November, 2012

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
previous issues.


Black Lion drawn on an old paper screen

The Return of the Black Lion

November is the festival time in Karatsu.
At this festival, citizen enjoy the parade of 14 floats. They are 200~140 years old.
Have I written about these 14 floats?
I remembered I have, but if you need the information again, please see this.

This month, I am going to tell you about The Return of the Black Lion, the 15th float, which has been long lost.

The genuine floats are paper-made, layered many times with Japanese paper which is so strong, and painted with Japanese Urushi lacquer again and again.
This time, the Black Lion was also made by the modern method of paper craft. With cardboard cut-out, painted with chemical lacquer.

I am very happy, not only because the Lion is back , but also because these young people in down town Karatsu got together for one porpoise, and in a shot time, say 4 months or so, they did it over.
I see Hope in this event. Karatsu will be all right, because these young men are here.

So please enjoy the photo gallery of making the big paper Lion. Please don't blame us saying it doesn't look like a lion!

A lion was an imaginative creature in old Japan. People knew the existence of the king of animals, and imagined how it looked. Corn on the head! curled eyebrow! abundant mane on the head! sharp teeth, and strong eyes! In most Asian countries, you will see similar images of lion.

The Lion was the symbol of courage, you remember? in the movie, The Wizard of Oz.
This year, our lion will make us happy with its courage.
Designed and printed on paper, then this pattern was pasted on hard cardboard, and is cut.
Three dimensional figure is being made.
Inside the head.
Curled eyebrows are made.
Four streets's shop keepers joined in this program. The lanterns telling the names of the streets are also hand-made by them.
Lion's mane was made with woolen thread, knitted into thick yarns.
Accessories of the face, eyebrows or else, were put on the face.
The face of the lion was painted black.
The lion head is roughly done..
The body part is not necessary in the case of festival float. Head is set on a stand, and the stand is covered by a curtain..
Inside the head, the names of people who joined this project were written.
The names of people who helped and cooperated this project were also written here.
Highschool students, architects-to-be, also helped this project and made the lower part of this float.
The car-body with wheels, the stand to set the lion head on.
Wheels were installed, stand made, and pulling rope is temporally attached.
Trying and measuring the weight of the car.
Trying the head on the stand and see to make it stable.
Children can't wait to pull the float.
Here returns the Black Lion!
Isn't it amazing under the Torii gate of Karatsu Shrine?
Look at the proud smile of the Lion!

About two hundred years ago, a merchant of Katanamachi Street of Karatsu, named Ishizaki Kahei, thought about making the first float to dedicate to the Karatsu Shrine. It was the Red Lion, the Number 1 Float of Karatsu Kunchi Festival.
Then other streets followed, and in about 60 years, 14 floats were made, totally 15. One of them, the Black Lion was lost, of which reason is a mystery to be solved in later years.
The young men who wanted to make this Black Lion are other Ishizaki Kaheis.
Welcome back, Black Lion, and welcome home young spirits of Karatsu!

Thank you for your joining. I hope I will see you next month again.

 Mail to Harumi Okochi