English guide of Osu Kannon and Nagoya Castle. Between editing and layout I’m convinced it was more work for me than them, but I’m proud of them nonetheless!

Stained Glass hallway

Instead of the usual games rooms, food stalls or haunted houses, one class opted to adorn the hallway with handmade “Stained Glass.” It was pretty cool, and cleverly freed them up to enjoy the entire festival without any responsibilities!

The next weekend we headed up the mountain, to our neighbouring town of Yunoyama, to observe the best sort of religious ceremony: setting things on fire. Every year at Souhei Matsuri, two shrines are carried through the town of Yunoyama, up and down hills, to the very top of the town at the base of the Mt. Gozaisho ropeway. The first shrine is carried by women, and the second shrine is… on fire. The entire event is lubricated by alcohol (because what sober person would carry a burning shrine up a mountain, I suppose).

Carrying the women's shrine

The women’s shrine comes first, carried by some of Northern Mie’s finest foreign ladies.

Shrine-carrying girls at rest area.

The entire proceeding takes over an hour, with frequent stops to rest and re-hydrate (re-lubricate?).

Burning shrine

Next comes the men’s shrine. Still very much on fire but the torches will need to be re-lit.

Re-lighting the torches.

At the rest stop, the shrine and the carriers are doused with hoses and new torches are lit and placed around the shrine.

Burning shrine being carried off.

With the flames refreshed, the shrine continues up the mountain towards its final destination, leaving burning debris in its wake.

The Souhei Festival will be a difficult one to top, but we did our best this past weekend with a trip to Iga. We made pottery by hand, under the supervision of a professional Iga Pottery craftsman, and then took a trip to Moku Moku farms for lunch, which just so happened to be in the middle of celebrating their Autumn festival. We ate possibly one of the most delicious, high quality buffet lunches in Mie Prefecture, then enjoyed some of what the festival had to offer, before buying a pumpkin (A real pumpkin! Anyone who had lived in Japan can appreciate how momentous of an event this is!), and heading home to prepare for Thanksgiving Dinner at our place the next day.

Making Pottery in a workshop

Making pottery in Iga. We were the only group, so it was a private pottery-making workshop!

Moku Moku Restaurant entrance

Moku Moku’s signature buffet-style restaurant. So delicious, and so satisfyingly full afterwards…

Marching band

Next stop: Rally Races. A marching band dressed in country-western garb opened the rally.

Rally Track

After lunch we watched a Duck Rally and a Pig Rally. WTF is that, you ask? Randomly-chosen women chasing ducks around the track, and children chasing baby pigs. I felt pretty bad for the ducks, because they were super distressed by the whole affair, but the pigs seemed to enjoy their time not being bacon. Everyone got one chance to bet on the winners.

JWs in pig hats

If you are what you eat, then we are… well you get the idea.

The next day we crammed eight people – including one two-year-old – into our apartment for Thanksgiving Dinner, and had a blast. The day after that was thankfully a holiday in Japan as well, as we had a lot of gallavanting, cooking and eating to sleep off! Pretty much the only productive thing I did was prepare these photos for this post, so I hope you enjoyed them. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!

*Not actually Psy. But the student who played him, complete with the same build, feigned attitude, tux and glasses, was a doppleganger. Definitely crowd favourite.


5 thoughts on “Heralding Autumn: All-You-Can-Meat, Flaming Shrines and Other Festivities

  1. WOW!!!
    What a weekend!
    Happy Birthday!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Enjoy Japan!
    Big Typhoon coming into Tokyo!
    Hugs, CAM

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