Japan from the inside out

Dined and sated

Posted by ampontan on Monday, May 10, 2010

MOST MEN prefer women with hourglass figures, and many prefer the skinny to the fully cushioned, but the guys in Katsuyama, Fukui, have made it a point for centuries to fatten up the local females. For more than 400 years, as a matter of fact.

That’s the idea behind a traditional event formally known as “The Serving of Kannon” (the Buddhist goddess of mercy), but which some women probably think of as the Rice Attack. The event combines a supplication for good health and a good harvest with an acknowledgement of the hard work women do every day of the year. It’s an intangible culture treasure of the city, and the custom is currently continued by 12 families. This year it was held at 8:00 p.m. on 20 February.

The children of the neighborhood collect about 11 liters of rice from the families in the district, which is then steamed and make into gruel (o-kayu). The women and girls sit in a circle and get ready for the food onslaught by covering their laps with a towel.

The men circulate around the room and chant, “This is the serving of Kannon,” and put heaping helpings of rice in their bowls. Judging from their singing and staggering in the video clip below, the men likely passed the time waiting for the rice to cook by filling their own bellies with rice wine.

The women try to cover the rice with their hands, or turn to the wall, but the men keep looking for an opening to fill their bowls until they overflow.

That works as a metaphor for me!

The woman at the end of the 1:16 video, by the way, laughs and says, “Ah, I’m full, I’m full.” Maybe the protestations from the women are mostly for show–they’re clapping and singing during the rice pounding at the start of the video, and they all know what’s coming next.

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