Sakaenokuni festival is held on the 1st Saturday and Sunday in the area around Saga Castle in Saga City, Saga Prefecture. The festival was first held as Star Festival of the local shopping streets in 1962, which was changed its form into Noryo (summer evening) Saga Festival in 1972 and then was assumed the present name in 1990. Changing its names, it has developed into the biggest citizen festival that features a variety of events, which everyone can join and enjoy.
During the two-day festival period, the dancing parade “Yosakoi Saga” is held, in which over 50 dancing teams from both inside and outside the prefecture participate and show off their own styles of Yosakoi dances. At the plaza called “Omatsuri Hiroba,” many shops including outdoor café and street venders’ stalls are bustled with people.
Many events such as Star Festival, the eve events and the fireworks display are held on the first day. The second day starts with the parade of the distinctively designed mikoshi, which followed by various events and culminated with the So-odori dancing parade, in which more than 3,000 citizens participate and enjoy dancing.
Handa City located in the center of Chita Peninsula in the south of Aichi Prefecture had been a flourishing port town since the Edo period (1603-1868). Storehouses along the canal are still in use today and make a fine townscape.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City from early in March to late in May every year, and Handa Dashi Festival is held in October once every 5 years, gathering 31 valiant floats in the city at one place.
The 1st Handa Dashi Festival was held in May in 1979, and then the 2nd was held in 1987 as the 50th anniversary event of the city. Since then the festival has been held in October once every 5 years to this day.
Decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings, the floats valiantly march throughout the city, heading for the festival site. The scene of the all 31 floats gathering at one place is overwhelmingly impressive.
Many other fascinating events such as the folk performing art show, the citizens’ parade and the local product fair are held all through the city. During the two-day festival period, the whole town is filled with enthusiastic festival mood under the autumn sky.
Tono Festival held in the middle of September every year is an annual autumn festival of Tonogo Hachimangu Shrine in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture. During the festival, visitors can enjoy various local performing arts that have been handed down in the Tohoku region, which is said to be the treasure trove of Japanese folk performing arts.
On the first day, the parade of performing artists such as the troupes of deer dancing and the Nanbu-bayashi musicians march through the town. The collaborative stage of various local performing arts including a kagura-dance is held in town.
On the second day, the Yabusame (horseback archery) in the Tono Nanbu style is dedicated to the deities. It is said that Yabusame in Tono was first dedicated about 400 years ago by the Nanbu clan, who were descended from the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. The scenes of valliant warriors having their horses run around the 220-meter long riding ground erupt into cheers and applause from the spectators.
Masaoka Festival is held in April every year Ichihasama Masaka in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture, in memory of Lady Masaoka, a wife of Shirakawa Yoshizane and the wet nurse who raised Date Tsunamura, the 4th lord of the Sendai domain. The memorial ceremony is held by the present members of the Shirakawa family at Ryuunji Temple, where the Yatsushika Odori (8 Deer Dance) is dedicated in front of Masaoka’s grave.
After the memorial ceremony, about 500 citizens join the parade and go through the town. Some of them act as warriors in armors to reenact the days when Lady Masaoka lived. The festival floats, the drum and fife band and the dancers of Yatsushika Odori also join the parade.
Lady Masaoka is famous as the model of a Kabuki play “Meiboku Sendaihagi.” This is based on the troubles in the Date family of the Sendai domain in the Edo period. In the story, the wet nurse Masaoka protects her young lord from a party of villains by sacrificing her own son.
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.
Nobeoka Daishi Festival is held in April every year in the area centered around Imayama in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture. It is the biggest spring event in the northern part of the prefecture and counted as one of the three largest spring festivals in Kyushu.
At the top of Mt. Imayama stands a statue of Kobo Daishi Kukai, which was erected in 1957. With a height of 17 meters and a weight of 11 tons, it is the largest statue of Kobo Daishi in Japan. Familiarly called “Odai’ssan,” Kobo Daishi has been respected by the people in Nobeoka as well as by the people all over the country. The festival is held for three days around March 21 on Lunar Calendar to commemorate the anniversary of his death and give gratitude to him.
The main event is the daimyo’s procession held on the final day. 1,700 citizens including Mayor participate in the parade wearing samurai’s or princesses’ costumes and walk through the city, dancing various local dances.
The Naked Parade of Donto Festival is an event held in various shrines in Miyagi Prefecture.
The Donto Festival is held in the lunar new year, around January 14th, at five shrines: Tenjin Shrine, Shinmei Shrine, Hachiman Shrine, Konpira Shrine, and Aosa Shrine.
During the festival, pine decorations, 'shimenawa' ropes for the New Year, and 'koshinpus' are dedicated to the shrine then burnt in holy fire. These dedications are prayers for prosperity and good health.
In the Naked Parade, 100 young people wearing white 'sarashi' loincloths and 'suteteko' long drawers parade through the town holding 'tori-oi' staffs and calling 'Ya, hoi hoi hoi' on their way to the shrine.
The origins of this Naked Parade are uncertain, but records from 250 years ago mention this event. It is believed that sake brewers started this parade as a prayer for safe brewing and for success in brewing high-quality sake.
The Donto Naked festival is a Shinto ritual carried out in a traditional manner by sake brewers.
Sakata Matsuri is an annual festival that takes place at both Kamihie and Shimohie shrines in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, from May 19 to 21.
The festival has taken place every year for close to 400 years, since the 14th year of the Keicho era. Formerly, the festival was called Sanno Matsuri, but in Showa 54 it was renamed Sakata Matsuri as a festival for all citizens.
On the night before the festival, a traditional dance called Shikidai-no-Gi is performed. The symbol of Sakata, shishito (lion heads), appears in both male and female form during this festival. In addition, local citizens carry floats around the city. Many stalls line the roads and the city takes on a festive mood that recalls its former glory as a port city. Sakata Matsuri is an event brimming with local color.