Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mochi Macho Man (part 2)

The crowd of people at the gate was nothing compared to the mass of bodies inside the gate. We entered the temple compound and were immediately greeted by the familiar sights of festival food booths. We could get a treat of any kind, taco-yaki, cakes that look like fish that are filled with adzuki bean paste, French fries, candied apples, grilled squid, or a squid cracker covered in mayonnaise and powdered seaweed. We wandered through the throng and looked at all the treats. Some looked delicious and others, well I haven’t tried them so I guess that I should reserve judgment. We had lunch in the backpack so we decided to grab some freshly made French fries before heading over and finding a place to sit and eat our lunch. We had picked up some onigiri at the supermarket before we left Omihachiman. We found a spot to sit on our little tarp and eat our rice ball filled with tuna salad and our now cold French fries. We ate and made a spectacle of ourselves as we did so. Every little old lady that came by our little picnic site commented on how cute Logan was. Many wondered at the fact that the little gaijin boy could eat Japanese food. We ate our food and repacked our bag and headed further into the complex.

Daigo-Ji is a large temple complex consisting of two separate levels. There is a lower level and an upper level to the grounds of the temple complex. The lower level is the first that we were to explore. What we noticed first was the large five storey pagoda. This pagoda was built in 951, and is considered to the oldest of its kind in Japan, and it is the oldest building in Kyoto. We wandered through the mass of people to where the lifting of the mochi was to take place.

There was a large stage near the main temple building. On that stage there were two separate things of mochi. Each one was a two level cake, one pink the other white, perched on a wooden palate. The object was to lift the palate and the mochi off of the ground and hold it as long as possible before setting it back down on the stage. We arrived in time to see the women preparing to lift their mochi off the ground. There was an assortment of people on the stage, including several women and a gaggle of preists. The preists were announcing the contestants and giving each of them the number in which they would be competing.

There was quite a crowd gathered around the stage. We found ourselves towering above much of the crowd not terribly far from the stage, but we were positioned at the back. At first I thought that this would be to our disadvantage until the contest actually got under way. Once the first contestant was brought out to the middle of the stage and invited to begin the contest; the photographers rushed the stage. I thought that we were in a horrible position to see, however we were actually in a very good spot. We could not see the face of the strong woman, but we did not have our line of sight blocked by a wall of paparazzi.

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