The Hina Festival of Murata is an event that takes place on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of March in Murata, Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture.
During the late Edo period, Murata flourished with the harvesting of thistle saffron. The town prospered through the trade of saffron and various goods between other regions of Japan.
The elegant hina doll is one item that was traded. During the hina festival, people adorn their houses and storehouses with old-fashioned dolls as well as dolls that were made after the Meiji period up to the present day.
The Hina Festival of Murata has been beloved and passed on from generation to generation.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Shoman is the 8th solar term. It usually begins around May 21st, when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 60°. Everything on the Earth grow rapidly to its mature size. Fields of wheat ripen into greenish yellow, silkworms eat mulberry leaves greedily, and safflowers come into bloom. In the Koyomi Binran (the Handbook of Japanese Calendar) published in the Edo period, it is written that everything prospers and grass, trees and branches come into leaf.
It is the season when the air is filled with summer vivacity. In haiku, the word “geshi” is the season word for summer.
At Inari Taish Shrine in Saku City, Nagano Prefecture, the annual festival is held to pray for growth of silkworms, rich harvest and business success. It has been held since the Taisho period (1912-1926) and is one of the largest festivals in the Kanto region. Together with the plant fair, more than 500 street stalls line along the front approach.
Hayashi-ke Bugaku (Hayashi Family Court Dancing) is a type of 'kagura' (Shinto music and dance) taught and handed down from generation to generation in the valleys of Nishimurayama County in Yamagata Prefecture. Along with Miyanaka, Osaka Shitennouji, and Naranangungakusho, it is one of the four major kagura, and is designated as an Intangible Cultural Treasure by the country.
First introduced to Japan along with Buddhism via the Silk Road, this dance form took more than two centuries, from the 6th to the 8th, to root itself. Having adopted instruments, flamboyant (usually red) costumes, as well as vibrant masks and vigorous dance steps, kagura was mainly used in Buddhist rites. Hayashi-ke Bugaku is said to be of a 'Tennouji type'.
The master Shoutoku Daishi taught kagura from Nanba Tennouji Temple, and granted surnames to a limited number of kagura performers. 'Hayashi' was one of the surnames. One branch of the Hayashi family moved to the mountains of Yamagata and were chosen to perform rites at Zennon Temple and Tateishi Temple. Far removed from the capital, the style of kagura they performed remained truer to its origins. Even today, after more than 1100 years, Hayashi-ke Bugaku reflects influences from its route to Japan along the Silk Road.
The Flower-Hat Festival (Hanagasa Matsuri), which takes place in Yamagata Prefecture, is known as one of the four largest events to take place in the Tohoku area. The festival takes place annually in August.
The cry of the dancers in the parade, 'Yassho! Makkasho!', and the spirited beat of the hanagasa-daiko drums can be heard during the festival. It is one of Yamagata prefecture's symbolic summer events and draws over a million visitors.
For a week from August 5th, dancers wear hanagasa hats with artificial safflowers on them (the safflower being Yamagata's prefectural flower), and dance along the main streets (for about 1.2km) of Yamagata city.
The Hanagasa Ondo song, which is sung as 'sorota sorotayo' etc., derives from the 'dotsuki' song, which was sung in the Meiji and Taisho periods in the Murayama area. The basic style of dance is 'typical Japanese dance', however, nowadays the advent of dances for men has changed the form of the 'buyo'. Moreover, elements from Westerns dance forms are added, and the new dance forms are slightly different. For Japanese who love festivals, it is an event that they should definitely join.