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Fox Wedding festival
Last week, we had a very exciting one day trip to Tsugawa-machi, more than 50km away from Niigata city. This small town is located at the juncture of the upstream of 2 rivers: Agano and Tokonami. This area has been long known for its superb natural scenery, cold winter and abundantly pure water that perfectly suit the requirements of rice growing and Sake production. That’s why Tsugawa-machi has also been recognized as a key Sake-brewing region for quite long time.
What is more, the misty mountain ranges here create an unique folklore: Fox Wedding Festival or Fox Marriage Procession (literally translated from Japanese). Many stories relating to foxes which were living in the mountain are handed down. Long ago, when the night came, it is said that fox fire could be often seen together with the sound of fox song. Traditionally, it would be a good crop year when much fox fire could be seen. Then annually on May 3rd, just right before a new rice crop starts, local people here organize a Fox Wedding so as to pray a good crop to come.
All audiences of festival can turn into a fox with the skillful make-up of local beauticians and staff of public office (and in fact I was one of a naughty foxes there). One nicest couple of foxes is chosen every year by general public subscription (Actually, they are the future husband and wife, sooner or later). 108 participants in traditional dress of Kimono (ladies) and Yukata (men) started the “Ceremony of Bride departure” at 5pm in Sumiyoshi Shrine. Then it proceeded through the main streets of little town. The Bride procession joined the bridegroom who had advanced from the mountain in the middle of the bridge which spans a river. After that, the wedding ceremony was held in the water stage installed above the river at 8pm.Then this just married couple went to the "Mt. Giraffe" (‘cos it does look like a giraffe) of the opposite river bank by an old-fashioned wooden boat. In the meantime, the fox fire which blesses two people was lighted up all in a line on the mountain. The wedding ended up with some scary sound of foxes.
I took these 2 photos of the chosen Fox Bride on that day. The left one was taken when the procession began on the street. Just look at her hands, like fox's hands; then do you see the fox-faced police?? The second one was taken when the festival was almost over, she was sitting on the boat, you would see the reflection of water on her Kimono.
In my very next posts, there will be some photos of these festivities.

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