Jugoya Festival (Moon Festival), or popularly called “Jugoya-san,” is held on around the 15th day of the 8th lunar month every year in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture. The whole city is wrapped in a festival mood with a lot of tourists from inside and outside the prefecture.
It is said that this festival originates in the festival of Tomitaka Hachimangu Shrine, which was founded by Nasu no Yoichi and Kudo Suketsune to bolster the morale of the soldiers of their troops, who had come to Kyushu in pursuit of the Heike warriors having escaped from the battle field at Dannoura. The enshrined deity at this shrine was transferred from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura at this time.
On the festival day, the parade of Mitate-zaiku, the flower floats and the dancing teams walk through the city. In the recent years, Hyuga Jugoya-daiko drum performance is added to the festival program, which further warms up the festival mood in the streets.
Morioka Autumn Festival serves as the annual festival of Morioka Hachimangu Shrine in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture. It is held for 3 days from September 14 to 16 every year, and the festival eve events are performed on the 13th.
Morioka Hachimangu was founded about 800 years ago by the Nanbu clan as the guardian god of their castle town of Morioka. The festival dates back to 1709, when a parade of floats was performed to celebrate the completion of all the 23 sub-towns of the castle town. It is said that the parade was composed of 23 floats made by each town.
The float parade has been performed since then and it is now designated as a city’s intangible cultural property. In the Hachiman-kudari parade, all the floats start parading from Hachiman Shrine in the afternoon and go through the town. And in the Dashi-Daiemaki parade in the evening, the gorgeously lit up floats parade through the town again. Also, traditional Yabusame (horseback archery) is held in the shrine precinct.
The front approach of the shrine is lined with night stalls including “yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles),” which is a must for a Japanese “omatsuri.” Listening to Nanbu’s distinctive “Ondo” music played by children on the floats and eating yakisoba; it’s a fantastic way to spend your holiday.
Chochin Lantern Festival is an annual festival held at Kashima Shrine, the headquarters of all the shrines in the Shirakawa region. The festival is held once every two years; only in the odd number year in the Heisei period (1989-present). Together with Yahiko Lantern Festival at Yahiko Shrine in Niigata Prefecture and Isshiki Grand Chochin Festival at Suwa Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, it is counted as one of the three largest chochin lantern festivals in Japan.
The present form of the festival was established in the Edo period, when Honda Tadayoshi, the lord of the Shirakawa domain, dedicated a portable shrine. The festival includes the parade of mikoshi and floats accompanied by people carrying big chochin lanterns. As is called “the ceremonial festival,” it hands down formal procedures of the Edo-period warrior class.
However, there is more than ceremony of course. The parade of thousands of chochin lanterns, which looks like a long brilliant light belt, creates a magnificent atmosphere. When the huge chochin lantern, which leads each of the 23 arrays carrying its own mikoshi, is raised high and pulled down repeatedly, a big applause is evoked among the spectators. As the festival with a history of 400 years, it is the pride of people living in the Shirakawa region.
The annual festival of Oshio Tenmangu Shrine in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture is held on October 14 and 15 every year. It is known for the Oshio Lion Dance, which has been handed down since the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Six lions representing each of the six districts of the town perform powerful and elegant dances, which are respectively different from one another. This traditional Shinto ritual is designated as a prefecture’s important intangible folk cultural property.
On October 14th, the float parade goes through the town in the afternoon. Then in the evening, the six lions, each of which is operated by several men and covered with black and brown long bear hair, gather together in front of the torii gate of the shrine. Their jumping and dancing draw cheers from the spectators. The highlight of the festival is the parade of lion dancers on the 15th. The six lions appear in front of the shrine and start marching through the precinct to the oratory hall. They raise their heads high and jump into the air to the ohayashi music of Japanese drums and flutes. Their dynamic dance is really impressive.
Iwafune Festival is held in order to pray for safety at sea, a bountiful catch and for good business. It is a dynamic festival befitting to the fishery town of Iwafune in Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture. It is designated as a prefecture’s intangible Cultural property.
The festival starts with the beats of Saki-daiko (the leading drum) at midnight on October 19. Then Saki-daiko goes around the route of the parade three times in the early morning to purify the way of the god’s excursion.
The shrine deity is loaded onto the magnificent vermillion multi-lacquered Ofune-sama (boat) at the shrine gate and carried to the Otorii Gate accompanied by Mikoshi, Tamayari and the float carrying a sacred horse. When the parade gets to the torii gate, Ofune-sama is loaded onto “Ofune-yatai (the Ship float),” which is joined by eight other floats called “Shagiri.”
Then the parade led by Ofune-sama Shagiri goes through the town accompanied by ohayashi festival music and the festival folksong, “Kiyari-bushi.” The Shagiri parade continues until late at night when the deity of the shrine finally carried onto the back mountain behind the shrine. The round voices of Kiyari-bushi singers echo through the town filled with autumn colors.
The autumn festival at Usuki Hachiman Shrine in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, is one of the largest festivals in the prefecture. As it is popularly called “Chochin Festival,” the most attractive feature is the lantern parade and “Chochin-neri.”
On the first day of the two-day festival, more than 1,000 lantern-carriers gather and head for the shrine. Each holds a lantern hung from a 3-meter long bamboo pole and walk slowly along the front approach, guarding the mikoshi (portable shrine) procession. When they get to the Sakura-mon Gate, they suddenly bump into each other to try to tear down the others’ lanterns. The spectators are excited by the violent atmosphere created by the clanging sounds of bamboo poles beaten hard against one another, the lantern-carriers’ vigorous shouts and the sights of lanterns burning and falling to the ground. By the time the mikoshi enters the precinct, it is said, all the lanterns are burned down and only the poles remain.
On the second day, the parade of 18 mikoshi-floats goes through the city, during which the float carriers raise the float high up into the air, at the sign of the powerful call, “Chosa!” In the shrine precinct, various performing arts such as Lion Dance are dedicated to the deities.
Izumozaki Town in Niigata Prefecture was under direct Tokugawa supervision as “tenryo (Tokugawa Shogunate landholdings)” during the Edo period (1603-1868). It was a prosperous town as the landing port of gold that was mined from Sado Island as well as the traffic center of the Hokkoku Kaido Road that connected Edo and Sado Island.
Tenryo Festival held in October every year in Izumozaki is a gorgeous festival redolent of the prosperity of the town in the old times. A variety of events including the stall food court are held in the area of streets temporarily closed to vehicular traffic. The old houses in tsumairi-style (with an entrance in a gable end) typical to the Edo-period townscape in this area are preserved in a good state in this area.
The main event of the festival is a reenactment of a procession of “Junkenshi (representatives of the Shogun).” On the way of the procession, Junkenshi inspect the disembarkation of gold and silver that was brought from Sado Island and bringing the load into the storehouse and they set off for Edo via Hokkoku Kaido Road on the next day to bring it back to the Shogun.
Warai (Laughing) Festival held on October 10 every year at Niu Shrine in the southwestern part of Wakayama Prefecture is a bizarre laughing festival pertaining to a Japanese myth. It is designated as a prefecture’s intangible folk cultural property.
Legend has it that the deity of this shrine, Niutsuhime no Mikoto, overslept and was late for the conference of 8 million deities held in Izumo in Kanna-zuki (October). As she was deeply depressed, the villagers encouraged her by laughing.
On the day of the festival, the parade of mikoshi and floats go through the town led by the leader in a colorful costume like a clown and with bells in his hand and 12 followers carrying dry measures decorated with farm products. The leader encourages people to laugh, shouting “laugh! Laugh!” Then the participants laugh in time to the jangle of small bells and commands from a leader. It is a unique and pleasant festival.