Oniyo Fire Festival Part2 – Burning the Giant Torches

Part1 is HERE

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After 3 times of circle around the shrine, they then all gathered in front of the shrine belfry for the main event. When every group has arrived at their OH-TAIMATSU(big torches), all the small torches fire were put off, as well as other lamps and lights. The surrounding was in total darkness.

At exactly 9pm, everyone`s eyes went to one corner lit with a small light where a man was standing with a sea-shell(is it call sea-shell?) in his hand. He then started blowing the shell signing the start of the main event followed with a blow of some kind of music with a traditional flute.

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As the flute blow ended, the group of people started making fire to fire up the giant torches. With the 3,2,1 counting, they start burning the giant torches, which was poured with some alcohol(@ kerosene, am not so sure) before that. The quiet and dark surrounding then became lively as the place was brighten up by the fire, with drums beating and some performances at the front stage. While the torches were burning, they said their praying chants along. As the fire went further down the torches, they cut the ropes tiding them and threw the ropes to the crowds waiting, who believe that keeping them would bring good luck. If you look at the pictures, you might think that all the fire burnings look dangerous, as a matter of fact they are, but to ensure the safety of everyone, the firemen were present there at all time.

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When the fire had burnt about 1/3 of the torches, they then carried the torches one by one to a place in front of the main shrine, where they stopped there continuing their praying words for some time. After that, they carried the torches again, this time circling the shrine area until the torches were almost burnt up. During that time, they would stop a few times to have someone climb on the torch and cut the ropes around the it as the fire went towards the other end. The group behind us at one time had a British boy doing that and he was encouragingly cheered by his other group members. Lastly, they carried the torches to a disposing place and with a speech and some claps, they end their festival for this year.

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We then went back together with our group members to the civic hall. There, everyone was treated with some Japanese deserts and their most liked favorite drink, the green tea. We feel so lucky that we were given the opportunity to participate and watch from close a big traditional event like this one. We would like to thank the committee members for inviting us and even providing the transport for sending us back to college. Hope that they will invite us again next year, so that our friends who didn`t make it this time would also get the chance to experience your unique culture.よろしくお願いします!

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Oniyo Fire Festival Part1 – Burning the Decorations

*Some photos in the post are not suitable for 17years and below`s viewing…

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Oniyo Fire Festival, which is held in Daizenji Tamatare-gu Shrine in Kurume-city, is one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan. This event takes place on the last day of the Shinto ritual, ONI-E , on the 7th of January every year.

According to the diary of  Yakushiji Temple, the festival originated from a happening  in the year 368, when Fujidaijin(a minister at that time) cut off the head of Yusurachin, who was torturing local people, and burnt it.

On this 7th day after New Year,  they will have a Shinto ritual during the festival in where people pray for peace and safety , good harvest and the prevention of disasters as well as to ward off evil spirits.

This year we got an invitation from the event`s committee to take part in the event. We were excited to join but when told that we would have to wear cawat during the festival, we declined the invitation. Kami tak sanggup nak pakai cawat tu. Sebab bukak aurat satu, pastu nak pakai tengah winter yang sejuk beku ni? Event tu malam pulak tu. Tak sanggup!

However, a few days after that, we were told that we can join the event as a 見学者(observer) and we agreed. However, as our substitutes, four Japanese junior students came forward to join the cawat group. And on evening January the 7th, off we go riding on Pakcik Kida`s car.(Pakcik Kida is from our hostel`s office)

We get off at Yamanomachi Civic Hall, where we would join the Yamanomachi`s locals who would participate in the event. During the festival, they will be 5 more groups from the other areas and they will gather at some place near the shrine later. We arrived quite early, so while waiting for the others to come we were served with some food. Then, more and people came and joined us at the table. Some of them looked scary, some looked like yakuzas, but when we try and have some chat with them, we found out that all of them were very friendly. They were all excited because they don`t have  that much chance socializing with foreigners like this. We got ourselves busy entertaining  their questions about our countries, cultures etc. Oh ya, at the same time, maybe encouraged by excitement on those people`s faces, our Laos friend, Danang suddenly told his desire to join them. Without much hesitation they welcomed him and upstairs Danang went to change into the cawat. After that he was told to take some sake(liquor) to heat his body as it will be ice-freezing outside.

At about 700pm, when everyone was finally present, they had some briefing and then off we went heading to the shrine.

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At a field near the shrine, they started burning the New Year`s house decorations made from dry wheat branches. They burnt them in groups divided according to their origin areas while chanting their praying words.

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These guys below are my juniors, and at the most right is Danang. Tengok macam sejuk giler. Tapi, since most of the time they were near the fire, they were actually very hot. I tried going close to the fire and it was sangat panas ok. But when you distanced yourself from it, it`ll be freezing-cold. So, you must have the skills to determine the appropriate distance from the fire so that you won`t be to hot, or too cold. Suam-suam kuku kata orang.. =P

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At about 830pm, it was almost time for the main event.The group paraded to the shrine and circle the shrine area 3 times carrying their small torches before gathering  at the places where the big torches are.

These big torches which are made from MOSO-DAKE(the biggest kind of bamboo in Japan), are called OH-TAIMATSU. They are 6 of them and they are 1meter in diameter, 15 meters long and weigh 1.2 tons each. These  OH-TAIMATSU are placed in front of the belfry in the shrine yard.

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To be continued in Part 2…

Kaki Gari

Three weeks ago, we were brought by a pakcik from our hostel`s office to experience 「かき狩り」(kakigari), which means “persimmon picking”. We went to a farm owned by another pakcik who takes care of our college`s gymnasium hall. That two pakciks know each other, so it was not that hard to ask for permission to go to his farm. So, that Saturday morning, we hop into the pakcik hostel`s car, and went to pakcik gym`s farm which was about 45 minutes ride from our college.

We didn`t went straight there, but we waited him at some place near his farm.Then, he came and he led the way to his farm through a narrow road going up the hill.Arrived there, we were immediately passed with gloves and some kind of scissors which would be use to cut the persimmon`s stems.Then, after some introduction of ourselves and some explanation  about the fruit, we started going to the persimmon trees to do our jobs.

Here we go..

We had to be very careful when picking the fruits so that they wont be damaged. If the fruits got even a very small scratch on it, they are no longer eligible to be sold. So bearing that in our minds, we did our job carefully.

Kaki(persimmon) fruit

Persimmon trees

The persimmon trees are not that tall. So it was not very hard picking them up. The only problem that inexperienced people like us had was picking the right fruits, not the still young ones and not too old ones. So it took us quite a long time choosing the fruits to be picked up.

What happens when left too long on the trees - they rot

Petik buah bang?

"Lapar nih..aci tak makan cani jer?"

After about an hour of picking session, we managed to collect about three crates of persimmons. Then we had some free time talking with him and at the same time having an “all you can eat” persimmon session too. The pakcik gym`s wife was very kind enough to come with some hot coffee for us. During the conversation, we were told that the persimmons produced around that area are very good in terms of quality and taste. He also told that the area`s farms did won some national level awards for their fruits. No wonder I felt that the fruits that we ate tasted better than the one that I got from my friend a few days before.

Kena susun elok2, nanti rosak

Nak makan basuh dulu

Before we went back, we got ourselves a big plastic bag full with persimmons from that pakcik. That was very kind of him despite all those which we already ate before that. After thanking him and his wife, we then rode the pakcik hostel`s Pajero to go back to college.

Kiri sekali pakcik hostel, sebelah dia pakcik gym n yang bawah tu wife dia

On that way back, the pakcik stopped by at a wine factory to show the other overseas student the wine making process. We were not interested in wine, so we the Malaysians took the opportunity to perform our Asar prayer. While waiting for them, we just walked around the factory`s compound and did some camwhoring. After they finished their visit, we then head back to the Pajero and went back to our college…

Aidilfitri 1430H – Part 3

This post is the continuation of Part 1 and Part2

On the third day of Raya, there left only 10 of us, who luckily had a little longer holiday than the others.On that day, we went for a football friendly tournament organised by the Fukuoka muslims society.We formed the Malaysian team together with some students from Kyushu University, to compete with the other teams, 2 Arabs team, a Bangladesh team, and one mixed team with members from other minority countries.The tournament was played with league system.It took us quite some time to look for the park where there tournament is held since we were not familiar with the area, plus it was raining that day.However we fortunately arrived just in time before the game started.

Getting ready

The Malaysian `TIGERS` =P

Bro nuri in action

Against the Bangladesh

Kewajipan tak dilupa

Some arguments during the final match, but nothing serious.Biasa la orang Arab..

Bujang lapuk? haha..

Muslims unites

The tournament ended at about 6pm.The top 2 teams in the league were the Arabs and they played in the final match.We only managed 3 draws and lost one game.All in all, we enjoyed ourselves on that day.This kind of activity gathered the muslims here and it encourages more interaction among us, thus promote more unity and understanding of each other.Hopefully there will be more activity like this in the future.We will be happy to participate.

Grand Iftar @ Fukuoka Masjid

2 weeks ago, we went for the Grand Iftar organised by Al Nour Islamic Culture Center at Fukuoka Masjid, Hakozaki-shi, Fukuoka.It took us about 1hour by train to get there from our college.

Fukuoka Masjid was opened newly April this year, so it was only our third time going there.The mosque was built with the initiative of Muslims in Fukuoka.They started collecting money since 1998 and the mosque construction finally began about June last year.The opening of the mosque gives us Muslims here the convenience to perform besides the daily prayers, the Friday prayer and also Aidilfitri and Aidiladha prayer.There are also Islamic classes and talks organized not only for the Muslim community but also the Japanese community in Fukuoka.We took the opportunity of the summer holiday to perform our Friday prayer here every week.

Fukuoka Masjid, Hakozaki-shi

Fukuoka Masjid, Hakozaki-shi

Plague at the entrance

Plague at the entrance

The first Grand Iftar was held on 2nd Ramadhan, 23 August 2009.It is held every Sunday during the Ramadhan month and we took turns on organizing it.The Malaysians was in charge of the 1st week, so we came to help the other Malaysians preparing the food for the iftar.

Packing the `kuih-muih`

Muslims from all sort of countries gathered to break fast together

Muslims from all sort of countries gathered to break fast together

After breaking fast, we then perform Maghrib and Isyak prayer, and after that the Terawih, which was my first time performing it Jemaah with others in Japan.

Ceramah during Maghrib and Isyak interval

Terawih

Terawih

The chance to gather and meet the other Muslims here did made me remember about the happening Ramadhan`s celebration in Malaysia.Looking forward to come again for the next Grand Iftar after we finished our exam, which will start next week.InsyaAllah.

If you would like to know more about Fukuoka Masjid, you can go to its website here.

~People~ 1

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Baby in Blue

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