It’s now October, the most festive month in Matsue!

Every month in Japan has a classical name, and October is called Kannazuki (神無月 “the month without gods”) everywhere but the Izumo region, the “Province of the Gods”, where it is Kamiarizuki (神有月 “the month with gods”).

This is because all the kami (gods) gather at Izumo Taisha for their annual meeting to determine people’s fate for the following year–in otherwords, it’s a big En-musubi meeting.

Actually, due to the craziness of the modern Japanese calendar system, calling the entire month of October “Kannazuki” or “Kamiarizuki” is a bit of a misnomer. Technically, it’s only about a week long, and it usually falls shortly after October. For the year Heisei 25, it will be November 12~19, 2013.

While there are religious rituals commemorating the gathering of the gods at Izumo Taisha at this time, the human-oriented events celebrating this air of En in this region usually take place throughout the Gregorian month of October.

Matsue, the capital city of the Province of the Gods, usually has a lot planned. Last year I made it to a handful of events, and this year I’ll be busy with the Dai-chakai (grand tea gathering at Matsue Castle featuring eleven schools of tea) and the Little Mardi Gras parade and ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Matsue’s Friendship City ties with the US city of New Orleans. I’ve made a couple of lanterns for the Suitoro Lantern Festival (which lasts all month), and I’ll probably go to watch the Do-gyoretsu Drum Parade, though I know many foreign residents who are taking part on the drums or flutes.

In the meantime, the streets have echoed with the sound of Do drum practices on weekend nights, as various neighborhoods trade off with their turn to take part in the parade. I remember thinking it was very mysterious when I first it last year on a late August night, but now it when I hear something in the distance, I think, “oh, I wonder which neighborhood it is now? It was Suetsugu last year, maybe this year the sound is coming from Sotonakabara?” A quick detour on my way home brings me closer to the sound, and then I find everyone out with their drums and flutes. Usually, these drums are kept in well-marked garages in each neighborhood, and people are only allowed in those garages under certain circumstances. The participating neighbors are drawn at random, though no neighborhood is allowed to participate two years in a row.

I snapped this picture right after they finished the song and took a break.

I snapped this picture right after they finished the song and took a break.

Speaking of finding festiveness throughout the streets, I noticed a poster for an event coming up at the Kyomise shopping district, home to many of Matsue’s gourmet restaurants.

Kyomise Ikemen

There’s a good pun lurking around every corner. While they aren’t exactly the kind of events that the locals anticipate all year like the Dai-chakai, Suitoro, or Do-gyoretsu, Kyomise puts on a handful of little festivals throughout the year with specialty food stalls. Back in early spring, they had the “Donburi Karakoro” event, which was based on a pun combining donburi (any kind of food served on top of a bowl of rice), karakoro (the sound-effect Lafcadio Hearn used to describe the sound of geta sandals walking down the Ohashi bridge back in the Meiji era, a term which is use to describe both Karakoro Hiroba (square) in Kyomise and Karakoro Art Studio across the canal), and a familiar children’s song about acorns, “Donguri Korokoro.”

The pun in this poster is for the “Kyomise Ikemen Festival,” which is a play on the word for noodles, men, and the slang term for a hot guy, ikemen (ee-keh-mehn, not AIK-men). Oh Japan, you and your puns. Unfortunately I’ll be busy with other events that day and won’t be in Kyomise until the Little Marti Gras live performances at Karakoro Hiroba later that afternoon, but I got enough of a laugh from the poster that I thought I’d share.