The 2012 Kitadaito Festival was a two-day event in September marking an important time of community inclusion and tradition. The second day of the Festival was on the 23rd and, as in years past, featured sumo competitions as a traditional Japanese offering to the kami and ancestors of the village. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on day one. Below is a video showing excerpts from the day, with more information and photos farther down. Enjoy!
The second day began in the morning on Sunday around 9:00. Villagers gathered again before the Daito-gu shrine. There, a Shinto priest led a ceremony blessing both the sumo ground and the people. New babies were also brought before the shrine by their parents so that the adults could ask for safe and prosperous lives for their children.
After the ceremonies were complete, the villagers settled in to watch Edo and Okinawan Sumo competitions. Although Kitadaito is in Okinawan Prefecture, it was originally settled by people from Hachijo Island, which means the traditions of the island are a unique mix of mainland Japan and Okinawa. At the Daitogusai festival, both types of sumo take place. Pre-school through junior high students take part in edo style sumo.
Edo Sumo is the kind famous throughout the world, and its practitioners generally wear mawashi, a long single piece of fabric that is folded and wrapped into a type of loin cloth. The children make do with belts so that there is something to grab. The point of Edo sumo is to toss your opponent out of the ring or onto the ground. If any body part other than feet touch the ground, you lose.
Edo sumo is highly ritualized since it originated as a Shinto offering. Local villagers still participate in sumo for the health and safety of their village, as well as for the opportunity to win great prizes. Students all compete in set matches within their age group, then compete in 3 or 5 round matches for a chance at a trophy and prizes including everything from laundry soap to new bikes, fish, and more. The winner has to defeat 5 challengers in a row to claim the prize.After the last junior high school competition is the adult competition since Kitadaito has no high school. Matches are chosen by random in a ladder tournament with the winner receiving a champions cup, kilograms of rice, money and other prizes.
Finally, the Okinawan sumo competition takes place, often with a few of the best junior high schoolers jumping in as well. Several places receive prizes. All together the sumo matches generally last into the dusk. Aside from locals, other sumo practitioners are often invited to compete. This year, 10 sumo-ka from Kumejima participated in both days activities.
Performances and Entertainment
When I lived on Kitadaito, just a few years ago, there were many performances and lots of entertainment during the stop at city all on the first day of the festival. In fact the experience even became a part of my novel Samurai Awakening. This year, however, the schedule was changed up a bit. The first day started later, and there was no stage, food stalls, or entertainment at the city hall. Instead, everyone was welcomed to the local kaizen center (community hall) at 7:00.
There were many performances, including local students performing taiko drumming, traditional Okinawan dancers, local dance offerings, live music, and dance. Food and drink were also available, and everyone was able to enjoy the fun without having to worry about bad weather or rain.
The sumo club from Kumejima also performed a short comedy routine as way of thank you for the hospitality they received during the events. Check out the pictures or the video for a better idea of the performances!