Omanto at Kasuga Town is a festival held at the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines in Kasuga-cho, Aichi Prefecture, on the first weekend each October.
Its origin is not known, but it is believed that the festival started in the beginning of 1800, when horses were dedicated to the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines to pray for rain. The festival is said to be the biggest in the Nishi-mikawa region.
In the festival, young men wearing happi festival coats and jikatabi rubber-soled socks enter a riding arena of about 100 meters in circumference and start running toward horses that have been decorated with bells and flowers. They grab the horses’ muzzles and run around the arena at a fast speed.
In precincts of the Omanto Shrine there is a rounded square preserved solely for this festival. On the day of the event, 40 ~ 50 horses are gathered from seven neighboring towns and released in the square. All participants running with horses become as if they were one with the horse, and a powerful and exciting scene unfolds in front of a big crowd of spectators.
The Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance (Dance of big shishi lion and small shishi lion) takes place once a year at the spring festival of Handa City. Its performance is dedicated to the Narawa Shrine.
There are a number of shishi dances dedicated to religious rituals, yet this Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance has an especially long history. It is recorded that the dance had already been performed by the middle of the Edo period and it was formally influenced by styles that existed even earlier.
The dance is performed by two dancers together comprising the legendary four-legged lions. It is done in a style called Gigaku Shishi.
The ritual starts with the Oo-jishi dancers being accompanied by a boy wearing a white crest on his head and holding an instrument called sasara. Oo-jishi Dance consists of four dances: Ran-jishi; Hana-jishi (Flower Shishi); Tobi-shishi (Kite Shishi) and Ken-shishi (Sword Shishi).
After the Oo-jishi Dance comes the Ko-jishi Dance. Okame and Hyottoko (a pair of female and male characters) play clowns while Ko-jishi performs twelve dances to an upbeat tempo. The dances, said to symbolize farmers praying for rain, show a dragon writhing on ground and trying to gather clouds and ascend to the sky.
In 1967, the dance was designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Aichi prefecture.
Bo-no-te (staff techniques) is a folk performing art handed down in several parts of Aichi Prefecture. Bo-no-te in Aichi Prefecture dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when Niwa Ujitsugu, the castellan of Iwasaki Castle in Owari province (the western half of present Aichi Prefecture), hired Kamata Hironobu as a bujutsu shinan (martial arts instructor).
He was a person of great skill in martial arts and especially excelled in staff techniques. Hironobu distinguished himself in the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute, but he became a Buddhist priest after the battle and traveled around the country to appease the souls of the dead soldiers.
When he returned to his hometown in Owari province, he opened the Bo-no-te school in reply to the local villagers’ earnest petition. Later, Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te (the Kamata school of staff techniques) spread to Mikawa province (the eastern half of present Aichi Prefecture).
When the nation returned to peace, the staff techniques turned into the performing art that was dedicated to gods in hope for a good harvest. The techniques in Bo-no-te have been proudly handed down in many towns in the prefecture.
Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te in Tanuki Town in Nishio City is one of such folk performing art. The men in traditional costumes skillfully wield 1.8 meter long staffs with distinguished calls. It was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture in 1959.
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.
Kazan Shrine located at the ruins site of Demaru (the outermost compound) of Tahara Castle in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture is a shrine enshrining Watanabe Kazan, a Japanese painter, scholar and the senior councilor of the Tahara domain in the late Edo period (1603-1868).
The local people planned to build a shrine to honor Kazan’s virtuousness in 1941; however, as it was during World War II, they could not commence the construction. In 1946, they bought a temporary pavilion used for a shrine in Inasa Town in Shizuoka Prefecture and founded Kazan Shrine at the present site. The shrine pavilion was destroyed by Ise Bay Typhoon in 1959 and reconstructed later.
Born at Kamiyashiki (the main resident) of the Tahara domain in Edo in 1793, he first served the domain lord’s little son at the age of eight. He started to learn Confucianism of Mencius and Zhu Xi at the age of 13 and became a great scholar in Confucianism as well as Rangaku (Western learning), from which it is believed that the one who visits this shrine will be able to improve his /her learning ability.
On the memorial day of Kazan on October 11, the annual festival is held at this shrine. The memorial service is held in front of Kazan’s grave located in Johoji Temple in the city and the Shinto ritual is performed at Kazan Shrine. Kazan’s portrait is drawn on the Ema-plates provided at the shrine.
The ruins of old kilns were discovered when an athletic park was being constructed in Handa City, Aich Prefecture. They are considered to be the kilns used from the middle of the 12th to the early 13th centuries. Currently, 3 of the eight kilns are preserved in their original forms and displayed inside the preservation center in the park.
From their relatively small sizes, they are supposed to be used mainly for firing small vessels including bowls, which are called “Yamajawan” by locals. Yamajawan, literally meaning “a mountain bowl,” is a defected product that was thrown away around the kilns. When the mountains were cultivated by the people in later periods, they discovered a lot of pottery bowls and called them “Yamajawan.” There are supposed to have been thousands of kilns built in the mountains in Chita Peninsula.
Ono Castle, also called Miyayama Castle, was located at the top of Mt. Seikai in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture. The castle was resided first by the Ono clan, the descendant of the Owari-Genji family, then the Isshiki clan, and finally the four generations of the Saji clan.
The Saji clan built up Chita Suigun (the naval forces) and played an important role in promoting maritime trade and controlling marine transportation in Ise Bay. Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi placed great importance on their naval power and Nobunaga’s sister and niece were married off to the Saji clan.
Nobunaga’s niece, Ogo (or Oeyo), whose mother is Nobunaga’s sister Oichi, was married to Saji Kazunari, the 4th head of the Saji clan, by the order of Hideyoshi. However, when Kazunari sided with the Tokugawa and Oda allied forces later, Hideyoshi got angry and made the couple get divorced in 1584. Later in 1595, she remarried Tokugawa Hidetada, the 3rd son of Ieyasu and later the 2nd Tokugawa Shogun, and became the mother of his successor, Iemitsu.
The castle ruins site has been arranged into the park, where the two-story donjon and the castle gate were newly constructed. You can command a wonderful view of Ise Bay from the observatory deck on the donjon. The Saji clan is enshrined at Saji Shrine in the ruins site of the watch tower.
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.