The fire festival is held on the 2nd Saturday of January every year at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Moriyama City in Shiga Prefecture. On the same day, another fire festival is held at Katsube Shrine in the city. Both are prefecturally designated as intangible folk cultural properties.
The festivals are based on the story dating back about 800 years. When Emperor Tsuchimikado fell into a critical condition, it turned out that the illness was caused by a huge centipede living in Mt. Mikami. Then Fujiwara no Hidesato shot three arrows at the same time and they hit the huge centipede. Its head fell into the precinct of Sumiyoshi Shrine, the body into Katsube Shrine and the tail onto the ground near Karahashi Bridge in Seta village. The parts of the body were burned down at the places they fell; hereby the festivals are held at the two shrines.
On the morning of the festival day, the Shinto ritual and the arrow shooting ceremony are held at the shrine. Then the huge straw torch is brought into the precinct by men in loincloth in the evening. The torch is about 6 m long and weighs about 40 kg.
The men set the fire to the torch and dance wildly around the blazing fire with the powerful calls of “Heiyu! Heiyu!” which means “May an illness be cured!”
Niigata Festival is held in Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture on the 1st Friday to Sunday in August every year. The festival was first held in 1955 as the integration of the four traditional festivals; Sumiyoshi Festival, Kawa-biraki, the Shoko Festival and the Kaiko-kinen Festival.
Sumiyoshi Festival originates in the procession of the deity transformed from Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka to this town by a kaisen-donya (a cargo boat owner and distributor) to pray for navigation safety in 1726.
The Kawa-biraki (River Opening) originates in the fireworks display held in 1910 on the riverbank down from the Bandai Bridge over the Shinano River in hope for the reconstruction of the city, which had been destroyed by a big fire.
The Shoko (Commerce and Industry) Festival was first held in the fall of 1929, when the advertisement parade was performed in order to promote the commercial business of the city.
The Kaiko-kinen (Harbor Opening Anniversary) Festival was first held in 1930 as the 60th anniversary of the construction of Niigata Harbor. The exhibition of the documents concerning the harbor and the local product fair were held at that time.
Today elements of the four festivals are finely integrated into a large citizen festival. The highlight is the Grand Folk Song Dance Parade, in which 30,000 dancers in teams wearing matching yukata dance around the city. It is said to be Japan’s biggest folk song dance parade.
Sumiyoshi Shrine in Erimo Town is located in Hon-cho Erimo-cho, Horiizumi, Hokkaido and enshrines Sokotsutsuno Ominokoto, Nakatsutsuno Ominokoto and Uwatsutsuno Ominokoto.
Its origin dates back to 1814 when a shrine was built on Sumiyoshi Mountain (north of the present location) to pray for safety and a good catch at local fishing grounds.
After the building was destroyed by a big storm in 1898, it was transferred to the present location and rebuilt with Nagare hafu-zukuri or flowing style. The shrine we see today was reconstructed in 1937.
A stone water basin built in 1850 and the base of the stone lantern built in 1851 are preserved in the grounds.
At the annual religious festival on September 15th, Mikoshi, or portable shrine, is paraded around the town and through the ocean at the ceremony, which lasts for one and a half hours.
Sumiyoshi Shrine is still greatly venerated and worshiped as a god of the fishing industry by such fisheries as kelp and fixed net salmon.
Kota Shrine is in Sadowara-cho, Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture. The shrine is said to have been founded in 831 and was called Kota Hachiman for a long time. The enshrined deities are Emperor Ojin and Sumiyoshi Yonsha no Kami (the four deities enshrined at Shumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Osaka).
During the Edo period, it was respected by the domain lords, the Shimazu clan, as one of the seven major shrines in the domain. In the precinct erected a stone lantern dedicated by Shimazu Korehisa.
Honden (the main hall) is the prefecture’s only one existing building in Muromachi-period architectural style. This 3-bay building in Nagare-zukuri style (flowing style) with attractive vermillion pillars is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property.
The Kota kagura dance performed in November every year is a traditional theatrical art with a history of 400 years. 20 out of 33 plays in total are performed at this festival. Dancers with kagura mask on their faces, the sound of a large drum and tunes of Japanese flute all melt into the surrounding atmosphere and fascinate the spectators.
Sumiyoshi Lighthouse stands on Funamachi Port site in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture. Ogaki used to be an important commercial port during the Edo period. In the old days, boats going down the Suimon River to Kuwana would dock in this port. The lighthouse is said to have been built during the Genroku period (1688-1704).
Ogaki is known for the place that Matsuo Basho concluded his journey of the Narrow Road to a Far Province. Having traveled 2,400 km from Fukagawa in Edo in 140 days, Basho aged 46 embarked from this port for Kuwana and headed for Ise Shrine. What kinds of memories recurred to his mind? He recited: “Sadly, I part from you / Like a clam torn from its shell / I go, the autumn too.”
An old-fashioned boat placed under the lighthouse as well as the vermillion bridge tells us the atmosphere of the days when Basho departed from the port. The riverside is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot today. The arch made of cherry blossoms entertains the viewers in the blooming season.
Ofuna-uta Chanting is dedicated in Gojinko-sai Festival held at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Pref. every August. “Ofune (sacred ship),” which is set on a float accompanying Mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried around the city, while a group of musicians and singers called “Jiuta-gumi” aboard a ship perform “Ofuna-uta (chant of the sacred ship).” It is said that Ofuna-uta was first chanted to cerebrate a victory of Motonari Mori’s forces in the Battle of Itsukushima in 1555. Since then it had been chanted in the hope of safe navigation when the successive lords of the province were aboard or at launching ceremonies of new ships. In the Edo period, only a family of retainers called “Hamasaki Uta-kako” was allowed to chant this song. At the present time, however, the singers are selected among the people living in the town of Hamasaki. Ofuna-uta Chanting is a fascinating sight of summer, which reminds us of the relic of the most powerful warring lord in the western Japan.
Inashimo Shrine, or popularly called “Shimo no Miya,” located in Matsuzaki-cho, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is the shrine of business success and traffic safety. The enshrined deity is Hikohohodemi no Mikoto. It is said that during the reign of Empress Jingu, Emperor Chuai’s wife, who led an army in an invasion of Korea, a man from Korea came to Izu via Toyoura in Nagato province (present-day Yamaguchi Pref.) and enshrined Sumiyoshi no Mihashira Okami and named it “Kara (Korean) Myojin.” Legend has it that the place where the main hall is located used to be a large waterfall basi and two dragons lived there. In the precinct are A 1,000 year-old huge gongko tree with a circumference of 8 m and a height og 25 m, a stone monument of “Matsuzaki Omote (local kind of tatami omote),” and fine spring water of “Sinmei-sui.” At the side of Haiden, a small hall to enshrine Oashi Daimyojin. If you desicated a pair of Japanese slippers, you will be a good walker. The huge gingko tree has been the landmark for sailors since the ancient times.
Sumiyoshi Taisha has the history of 1800 years. It is the headquarters of Sumiyoshi-sha Shrines nationwide. The buildings are designated as National Treasure.This shrine an institution to worship Smiyoshi San-sin (three sea deities) and Empress Jingu. In 211 A.D., Sumiyoshi Oo-kami Sanctification Offeringwas held by Empress Jingu and Tamomi-no-sukune, who is said to have been the chief of a local clan, related by blood to Owari family descended from Amenoho-akari, a god turning up in Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters). Deities worshipped at Taisha are mainly sea gods because they believe that the sea is the source of all the lives on the earth. The layout of the four sanctuaries, from First to Forth Sanctuaries is very unique. The sanctuaries stand as if they were a fleet going ahead through the ocean. It has been handed down by word of mouth that three sanctuaries going longwise represent Gyorin (fish scales) and one sanctuary spread sidewise represent Kakuyoku(crane wings); therefore this layout embodies Hachijin-no-Ho (Law of eightphalanx). One of the main ceremonies, Hattatsu Mairi, which used to be held once ayear, is presently held on the first day of every month. Also, Otaue-shinji(the ceremony of transplanting) in June and Natsu-Matsuri (Summer Festival) in July and August are famous.