Higashi-yama Water Splashing/Tossing Festival (東山お湯かけ祭り)

Disclaimer: I promised to write a short essay for the Fukushima JET (FuJET) group, so hoping to kill two birds with one stone by getting that out of the way before writing about my first impressions of JET and the first few days after arriving into Fukushima. At this point, it’s already been a few weeks since I’ve been here, so I’ve got a lot to recount.

Video by Maxwell Lamb

As a new JET, I was really excited to get involved in some of the unique festivals in Japan. Higashiyama onsen is one of the most popular onsen villages in Tohoku for its outdoor hot springs by the riverside and waterfall. お湯かけ祭りmeans “water tossing festival” where a mikoshi is carried around all the onsen lodges. There is even a mikoshi for the kids to carry! Hotel guests are encouraged to splash buckets of their hotel’s onsen water on the mikoshi. Standing on the mikoshi are two young ladies throwing 5 yen coins, threaded with different colored yarn, each representing luck in love, health, and fortune. The women and mikoshi are carried and bounced around by a bunch of drunk people, including JETs tall enough to carry them. Being short, I was only able to touch the mikoshi carrier for maybe 2 minutes before feeling almost trampled. For non-mikoshi handlers, the other option was follow the mikoshi and respond to “Seiya!” (or was it “Shoya”? or maybe “Sorya”?) with the same. Whatever the call and response was, it was a great opportunity to shout at the top of your lungs and let out that genki spirit. Before heading out, everyone is offered a can of beer. This is so you enjoy the moment rather than getting annoyed by all the hotel guests who splash buckets of water at you because they missed the mikoshi. Or because they just want to splash the gaijin. You can even break rank and throw a couple buckets of hot water on the mikoshi (or your fellow JETs) yourself! With the humid summer heat, it was great getting soaked and cooling off on the way to the next onsen.

The event was arranged by the Aizu Wakamatsu International Association.