Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Aug 4, 2009

2009 Amami Matsuri Fanakogi

Posted by Amami Superman

"Matsuri" means "festival" in English. "Funakogi" is the type of canoe race they have during the festival on Saturday. The races start around 8:00am and end in the early evening. The people who enter the competition are very competitive and start training for it months in advance. I've had friends that train their hearts out for this only to come up short of taking first place and then cry their eyes out. It's really amazing how passionate they are about funakogi. You'd think it was the World Cup for soccer.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
In Unison

It's kind of hard to see but there's a person sitting in the front of the canoe facing the rest of the paddlers. This person is there to help keep pace. Usually they have a whistle they blow to keep everyone in time with each other.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 105mm, 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
The Turn

This is the hardest part of the competition, making the U turn. The canoes aren't the most stable and it's pretty easy to flip them over while making this turn.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 86mm, 1/400, f/5.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Cheering on Your Team

Many people have these drums and beat them to cheer on their teams. Most of the time these drums are used for the traditional dancing they do here in the islands of southern Japan. I know they have drums like this in other parts of Japan but they call these kind "tsuzun" in the Amami dialect. My mother-in-law was telling me that they used to make these drums out of horse hide a long time ago. She doesn't know what they use now to make them.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Pride and Spirit of Amami

Although I wasn't born in Amami, I call this place my home. This is the kind of site that makes me feel good about where I live. The amount of people that come out to compete with one another and the amount of people that come out to cheer these people on is really astounding. I am proud of this island I live on.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Matching Team Shirts

Almost every team has shirts they designed for themselves. The shirts in the above photo say "85 Kanan Funaashibi 2009". The 85 is the year this group was born which basically means this group is made up of friends that went to school together. That would make the people in this group 24 years old. I don't know what the "Kanan" means. I asked my wife and she didn't know either. "Funaashibi" is two words in the Amami dialect. "Funa" means "small boat" (I think), and "ashibi" means "play".

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 32mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Team Sunset

The big kanji on this shirt says "yuhigumi". "Yuhi" means "sunset", and "gumi" (or kumi), means "group" or "team". This team is from Ankyaba which is a small village in the town of Tatsugo just north of Amami City.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Tournament Brackets in the Blazing Sun

This where they post the winners and losers of the competition. These guys made me light headed just looking at them. I carry a towel with me wherever I go to wipe the sweat away. It's may sound kind of gross but sometimes it's a life saver, literally. During midday, if you don't have a hat, you can get heat stroke very easy here. If you don't have a hat with you, just throw your sweat towel over your head. You can probably see a few people doing this in some of the above photos.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/400 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Someone Found the Snow Cone Vendor

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 44mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Start of a New Race

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 44mm, 1/200, f/5.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
They're Off!

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 44mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Pretty Close

People like to see these kinds of races where most of the boats are close and it comes right down to a photo finish (which they do have just in case).

It was very hot and I was starting to overheat a bit after walking around for just a little over an hour. And I even had my hat! I went home and tried to cool off and get ready for the "hachigatsu odori" they have in the evening. "Hachigatsu Odori" basically means "August Dancing". It's a tradition they do every year and I'll post that in a different post.


Jeffrey Friedl said...

This seems somewhat similar to the Dragon Boat races in Hong Kong and in other parts of Japan, and indeed is quite fun and competitive. 15+ years ago I was a member of an Osaka mixed-nationality outdoor club that competed in these, and one season we won the Biwako Dragon-Boat Festival, besting 56 other teams. (One team we were particularly happy to beat was next to us in the staging area when their captain gave them a pep talk, imploring them not to get beat by a bunch of f*****g foreigners. We crushed them.)

There were no turns in any of our races... that would have made it quite a different race.

Amami Superman said...

I've never tried to join one of these boat teams. I'm a rather hefty guy so I don't think anyone would really welcome my fat butt weighing their canoe down. LOL

From what I hear, the turn is what makes this competition a real challenge. I've watched people practicing and I've seen them flip their canoes quite often.

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Keep the language clean please. I have family that see this. Tell us what part of the world you're in.