Fish and Japanese
For Japanese who live in the country surrounded by ocean, seafood has been an important main dish since fishery is one of the central ways of getting food. One of the best fish ports is at Nikaho City, located in the southern part of Akita. Since there is a point where the warm Tsushima Current and the cold Liman Current intersect at off-shore of Nikaho city, both cold and warm ocean water fish can be caught there. Therefore, from Edo era (17th to 19th), the city has been known as a fishing port with a large catch and a rich variety of fish. However, because the weather forecast was not as accurate in the past, many fishermen were killed by rough waves, especially in midwinter. Therefore, fishermen hung fish as an offering to the Gods to pray for maritime safety and a large catch of fish. This custom is the origin of the Kakeyo festival.
Kakeyo festival is often held during the severely cold month of February. Although Nikaho city is located in the southern part of Akita, making it relatively warmer than other cities of Akita, the average temperature of Nikaho city is still only 2.3 ℃ during the winter. Under the chilly air and powdery snow, people in pairs shoulder cods, and they march in procession from the fishery cooperative at the seaside to the Konourayama Shrine with “Omiki,” sacred sake, lacquer boxes, and “Kinpo Kagura,” musical accompanists played by local elementary and junior high school students. Its distance is around 2 kilometers. About 20 to 25 cods which are brought to the shrine are the biggest cods of the year; their weight are usually over 10 kilograms each. To carry such heavy fish, bamboo poles and thick ropes made by straw are used. The word Kakeyo means “an offering fish for local gods and Ebisu, a god of wealth.” The official name of the festival is “Kakeyo festival,” or “Kakeyo Matsuri” in Japanese, but since the main focus of festival is cod, the festival is also known as “Cod festival,” or in Japanese, “Tara-Matsuri.”
Kagura is a sacred Shinto dance that is accompanied with musical instruments. It is performed as an offering to the Gods in Shinto rites. Kinpo Kagura is a local Kagura of Nikaho city, which is famous for the acrobatic way of playing Japanese drums; they beat drums with their backs to the drums. Kinpo Kagura can be traced back to dance performed by “Yamabushi”, Buddhist monks practicing asceticism in the mountains. After the WWII, the young in Nikaho city performed the Kagura as an offering to Konoura Shrine to pray for the restoration of their town, the rich harvest and catch, and maritime safety. As of now, Kinpo Kagura is played at the Kakeyo festival and also as a ritual drum performance at Konoura shrine. It has been handed down from the elderly in the preservation society of Kinpo Kagura to the local elementary school and junior high school students. In 1978, Kinpo Kagura became designated as intangible cultural folk asset of Nikaho city.
“Tara-jiru” Cod soup
After the festival, cod soup, “Tara-jiru” is served at Seishi park, which is located just in front of Konoura shrine. Tara-jiru is a local miso soup of Nikaho city. In addition to cod, Chinese onion and soy bean curd, “tofu,” are in the soup. On the festival day, wives and mothers of fishermen make this soup and sell it at the park. Because of its popularity, Tara-jiru sells out very quickly every year. The soup warms the cold body comfortably.
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