A tug of war is held in the sea during the Bon season in August every year in Hado Fishery Harbor in Chinzei-cho, Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. It was originally performed in memory of the souls of warriors who lost their lives in battles when Toyotomi Hideyoshi stayed in this village to dispatch his troops to Korea.
The rope used for this unique festival is made by young men in the town on the day before the festival. It is 40 cm in diameter and 35 m in length. On the day of the festival, men in local fishermen’s traditional clothes called “Donza” dive into the sea at the signal of a drum and hold each end of the huge rope floating in the sea. Then the men play at a tug of war, dynamically splashing water and valiantly shouting encouragement.
It used to be held on July 15 on the lunar calendar but now it is held at high tide on August 15.
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.
Japanese cuisine is highly regarded worldwide for its beauty. This is often attributed not only to the food itself but also to the selection of serving dishes. When served on an elegant plate, home cooking looks even more appetizing. Handmade dishes in which each piece is subtly different in color and shape further heighten the dining experience. In an aesthetic unique to Japan people regularly assimilate nature into their everyday lives; the opposite of beauty being neat and orderly. This Wara White Lotus Serving Plate is handmade and each piece has subtle differences of color and shape. The plate with an inscribed lotus leaf pattern is otherwise plain and enhances the presentation of any dish. It is 20.5cm in diameter and perfect for any occasion. Acquiring a unique handmade plate produced by a small studio is reminiscent of an old Japanese saying, “treasure every meeting, for it will never recur”. Embracing beauty like this will further enrich your life.
When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Men Buryu is a traditional mask dance handed down in the southwestern part of Saga Prefecture including Kashima City. Although the styles of dances differ from town to town, they are mostly performed at autumn festivals in each area. It is said that the word “Buryu” derives from “Furyu School,” a school of lion dance handed down since the ancient times.
Men Buryu dance is a kind of ritual performing art that is dedicated to pray for abundant harvest and rainfall. Wearing Furyumen, a mask looking like a demon, over the face, an indigo happi-coat with bold patterns and white momohiki-pants and dangling a small drum from the neck, the dancers dance fiercely to the sounds of Japanese flutes, drums, and gongs.
According to one theory, the dance originates in an old story that during the Warring States period (1493-1573), the lord of this area made his soldiers wear masks of a demon or a Chinese lion and Shaguma (a wig of long horse hair usually made of wool or hemp) on the head when they went to war. Then the soldiers made a night attack on the enemy while beating drums and gongs and gained a victory.
However, another theory states that Furyumen mask was contrived to get rid of the evil spirit that damaged the crops and to pray for rich harvest. To be sure, their brave dances are powerful enough to get rid of the evil spirit.
Kakiemon is a preeminent Japanese porcelain brand and is well-known worldwide. The most remarkable feature of Kakiemon is called “nigoshide”.
Nigoshide is the fine milky white base color developed to emphasize the beauty of paintings by Kakiemon. “Nigoshi” is a dialect of Saga, where Kakiemon wares are produced, and means “water after washing rice”, which is not pure white but a warm milky white color. It is this background color that enables the viewer to realize the beauty around the drawings that Kakiemon style is famous for. This technique was established at the beginning of Edo period by the fifth generation of Kakiemon when many wares were produced. However, mainly due to the high shipping costs, the production was discontinued temporarily. Later when there was an overwhelming demand by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and enthusiasts in general, production was revived around 1952 by Kakiemon XII and Kakiemon XIII.
In 1971, Nigoshide technique was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset. Kakiemon X IV, a Living National Treasure, continues making new products blending traditional techniques passed on through generations with new modern techniques.
Iro-Nabeshima (Colored Nabeshima Ceramics) is a kind of Imari-Arita ware. It is characterized by delicate and elaborate pictures with the motifs of Kachofugetsu (flowers, birds, wind, and moon).
The origin of Imari-Arita ware dates back to 1604 (the early Edo period), when a Korean potter, Li Sanpei discovered fine porcelain stone at Mt. Izumi in Arita. Later in the 1640s, the hand-painting techniques were introduced to this region from China, and Imaemon I started to make hand-painted porcelain in Arita.
The kiln of Imaemon I became the feudal property of the Nabeshima domain, where the products solely used for the Nabeshima family and as the gifts to the Shogun or the fellow daimyo were being made. Directly controlled and supported by the Nabeshima family, the porcelain produced at this workshop developed into refined ceramic called Iro-Nabeshima.
In around 1874, when the feudal restrictions were removed after the Meiji restoration, Imaemon X started handle all the production steps, not limited to overglaze painting and established the advanced akae (overglaze painting with red pigment) techniques. Keeping conformity to traditional standards and elegance, Imaemon XIII was eager to create works that fit modern living settings and was designated as a Living National Treasure in 1989. Today, the traditional forms and creativity of an artist living in this modern world is exquisitely blended by the hands of Imaemon XIV.
Imari Tontenton is a festival that takes place at Imari-jinja Shrine in Imari, Saga Prefecture, every year from October 22nd through 24th.
It is a Shinkousai festival with a procession of portable shrines, also known as Imari Kunchi. The festival is one of the Three Great Battle-style Festivals in Japan.
During the festival, several locations in the city are turned into battle grounds, thus turning the whole city of Imari into the festival venue, and the sounds of drums beating can be heard throughout the city.
After the solemn processions of a white and a red portable shrine there follows Aramikoshi portable shrine and Danjiri portable shrine both of which are carried by young local men wearing uniformed happi, or festival coat, and headband. Upon the signal of a drum beat sounding “ton ten ton”, the two portable shrines crash into each other. This battle festival is so fierce and such bravery is exhibited by the participants that it is unique in the nation.
The climax of the event comes when the two shrines continue their battle as they tumble into the nearby river, the victor later merging from the river after more battle
Iimari Tontenton Festival is a valiant and spectacular traditional festival.