Saturday, August 31, 2013
Shinsuishiki - Launching
The typhoon veered away and we had a calm, overcast, but hot and sticky morning for our launch ceremony, called a shinsuishiki. Takumi’s canoe guide teacher drove three hours up from the Shimanto River with his canoe trailer to carry our boat to the marina, where the students from Nihon University carried our boat into the water. We had a large crowd of Bengalis and Japanese artists and people from the community. Japanese musicians played as well as Bengali musicians.
Fram Kitagawa, the force behind the Setouchi Festivale, gave opening remarks and Koji Matano, who was instrumental in making this project happen, created and announced the name of our boat, which is HOUYUU. The name means “friendship,” and we were all thinking of our Bengali friends, who really inspired us with the skill and warmth.
In lieu of a Shinto priest I presided over the ceremony. I cut a large mortise in the after beam of the boat for a funadama, essentially a boat shrine. In it I placed, wrapped in white paper, 12 antique coins, paper figurines of a man and woman, a home-made dice, and a packet containing azuki beans, millet and oats. I sealed these items up and then poured sake on the funadama. As mentioned in an earlier posting, these traditions were those given to us by Tsuda san, the 84-year old boatbuilder from this area.
Often small gifts are thrown to the crowd at boat launchings, such as candy or rice cakes. Yoshiko came up with the idea of taking leftover wood from our project and making small blocks painted with the flags of Bangladesh and Japan, and stamped with the boats name and the word for friendship in Bengali. The first passengers included Koji, Yoshiko, Takumi, Fram Kitagawa and the site coordinator Cato san, and as we rowed along the waterfront we threw the gifts into the crowd.