Festival of Kakunodate is a historic festival handed down for over 300 yeas in the Kakunodate area in Senboku City, Akita Prefecture. It is an annual festival of Myojin Shrine, the guardian god of the town and Jojuin Yakushido Temple. The festival is held for three days in September in hope of the town’s prosperity and business success.
The most spectacular is the float parade, in which 18 floats with warrior dolls and Kabuki character dolls atop of them are pulled around the city accompanied by the sounds of Japanese flute and drums played by ohayashi musicians. On the first day, the floats are pulled to Myojin Shrine. Then on the second day, they go along the street with samurai-styled old houses and head for the residence of the head of the Satake family, who were the descendants of the domain lord of this area in the Edo period, and drop in at Yakushido Temple on the third day.
The climax is the collision of the floats. When the floats run into each other in the street, the men start a negotiation to get the right of way. Then if the negotiation falls apart, they start to make the float collide each other, at which the spectators get excited and the street is surrounded with enthusiasm. This elegant but fierce festival was designated as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1991.
The Shinjo Festival has been handed down in the city of Shinjo, Yamagata Prefecture since 1756, when Tozawa Masanobu, the 5th lord of the Dewa Shinjo domain, carried out a festival at the Tenmangu shrine located in the castle area to pray for rich harvest. It is said that the people in the domain, who had suffered from famine and epidemics, were revitalized by this festival and able to have a hope again.
Today, the festival is held for three days in August. On the eve of the festival, the parade of floats depicting famous scenes from Kabuki plays and historical picture scrolls create a magical atmosphere of light and shadow when the lights are lit at night. Another feature of the festival is the Mikoshi Togyo Parade on the main festival day. There is also a floats parade on this day. On the 3rd day, floats are displayed in the central part of the town.
The Deer Dance is dedicated to Tozawa Shrine and Gokoku Shrine in the castle ruins site on the 3rd day to pray for rich harvest of the year. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of the prefecture as a dance mocking an antelope, which is rarely seen in the country.
Hokkaido Jingu Shrine located in Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City is one of the major shrines in Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Okunitama no Kami, Onamuchi no Kami, Sukunahikona no Kami and Emperor Meiji. It was founded in 1869, when the Meiji government decided to set on the development of the land in Hokkaido and they enshrined the three deities to guard the land. In 1871, the name of this new shrine was decided as Sapporo Shrine and the construction of the buildings started. Since then the shrine has been worshipped as the guardian god of Hokkaido as well as the family god of the people living in this island. In 1964, Emperor Meiji was enshrined together and it changed the name to Hokkaido Jingu Shrine.
The precinct is known as a cherry blossom viewing spot. On the annual festival day in June, mikoshi and floats with ohayashi musicians parade in the city. The shrine is selected as “the New Ichinomiya Shrine of Ezo Province (literally meaning “a modern version of the first shrine of Ezo province)” by a civilian shrine pilgrimage group named Zenkoku Ichinomiya-Kai.
Chintoro Festival in Kamihanda is a part of Spring Float Festival held in every district in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture. Two festival floats are pulled all through the town, while two boats called “Chintoro boats” are set afloat on Miyaike Pond in the precinct of Sumiyoshi Shrine.
On the festival eve, 365 paper lanterns, which represent 365 days of the year, are set over the roof of each boat in hemispheric shape, in the midst of which a long pole with 12 paper lanterns representing 12 months of the year is erected. The lights of lanterns reflecting on the surface of the pond are very beautiful.
The name “Chintoro” is said to be derived from the name of lanterns used for the boats, or some say it is because the Ohayashi music sounds “CHINTORO, CHINTORO.” The highlight of the festival is the cute Sanbaso Dance performed by young children on the temporary stage built in the bow of the boat.
Enchoko Lion Dance, which was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by Aichi Pref. in 1965, is composed of seven acrobatic dances performed by a pair of dancers. One dancer wearing a lion mask plays a part of the upper body and fore legs, while the other the back legs. The origin of this performance is unknown, but according to the most dominant opinion, it originates in the dance dedicated to a shrine in the Genroku era (1688-1703) in return for offering a prayer for rain. There are also several opinions about the origin of its unique name of “Enchoko.” One opinion goes that it came from the word “henteko (meaning “funny and queer”) while another goes that it is a phonic transformation of “en no za no shishi (the lion at a feast).” This gallant Enchoko Lion Dance, which is performed to up-tempo tones of Japanese flute and drums sounds, is the art created by the pair’s movement in total sync.
Hishio Festival held in early May at Kamizaki Shrine in the Kamezaki district of Handa City, Aichi Prefecture, has a long history. One theory states that it dates back to the late 15th century, but its origin is unknown. It is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Five festival floats, all of which were constructed in the late Edo period (the 19th century), are pulled down to the beach in front of the shrine when the tide ebbs, which originates in the legend that the enshrined deity landed on this village from the sea; hereby it was named “Hishio,” meaning “low tide.”
The floats are then pulled up to the bank of the beach and stand closely side by side. The line of gorgeously decorated floats looks very impressive. After the Karakuri doll performance, which is solely seen in the areas around Chita Peninsula, is done on the upper story of the floats, they are pulled around the town.
As the wheels of the floats are removed and buried in the sand of the beach after the festival to prevent corrosion, the preparation of the festival starts with digging them out, which is followed by assembling of the floats, Ohayashi music practice, and so on. It takes more than one month to prepare for the festival.
Ozu Shrine is located in the southwestern part of Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture. The ancestral deity of the Ozu clan and Uganomitama no Mikoto, the god of a rich harvest are enshrined here. The architectural style of the late Muromachi period has been preserved in a good form in the present main hall, which was reconstructed in 1526.
At the annual festival held on May 5 every year, the Mikoshi and Naginata-odori procession goes to and from Ozu Wakamiya Shrine in the next town.
It is said that Naginata-odori was first dedicated about 1,400 years ago. When Lake Biwa flooded and the shrine hall was washed away into the lake, the holy god was also lost in the lake. However, the god soon came back from the lake, with which people were delighted and dedicated the dance.
Naginata-odori is composed of two parts; Naginata-furi and Dengaku-odori. In Naginata-furi, the dancers march in a line, wielding naginata in their hand. It is followed by Dengaku-odori dancers, who dance to the Ohayashi music. Naginata-odori is nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
On the festival day, box seats are built along the procession course and the town is bustled with a lot of spectators.
Gottan is a stringed instrument that has been passed down in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
It is very similar to shamisen, which is a more broadly used traditional instrument in Japan. While shamisen uses animal skin, gottan uses Japanese cedar wood and is smaller than shamisen. Gottan is generally perceived to be a cross between shamisen and sanshin, a traditional instrument in Okinawa.
In the past, when carpenters built a house, they would make a gottan out of the wood left over and present it to the owner of the house as a gift. This custom has been almost totally lost today although the instrument itself has been preserved.
During the rule of the Satsuma Clan, when the ban on some Buddhist sects (especially the True Pure Land sect) was imposed, people are said to have kept their religious faith by singing songs instead of chanting and the gottan, which was used to accompany these songs, became widely used as far as the Miyakonojyou region.
The gottan is often used to accompany a popular style of song known as Yassabushi. This is lively music performed with the shamisen, drums and other musical accompaniments. The gottan, also called Hako (box) shamisen or Ita (board) shamisen, produces a simple yet sharp and crisp sound that invokes the local mood.