ドンド焼きに少し慣れてきた Slowly Getting Used to Don-Do Yaki

2010.01.11: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

ドンドン焼きの炭に焼餅 Heating Mochi rice over Don-Don Yaki coals


On this Coming of Age Day holiday weekend, towns throughout Japan hold 'seijinshiki', special ceremonies for the "new" adults. Here in Nagano Prefecture, we hold another type of event, too: don-do yaki. The event is called different ways and takes different shapes depending on the particular community. Here in Kamiyamada Onsen, each neighborhood collects the dharma dolls from the previous year as well as the New Years decorations. The mish-mash is taken down to a grassy stretch along the banks of the Chikuma River and piled up into a massive mound. Then around 3pm, everyone gathers and the mound is lit with fire and voila! a huge bonfire.
These don-don yaki fires ("don-do" refers to the popping sound of the burning bamboo) doesn't compare with Nozawa Onsen's Dosojin fire festival, but it's pretty spectacular nonetheless, especially with the dramatic backdrop of the Chikuma River and the surrounding mountains.
Then after the fire dies down, everyone digs out some of the hot coals, and commences to cook mochi sticky rice and heat up sake'. One guy every year grills river fish over the coals. In the past, I always enjoyed getting treated to some hot mochi, a sip (or two!) of sake, and the hot-off-the-grill fish, in what had seemed like an impromptu little festival.
I finally realized this year that it wasn't impromptu -- a lot of people put a lot of effort and preparation into the festivities. So this year I bought some mochi for the boys and I and brought it down to join the event. I soon realized that it's BYOG -- you also have to bring your own grill! So I ended up bumming space on a buddy's home-made grill. And I still ended up getting treated to sake and grilled fish.
But I realized something else this year: the gathering is a chance for the neighbors to say their New Years greetings to each other. I made a point of going around to each group and saying the obligatory formal greeting. That was usually followed by, "Oh, you saw me on TV? Great! Let's keep up the efforts for Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen!"
This year was my 5th don-do yaki since moving here. I'm no longer an guest from outside, but one of the locals.

来年の上山田温泉のドンド焼きに是非、おいでやす。成人の日連休の最終日です。Come and join us for next year's Don-Do Yaki. It will be held on the last day of the Coming of Age Day holiday weekend.


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