Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hanashiro Shisa Parade 2010

  Today is a typhoon day. I have mixed feelings about that fact. On the one hand, they cancelled the second day of our English camp which I put so much work into. On the other hand, I got the whole day off. :) I've been waiting since 9 a.m. for a good storm to entertain me, but the wind has barely even rattled the doors all day. Ah well. I probably shouldn't be wishing for trouble anyways. ;)

Well, since I have a lot of extra time today, I want to tell you about one of my highlights of each year in Okinawa. 

Each year during the Obon holiday, my little neighborhood, Hanashiro, holds many festivals to welcome the spirits of their ancestors home for a few days and then see them off again when the holiday is over. 
My favorite event of the week takes place the day after the ghosts have returned to the sea: The Shisa Parade. 

During the parade, this blood-thirsty beast (part lion, part dog) marches menacingly through the streets. He is hungry for one thing, and only one thing: the heads of small children. 

Parents, usually so protecting of their young children, don't hide them from this blood-thirsty monster. 
Instead, they carry them out into plain sight. 

They gather the little ones together and offer their offspring to the lion... like tiny little sacrifices. 
And when the Shisa selects his prey,

he attacks,

and devours the baby in one gulp. 


Okay, okay don't worry. 

The Shisa only nibbles on their head a little. 
The children are left alive and only minimally scared.

This process makes the parents happy, because being munched on a little is good luck for a long, healthy life. 

The parade continues all throughout Hanashiro, with music and dancing, baby chewing and crying, and general merry-making. 

We pause only for prayer,

to rest, 

and to fight.

Finally, we wind our way back to the town center to celebrate a successful Shisa parade 

with music and dancing

for everyone. :) 

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