What is “Ennichi”?
“En” means having a special relation, “nichi” means day. Ennichi is a special day where the Japanese people celebrate their relations with a particular deity. Ennichi can be referred to as Saint’s Day. This day usually celebrates the birth or the passing of the deity they are honoring. The Japanese people visit the temple or shrine on these holy days to pray to the deity to bring them fortune and good health. A fun part of these festivals is the production of a large number of food and game stalls near the temple or shrine. This attracts many visitors young and old.
Some of the popular foods include takoyaki (round flour batter balls filled with octopus), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), yakimorokoshi (grilled corn on the cob), kakikoori (shaved ice) and cotton candy. Other stalls feature kingyo sukui (a game of scooping up goldfish on a thin net made of paper), omen (plastic masks of famous cartoon characters), water balloons and various goods. From the 14th Annual Honolulu Festival, we have been featuring Ennichi Corner. Some of the activities that you can look forward to is the fish scooping game, water balloon yoyo, cotton candy, yukata dressing, origami and plastic masks presentation. These activities represent an authentic Japanese ennichi and are perfect for the young and the young at heart.
What is “Shitamachi”?
This old Japanese tradition of Ennichi is still very popular with the young generation. Much of the continuance of this tradition relates to the lifestyle of those Japanese who lived in an area that we refer to as Shitamachi. In the Tokyo area one can refer to this area as Old Tokyo. Literally meaning “low town” or “downtown”, during the Edo period, shitamachi described all districts lower than Edo Castle, the Imperial Palace of today. Shitamachi encompasses Asakusa, Ueno, Kanda, Nihombashi, Kyobashi, Fukagawa, Ryogoku and Shibamata. It is an area of tiny narrow streets, old traditional homes, neighborhood shops, temples and shrines. Shitamachi depicts a very simple lifestyle full of love and caring for the neighborhood, its people and its shops.
What is “Tora-san”?
The Tora-san series of films called “Otokowa tsurai yo” (It’s Hard Being a Man) depicting the life of a man who grew up in a shitamachi called Shibamata in Tokyo was very popular in Japan from 1969 to 1995. The character of Tora-san played by actor Kiyoshi Atsumi resulted in a total of 48 films. As a wandering peddler who loved to drink sake and have crushes on many beautiful women, the Japanese audience loved his irresponsible and yet traditional Japanese ways. The Guiness Book of Records has noted Tora-san as the world’s longest-running film series in which the same actor played the title role.
Tora-san is an unlikely hero: he’s lazy and poorly educated. He’s single but no heartthrob; he usually wears a grubby beige suit and spends more time sleeping and drinking than peddling the cheap trinkets he’s supposed to offload. In a country renowned for being work-obsessed, Tora-san’s bohemian life provided appealing escapism, says Japanese film expert Catherine Russell, a professor at Concordia University’s Mel Oppenheim School of Cinema. “He represented something that’s not available to the corporate salary man in Japan. He’s not part of the system. Yet he can go home.”
Tora-san travels around aimlessly, but doesn’t pay the emotional price for his wanderlust. No matter what happens in the outside world, he always returns to the back of the humble sweet shop his uncle, aunt and sister run in Shibamata, the village-like suburb of Tokyo where he was born. In Shibamata, neighbors are like extended family and everyone is connected. So while the films are set in contemporary Japan, the hard-working, honest country people who are Tora-san’s friends and family appear to have been ferried in from a simpler period. Each film had a similar story line and yet the audience never tired of it.
Ennichi + Shitamachi + Tora-san
Now that “Ennichi”, “Shitamachi” and “Tora-san” have been explained, let’s take it a step further and explain the relationship of Tora-san to Ennichi. As a peddler he wandered all over Japan and made a living selling his products at many Ennichi. These peddlers are known as “tekiya”. The Honolulu Festival would like to simulate this Ennichi atmosphere at the 21st Annual Honolulu Festival. To this day there are many “tekiya” like Tora-san in Japan that make a living peddling their wares at Ennichi throughout Japan. This is yet another interesting aspect of Japanese culture that the Honolulu Festival would like to share with our audience.