It’s not on a Tuesday, and it’s not in the usual season, and it’s not in New Orleans… but that’s not been stopping everyone in Matsue from having a good time and celebrating the culture of New Orleans every October for the past four years.
The Matsue New Orleans Club started as a social club for people with similar interests in New Orleans, especially jazz. In addition to other jazz events throughout the year, they started putting on Little Mardi Gras to do out-reach to children. The city has been very supportive of this, especially since New Orleans has been Matsue’s Friendship City for over 21 years now. Likewise, the City of New Orleans has also been very supportive, as well as very impressed. School bands, as well as other interested community members, learn to perform jazz numbers and parade through the streets and hand out not-so-easily-attained-in-large-quantities Mardi Gras beads to the spectators who come to watch in the castle town’s shopping streets.
This year, the parade went from near Matsue Castle down to the Ohashi Bridge and then back to the Shimane Civic Center for ongoing live performances. Although the layout of the city has largely remained unchanged since it was planned over 400 years ago, you’d almost think this city was built for parades, especially since the Ohashi Bridge provides such a picturesque spot for both spectating and showing off.
Once everyone made it to the bridge, we all squished there under the radiant blue skies for the battle of the bands, heading it off in a medley of practiced “When the Saints go Marching In” renditions. Although the San’in region is known for shadow more so than for sunshine, this was the second time we’ve hosted delegations from New Orleans in conjuction with Little Mardi Gras, and both times the visitors have brought us amazing weather.
On the flip side, Mardi Gras 2014 was rained out in both New Orleans and Matsue, with some sort of shared fate. However, the cycle of luck goes on–on both our sunny 2013 and 2015 parades, the Saints won both weekends (and as of when I’m writing this, so far this season that is the only game the Saints have won. Looks like we better hold more parades).
While there is some Saints influence seen throughout the parade, music remains the focus, and while each band shows off, the others duck down low for everyone to take their spotlight, which they pop up ready for the moment their name is announced. It all builds up to everyone performing unison, everyone from elementary school students to traveling professionals.
After that, and a few comments from our visitors to rile everyone up for more celebration, it’s time to turn the parade back around for a second go, this time back towards the castle.
One of the biggest differences between Matsue’s Little Mardi Gras and the big carnival that goes on for weeks in New Orleans, besides the obvious lack of floats, is that Japan isn’t so keen on throwing prizes (unless you’re throwing stone-hard mochi and shooting arrows in shrines, yeah, that’s perfectly acceptable). Therefore, instead of “throws” they’re more like “hand-outs.” Although the organizers always make sure to prepare beads, this year the delegates from New Orleans went all out with specialized Krewe beads, vintage doubloons, King Cake babies, cups, scarves, and then some.
The parade keeps growing every year, but looks like the bar just got set higher! Hopefully we’ll have some more visitors from New Orleans next year to ensure more good weather.