Thoughts on the Matsuri (festival)
Regardless of the generation, whether they still live in Esashi or not, everyone is passionate about the Esashi Matsuri. That is probably the reason why the population of Esashi grows from 7,500 to 30,000 during the festival season in Esashi.
When I meet anyone from Esashi who lives elsewhere, they often say “I’ll be back for Ubagami Matsuri” and I respond “Yes, please visit during the Matsuri. ”
Between acquaintances from Esashi the conversation may go something like “Hi, how have you been? It’s been a long time. Have you been back to your hometown lately? Why not go back together for the Matsuri?”. “Ok let’s go back together” is likely the reply. The conversation often starts around the Matsuri and it’s one of the best ways to greet others the Esashi way.
From 7th August the population of Esashi begins to increase, and by the 10th or 11th each family has swelled several times, and young people become noticeable after long absences. All hotels around the city including cities near Esashi will become booked up. By the time Obon comes on the 13th the city gets back to nomal. Around that time, you start feeling the autumn breeze.
Mothers in Esashi (1)
Women (mothers) support the Matsuri behind the scenes. During the festival, delicious treats fill the table that are as good as what you can get on New Year. Red rice, sea urchin, abalone, tsubu (shellfish), boiled somen, sashimi, hors d'oeuvres and so on will be prepared by women in Esashi. They will be busy thinking about the cuisine and start preparing a couple days before welcoming guests with their hospitality. Of course, preparing such a treat will also increase expenses. But they become especially generous for this once-a-year festival in order to save face.
On the day of the festival, friends, neighbours, and neighbours' friends start arriving with greetings such as “What a great festival”. The mothers welcome everyone even if they have never seen them before, and while holding a beer for them will warmly say “Welcome, please don’t hesitate to help yourself to food and drinks”. Men will say ”Mum, beer, mum, somen” holding cups lazily while mothers are busy running around (beer and juice won’t fit in the fridge so many houses keep some cases of them in the bath tub with big blocks of ice). This routine continues constantly. The mothers inevitably become exhausted, but also satisfied when they hear people telling them “It was delicious. Thank you very much. I’ll come around next year”.
Mothers in Esashi (2)
When the floats finish their route and come back to their lodge, local mothers will welcome the men and kids back with a feast. A mother saying “I appreciate your effort, you must be tired. You should drink and have a rest” will bring them peace. But mothers’ chores are yet to be finished.
They will do laundry full of sweaty shirts, dirty Tabi socks and Mameshibori bandanas after midnight.
They are first to wake up to iron shirts and Yukata kimono, then they will do everything to prepare kids and husbands to get them ready for the Matsuri. After everyone leaves, mothers follow the float too. It is also their job to give out snacks for kids. When the Matsuri reaches the peak busy time, there are more things to worry about for mothers. Mothers have to keep an eye out to make sure the kids don’t get injured, or that the the men aren’t getting too drunk or starting fights. Mothers will be very relieved after finishing the biggest job of the year without any problems after those 3 days of the Matsuri. Esashi’s Matsuri is only complete when supported by mothers in Esashi.
Mothers in Esashi (3)
You may see women holding phones outside during the float parade in front of their house. They do that to play festival music and add atmosphere for sons, daughters or grandchildren who couldn’t come back to Esashi for the Matsuri.
Oiwake Sightseeing Department
Esashi Town Office
Address: 193-1, Aza Nakauta-cho, Esashi-cho, Hiyama-gun, Hokkaido
Postal code: 043-8560