Tsunaginosato Daimyo’s Procession is a traditional festival handed down in Towa Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. The festival dates back to 1564, when Kasai Minbunosho, the castellan of Hatooka Castle, restored Hachiman Shrine and dedicated Yabusame (horseback archery) on the festival day.
The procession is performed in the middle of September every year. At 11:00 in the morning, when conch-shell horns are blown and fireworks are set off with loud bangs, the procession leaves the shrine for going through the town.
With the leading men in formal Hakama in the lead, about 120 citizens in total join the parade, performing the roles of Yakko (samurai’s servants), the spearhead troop of cavalrymen, the magistrate of transportation, mikoshi carriers, Chigo (young children) and Ohayashi musicians. This Ohayashi music is mainly composed of Japanese gong sounds in Kyoto style, which creates a graceful atmosphere.
Occasionally, Tengu and Chinese Lion get out of line and pretend to bite children on the head, which is a magical rite for protecting children from diseases. When Yakko stop and toss to exchange the 3 meter long keyari (feather-topped lances)” in a valiant manner, which is called “Otorikae (exchanging),” the spectators along the street erupt into cheers and applause.
Kenketo Festival is held on Sunday near April 23rd every year at Suginoki Shrine in Ryuo-cho and Yasaka Shrine in Gamo-cho both in Higashi Omi City, Shiga Pref. The word “kenketo” comes from the echoic word of the sound of Japanese bells and drums in matsuri-bayashi music, which sounds like “ke-ken-kei, ke-ken-don, ke-ken-kei, ke-ken.” It has been held since the Heian period (794-1192) to pray for rich harvest. Dedicated together is the dance called “Naginata Odori,” in which the eldest sons of shrine parishioner families at the age of 11-12 in matching Yuzen kimonos parade to the shrine, dancing to the music of Japanese bells and drums. It is said that the boys’ costume is modeled after the dress of the local people who joined Oda Nobunaga’s forces as foot soldiers to attack Koga province. The festival is selected as a National Intangible Cultural Property. Kenketo Festival is an elegant festival with a history of 1,000 years.
Oki Muramatsuri Furyu is held on October 19 every two years in Nakamura on Dogo, the main island of the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture. It is one of the three large festivals on the Oki Islands and prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The festival dates back to the early Kamakura period (1192-1333), when Sasaki Sadatsuna was appointed governor of Oki province. He transferred the gods of the sun and the moon from Omi province, his native country, and enshrined the god of the sun at Hachioji Shrine in Motoya and the god of the moon at Jorakuji Temple (later transferred to Ichinomori Shrine) in Nakamura. He, then, performed a festival in hope of a rich harvest by fusing the power of Yin and yang.
On the festival day, the processions carrying the gods leave the two shrines and head for the meeting place, where the ritual to unite the gods of the sun and the moon is performed. After that, various performances such as the salutation by Gyoji (sumo referee) wearing armors, Onmyo-douchi (the Yin-yang drum performance) by young men wearing makeup, Kozuma (the holy sumo tournament) by children and Urate, the sumo-dance by young men are dedicated one after another. The festival ends with the horseback archery. All are performed in accordance with ancient rituals, which make the spectators slip into delusion of seeing a history picture scroll.
Morioka Autumn Festival serves as the annual festival of Morioka Hachimangu Shrine in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture. It is held for 3 days from September 14 to 16 every year, and the festival eve events are performed on the 13th.
Morioka Hachimangu was founded about 800 years ago by the Nanbu clan as the guardian god of their castle town of Morioka. The festival dates back to 1709, when a parade of floats was performed to celebrate the completion of all the 23 sub-towns of the castle town. It is said that the parade was composed of 23 floats made by each town.
The float parade has been performed since then and it is now designated as a city’s intangible cultural property. In the Hachiman-kudari parade, all the floats start parading from Hachiman Shrine in the afternoon and go through the town. And in the Dashi-Daiemaki parade in the evening, the gorgeously lit up floats parade through the town again. Also, traditional Yabusame (horseback archery) is held in the shrine precinct.
The front approach of the shrine is lined with night stalls including “yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles),” which is a must for a Japanese “omatsuri.” Listening to Nanbu’s distinctive “Ondo” music played by children on the floats and eating yakisoba; it’s a fantastic way to spend your holiday.
Yagoro-don Festival held on November 3 every year serves as an annual autumn festival of Iwagawa Hachiman Shrine in Oshumi Town in Soo City, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is a gallant festival that represents the southern part of Kyushu and counted as one of the three largest festivals in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The highlight of the festival is the Hamakudari parade of Yagoro-don, a 4.85 meter tall giant with goggle eyes and strong eyebrows. Wearying long and short swords on his waist, the giant goes through the town in hope of a rich harvest. There are many theories about its origin. Some say that he is modeled after Takenouchi Sukune, a legendary hero who served six generations of the emperors. Others say that he was the head of the Hayato clan, who ruled the ancient Kyushu. It is believed that if you touch things pertaining to Yagoro-don, you will be in sound health for one year.
Chochin Lantern Festival is an annual festival held at Kashima Shrine, the headquarters of all the shrines in the Shirakawa region. The festival is held once every two years; only in the odd number year in the Heisei period (1989-present). Together with Yahiko Lantern Festival at Yahiko Shrine in Niigata Prefecture and Isshiki Grand Chochin Festival at Suwa Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, it is counted as one of the three largest chochin lantern festivals in Japan.
The present form of the festival was established in the Edo period, when Honda Tadayoshi, the lord of the Shirakawa domain, dedicated a portable shrine. The festival includes the parade of mikoshi and floats accompanied by people carrying big chochin lanterns. As is called “the ceremonial festival,” it hands down formal procedures of the Edo-period warrior class.
However, there is more than ceremony of course. The parade of thousands of chochin lanterns, which looks like a long brilliant light belt, creates a magnificent atmosphere. When the huge chochin lantern, which leads each of the 23 arrays carrying its own mikoshi, is raised high and pulled down repeatedly, a big applause is evoked among the spectators. As the festival with a history of 400 years, it is the pride of people living in the Shirakawa region.
The townscape of classic Japan can be seen in the old Shiroi-juku post town in Shiroi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture. Shiroi-juku was a prosperous post town located at the point where the Agatsuma River pours into the Tone River.
Old residences with earth store houses continue along the Shirai-zeki water channel. Many stone structures including 8 draw wells and the bell tower remind us of the town’s prosperity in the old days.
Being slightly away from National Route 17 and its bypass, the town has a little car traffic and is a good place for walking. The townscape of the good old days will make you feel at peace.
On the 4th Sunday in April every year, a lot of tourists visit this town to enjoy Shiroi-juku Yaezakura (double-blossomed cherry) Festival, in which the warrior parade goes through the town and the local products fair is held.
The annual festival held at Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine in Kumamoto City is one of the largest festivals in Kumamoto Prefecture. As the shrine of war gods, it was worshipped by warriors since its foundation in 935.
The festival is held for 5 days from the 2nd Thursday in September every year. It is said that the festival originates in a Buddhist ritual of Hojoe, a ceremony in which captive fish and birds are set free to gain religious merit. The climax is the Zuibyo (Retinue Soldiers) Parade held on the last day. Zuibyo Parade originates in the parade of soldiers when Kato Kiyomasa paid a visit to this shrine to attend the rituals of the annual festival that he resumed.
Together with the mikoshi (a portable shrine) parade, more than 60 groups of local people dressed in festival cloths march and chant valiantly “Dokai! Dokai!” while following their elaborately decorated robust horses through the streets of the city.