The Annual summer festival of Tsuno Shrine in Tsuno Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is held from August 1st to 2nd. As the festival of Hyugakoku-Ichinomiya Shrine (the highest-ranked shrine in ancient Hyuga Province), the festival has been so proudly handed down by the people of the town as to be said that even young people living in far-off cities never fail to come back to their hometown to join the festival.
On the first day of the festival, the parade of the huge mikoshi (portable shrine), which is said to be one of the few most magnificent mikoshi in the country in structure, size and decoration and weighs more than 300 kg, goes around the town with the powerful call of “Chosaina! Sora! Yare!” while the drummers on the four drum floats and two kids’ floats beat on the drums repeatedly.
The climax is Omiyairi (the returning of the mikoshi to the shrine) held on the second day. In the roaring sounds of drums, men carrying the heavy mikoshi come back into the shrine precinct, where Kenka-daiko (drum fight) is performed by the drum teams competing in showing off the valiance. The dynamic sounds of the drums fascinate the spectators.
It is said that Tsuno Shrine located in Tsuno-cho, Koyu-gun, Miyazaki Prefecture, was founded in 666 BC, when Emperor Jinmu offered a prayer for his military success and national stability at this place before he left Takachiho in Hyuga province to conquer the Yamato region. Since then the shrine has close association with the successive emperors.
The precinct together with the gravel lane to the shrine building is filled with solemn atmosphere. Surrounded by magnificent cedar tree groves, you will feel yourself purified at this shrine.
The annual festival of the shrine is held on December 4 and 5 every year. The 4th is the festival eve and the 5th is the main festival day. It features various events such as the Tsuno So-odori parade, in which a lot of people dance together in a huge circle, the Hyuga Hyottoko Dance, which is a comical dance performed by dancers with Hyottoko masks, the Shihanmato archery tournament and the dedication of kagura dance. The visitors to the shrine are treated with amazake (sweet sake wine), shochu and tonjiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables) in the precinct.
Mifune Festival takes place every October at Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, one of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines, located by the estuary of Kumano River, Wakayama Prefecture. Mifune Festival, or Boating Festival, dates back an amazing 1,800 years. It is designated as intangible folklore cultural asset by Wakayama Prefecture.
The festival’s inspiration is said to come from the pirate ships of Kumano in the mythological age, and was also influenced later from the fact that technologies of shipbuilding and navigation were developed in Udonomura, a neighboring village of Mie Prefecture.
The festival is to dedicate a dance called “Hari Hari Dance” to the local deity. It starts by transporting the spirit of the deity on the portable shrine to Shinkousen Boat at the riverbed of the Kumano River , then nine speed boats leading the Shikousen Boat and Morotobune, race each other around an island three times. On the Morotobune rides the parishioner of Toritono Shrine at Udomura dressed as a seaman who swings a red painted oar and demonstrates a dance along with the rhythm of oarsmen. As he chants “Hari, Harise”, the dance became known as the “Hari Hari Dance” and the ritual has been handed down over the centuries.
The Mifune Festival is an ancient ritual that bring scroll paintings of the age of the gods alive today.
The Omagari Fireworks Competition is held in Omagari, Daisen City in Akita Prefecture on the 4th Saturday every year. It started in 1910 as a local fireworks display of the annual festival at Suwa Shrine. In 1915, the association of fireworks manufactures in 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region hosted the fireworks display to raise the level of fireworks technology, changing the name to the present one.
The competition is held on the banks of the Omonogawa River. The most overwhelming is the association’s display of 1,500 fireworks, which are shot up into the night sky with powerful sparks. Solemn back ground music increases the magnificence.
Many prizes such as the Prime Minister’s Award are given to the excellent fireworks manufactures. The best of the best fireworks manufacturers come from all over Japan and battle for the title of “Best in Japan.”
Naruko Kokeshi Festival is held in September every year at Onsen Shrine in Naruko Hot Springs in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. From its historical importance and scale, it is considered as one of the two major kokeshi-doll competitions in Japan. Joining this competition is one of the goals for kokeshi-doll craftsmen all over the country.
During the festival, 200 kokeshi-dolls are dedicated to the shrine by kokeshi-doll craftsmen from all over the county in hope of making further more excellent dolls. The exhibition of the awarded kokeshi-dolls, spot sale and demonstrations of kokeshi-doll making are held at the gymnasium of Naruko Elementary School. The display and spot sale of Naruko lacquer ware and the kokeshi-kuyo (doll memorialization) ceremony are held at the town’s health center. Kokeshi-doll craftsmen compete against one another in their skills and ideas shown in both traditional-styled dolls and creative works. At night, the festival parade and the Kokeshi-bayashi (ohayashi music) competition are held at the Hot Spring Plaza.
The Grand Festival held in September every year at Kure Hachimangu Shrine in Nakatosa Town is one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. It’s a traditional Shinto event, in which Japanese sake and rice cake made of newly harvested rice plant are dedicated to the Hachiman god in appreciation for the rich harvest in fall.
The festival dates back to the Warring States period (1493-1573), when the villagers in this area, who had been suffering from famine, had a thanksgiving festival because their prayer for a good harvest was answered by the god.
This is a festival of valiant fishermen. At 2:00 AM on the festival day, the parade of people carrying the big straw torch called “Omikoku-san” with a length of 6 meter and weight of about 1 ton starts from the festival leader’s house called “Toya” and go through the town to the shrine, where it is set on fire. The accompanying drums are hit against each other on the way, which is called “Kenka-Daiko (Drums’ Fight).” In the afternoon, the “Onabare” dance is danced to entertain the god, who has taken a short excursion to the beach.
On the first day of the festival, the front approach is lined with a lot of night stalls and the fireworks display is held at night. The precinct is crowded with townspeople and tourists including those from outside the prefecture.
The Sanuki Takamatsu Festival, held in Takamatsu, is the representative festival of Kagawa Prefecture, and one of Shikoku's 4 major festivals.
This festival is the most popular in Takamatsu, and features a dance known as Sou-Odori as its main event. In Sou-Odori, 4000 people participate in the Takamatsu Dance and the Sanuki Dance in Chuo Park.
Festivities are further enlivened by local performing arts, parades, and Udon noodle-eating contests known as the Udon-lympics!
The climax of this festival is one of the largest fireworks displays in Western Japan. 5,000 fireworks are set off, filling the night sky with colorful sparkling lights.
The Sanuki Takamatsu Festival is a big event filled with festive fun.
Japan’s largest virgin forest of camellia trees with an area of about 10 ha spreads near Toragasaki Lighthouse at the foot of Mt. Kasayama in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. From December through March, about 25,000 camellia trees come into bloom. The names such as Hagi-komachi, Hagi-no-sato, Hakumoukou, Fukakusa-no-shosho and Kasayama-Wabisuke are given to some of the fine trees by citizens’ voting.
You’ll never get tired of looking around such a huge amount of camellia flowers because the color, size and shape of flowers, stamens, and leaves differ from tree to tree. You can enjoy this magnificent camellia forest at any time during the flowering season from the tunnel of camellia flowers at the peak time to the red carpet of the fallen flowers at the end of the season.
From February through March, Camellia Festival is held, where you can also enjoy local performing arts on stage and shopping at the local product market.