|Niihama Taiko Matsuri|
Niihama Taiko Matsuri
The drum tables (taikodai) are the extravagantly decorated floats that carry Japanese drums (taiko) by about 150 men. The floats weighing two tons are jolted up and down to compete with each other by drumming.
I was told that a few years ago a foreign spectator died under the falling float forced to collide violently with another. Now the police have denied the fighting (kenka) of floats.
Only men are allowed to carry the float and traditionally women couldnĀft touch it. The festival is even called the menĀfs festival (otoko matsuri).
The dome of the float represents the sun, the rope knots clouds and the tassels the rain. The float is decorated with embroidered gold panels.
In the past, the panels were tied together so that the gods could use them as resting places when the float visited smaller shrines.
The upper panels are adorned with four pairs of fierce staring dragons which are believed to go up to the sky and become the gods who bring the all-important rain for agriculture.
The pairs of dragons on each side represent open-mouthed and closed-mouthed dragons (ah-ryu and un-ryu). Ah is the sound of opening our mouth which symbolises beginning. Un symbolises end when we close the mouth. The guardian dogs placed at the gate of shrines and the guardian gods in front of the temples also have open and closed mouths.
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