Kutami Festival is held in Shinmei at the Shirahige Shrine. The festival takes place in spring when the cherry trees are in full blossom and there is a freshness in the air. The festival features six gorgeous floats that parade through the town to lively music.
The highlight of the festival is the 'thread-separating trick', which has been designated as a National Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset and a Prefectural Important Folklore Cultural Asset. The 'trick' is a kind of marionette performance. Threads are not directly linked to the 'trick', which is enacted using an original technique that differs to usual puppetry. The performance is highly valued in terms of both history and art.
This unique marionette performance changes its theme every year and may center around, for example, a folk tale, recent news, popular animation or sports. Each year presents something new and refreshing.
Candy craft in Japan involves the processing of sweet and water candy into various colors or shapes.
The history of candy making in Japan is very long and one theory is that a craftsman in China dedicated his candy to Toji Temple in the Heian period. Another theory has it that a pipe craftsman made the candy in order to draw customers' attention.
Candy craft is not only made in Japan, but in Southeast Asia and Europe, too. There are many kinds from those sold in stalls to those used to decorate cakes.
In Japan, candy craft is supposed to be made by craftsmen at stalls or at fairs. Water candy is warmed, mixed with three food colorings, and shaped with scissors and brushes.
Candy has to be processed in one minute before it turns cold, and this requires great skill.
Many kite-flying activities take place during the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival. The Yokaichi giant kite is designated as an intangible folk cultural asset.
Yokaichi giant kite-flying started 300 years ago in the mid-Edo period. Kites were flown to celebrate the birth of a boy. For this reason, kite-flying is similar to the display of koinobori on Boy's Day, an important event in Japan. Nowadays, over 100 kites are flown, and they are even flown to celebrate a young person's coming of age.
Yokaichi giant kites are designed with 'hanjimon otako', which features pictures of fishes and birds in the upper section with words written in red to illustrate meanings. This kite, in a sense, is rare because it has cut-out sections that help to diminish resistance from wind. Flying these giant kites involves balancing the strength of the strings with the size of the kite.
The Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival is held annually on the 4th Sunday of May in Aichi-gawa.
The Hita Gion Festival is held to pray for peace and ward off evil and misfortune, and takes place in Hita, Oita Prefecture.
The Hita Gion Festival is an epic festival held every summer to protect the community from illness and damage from floods and storms, as well to pray for peace. It began as a festival to ward off evil in the Kuma and Mameda region. Soon, genuine, full-scale hikiyama (floats in the shape of samurai helmets, fish, dragons etc.) were built, along with the development and elaboration of the festival, which has continued to develop into its present form.
In 1988, the 10m-high yamaboko (festival float) was revived for the first time in 90 years and was simply mind-blowing. Nine sets of yamaboko go around the city day and night, and compete to be the most luxurious and gorgeous float. Gion musical accompaniment is an imperative and essential part of the rounds of the city, with its unique sounds of the flute, drums and shamisen. The all-star roundup of the 9 yamaboko in front of Hita JR station is impressive and spectacular. In 1996, the festival was designated an important intangible folk cultural asset of Japan.
Anori ningyo shibai is a puppet play performed at the Anori Jinja Temple in Ago-cho, Shima-shi, Mie Prefecture. This puppet play has been passed down as a form of dedication to gods during festivals at Anori Jinja, and is a folk entertainment with a history of about 400 years.
Anori ningyo shibai dates back to 1592, when the Lord of Shima, Kuki Yoshitaka, visited and prayed at Anori-no-Hachimangu (today's Anori Jinja) before participating in the Bunroku-no-Eki (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Invasion of Korea). Kuki was successful in Korea. On his return, to show his gratitude for the divine protection he was given, he ordered a puppet performance, which is thought to be the origin of the Anori ningyo shibai.
What is unique about Anori ningyo shibai is that each doll takes three people to maneuver. Although it is difficult to synchronize their movements, having three people operating one doll enables them to perform a variety of gestures, motions and dynamic movements. This performance in which three people maneuver one doll can only be seen in Bunraku puppetry. In 1980, Anori ningyo shibai was designated as a significant intangible folk cultural asset of Japan.
Kasedori is a fire-prevention festival that takes place in Kaminoyama, Yamagata prefecture. It is believed that the custom began about 350 years ago. In those days, the festival took place first at a shrine on the 13th day of the lunar new year, and then in the town on the 15th.
During the festival, young people parade through the streets. As they pass by, local people pour water from ladels onto the procession and pray for fire prevention and prosperity.
This custom was halted in 1896, but revived in 1959. Today, the youngsters still wear the traditional straw costumes called 'kendan' and parade through town calling out the peculiar sound 'kasedori, kasedori, ka-ka-ka.'
At the time of the festival, Kaminoyama is covered with snow. However, the great energy of the youngsters is warming in the freezing weather.
Kurokawa Noh drama is a traditional form of folk theater that is performed in Tsuruoka district (or in the Kushibiki Ooaza Kurokawa area), Yamagata Prefecture. It is designated as an important intangible cultural asset.
This Noh drama has been performed for 500 years as a dedication to Kasuga Shrine, the tutelary shrine of Kurokawa. The main difference between this Noh drama and other forms of Noh is that it was not a sophisticated drama performed for people of the samurai class.
In fact, Kurokawa Noh was traditionally a drama form beloved and enacted by farmers. There are further differences to other Noh, such as the separation of seats. At present, Kurokawa Noh is performed by about 160 actors, and has 230 masks, 400 typical Noh costumes, as well as 540 repertoires and Kyogen numbers.
Undoubtedly, Kurokawa Noh is a traditional folk performance on a huge scale. Annually, it is performed 6 times at the shrine and over 10 times outside, in response to demand.
Miharu papier-mache craft is believed to have originated when Akita Morisue, the 4th lord of the Akita Clan based at Miharu castle, invited a doll-maker from Edo to introduce the art and culture of Edo and Kyoto to his locality.
There is uniqueness and beauty in this simple craft. Between 1688 and 1703, one samurai in the Miharu clan is said to have retired and begun crafting dolls using traditional Japanese paper and a technique known as 'tsutsumi'--a papier-mache doll-making skill from Sendai prefecture. This skill gradually became more refined and today it is practised in Takashiba Dekoya, in the Abuyama mountain district.
Papier-mache models of Tengu, Ebisu, Ooguro, Otafuku, Daruma and Mai-ningyo are made from wet Japanese washi paper, then dried and painted. The figures are engaging and colorful, and embody good fortune, as well as carry a natural earthiness.