A Different View with Dave O’Connell
The central Japanese city of Shibukawa is home to an annual festival in honour of the humble belly button – a celebration of that part of the body which starts out as a lifeline and ends up as a portal to gather fluff off your new jumper.
Shibukawa, which lies north of Tokyo, has been calling itself the ‘belly button of Japan’ since 1984 – because it is located at the very centre of country. And that was the same year it first hosted the Heso Matsuri – or in English, the Belly Button Festival.
Highlight of this two-day event at the end of July is the Belly Button Dance Parade where people of all ages come to dance with their belly buttons out.
In some cases that may well be attractive to watch – after all the art of belly-dancing has its global audience – but for others the quest is not so much the dancing as the search for said belly button in the first place.
However, once located, the locals accentuate the beauty of the belly button by painting faces across their torsos leading down to the object of admiration itself, which is ten usually painted as a mouth.
Participants then wrap a kimono around their waists and the person’s real head is hidden by a large cloth hat.
In fairness, there are more bizarre festivals around the world – not least without leaving Japan where the Kanamara Matsuri Festival honours the penis with a parade of giant plastic phalluses – but it’s a hard sell to plan your annual holidays around a navel celebration.
But the Japanese recognise the belly button as the very point where life begins, and the Hindus go even further, believing that a lotus emerged from the god Vishnu’s navel, and at the centre of the flower was Brahma – creator of the universe.
The belly button is something of an anathema for Christians – at least those who buy into the whole story of Adam and Eve. Because if the original twosome didn’t have a mammy, then they didn’t have umbilical cords, so why would they have a belly button?
Of course, if they did have the same mammy, then the rest of were born of a brother and sister, which puts any unease over the belly button into the ha’penny place.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Connacht Tribune tributes to loved ones
These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.
But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.
If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.
All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.
You can email that with a photograph to us, to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.
We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.
This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances. You can contact our team for further details at email@example.com
Alison’s Euro Award for Covid information project
The Galway-established online course providing information about coronavirus in more than 70 languages – reaching over 350,000 people worldwide – is among 23 projects from the EU and the UK recognised for their outstanding contribution to fighting COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences.
The European Economic and Social Committee has awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize to the Irish learning platform Alison – founded by social entrepreneur Mike Feerick and based in Loughrea – for its free online course which was developed and published at the very start of the pandemic to educate as many people as possible about the virus, its spread and its effects.
The EESC, an advisory body representing Europe’s civil society at the EU level, selected the learning platform Alison as the best Irish candidate for the Prize, saying that its project “Coronavirus: What you need to know” stood out as a shining example of solidarity and civic responsibility during the COVID-19 crisis.
The online course was launched in February 2020 when the knowledge about the virus was still very scarce and the governments were still struggling with how to respond to the looming crisis.
With its training programme, based on WHO and CDC guidelines and continuously updated to include the latest information, the Irish platform has given people free access to potentially life-saving knowledge.
Translated in less than four months into more than 70 languages, with the help of 5,000 volunteers many of whom were immigrants, it had been completed by approximately 350,000 people as of September 2020. Some 100,000 people signed up for it in a single day.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www/connachttribune.ie
Covid a whole different ball game for Galway camogie nurse
Galway camogie star Emma Helebert doesn’t shy away from a question about Covid-19 anti-vaxxers and their online conspiracy theories.
“Personally, since this pandemic has hit, I’m allergic to social media over the whole thing,” she says.
A midwife at University Hospital Galway, the 2019 All-Ireland winner agrees that vaccines involve personal choice.
But that choice should be informed by trusted sources of information, such as the HSE or NHS websites – and not random often nefarious and anonymous contributors on social media.
“There are more reliable sources of information than turning to places like Facebook or whatever online forums are talking about it,” she says.
“What’s scaring people more than the actual thought of the vaccines is these opinions that are being forced down people’s throats and they’re seeing it every time they go on Facebook and scrolling on social media.
“My only advice to people who are scared is to do your own research. Go to the reliable sources of information and don’t believe what you see on Facebook.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there who create pages that are full of negativity or full of lies. It only takes one scary thought or piece of information you’ve heard to cling to you that’ll make you not want to get it,” she adds.
Read the full interview with Emma Helebert in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie