Hokkaido Jingu Shrine located in Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City is one of the major shrines in Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Okunitama no Kami, Onamuchi no Kami, Sukunahikona no Kami and Emperor Meiji. It was founded in 1869, when the Meiji government decided to set on the development of the land in Hokkaido and they enshrined the three deities to guard the land. In 1871, the name of this new shrine was decided as Sapporo Shrine and the construction of the buildings started. Since then the shrine has been worshipped as the guardian god of Hokkaido as well as the family god of the people living in this island. In 1964, Emperor Meiji was enshrined together and it changed the name to Hokkaido Jingu Shrine.
The precinct is known as a cherry blossom viewing spot. On the annual festival day in June, mikoshi and floats with ohayashi musicians parade in the city. The shrine is selected as “the New Ichinomiya Shrine of Ezo Province (literally meaning “a modern version of the first shrine of Ezo province)” by a civilian shrine pilgrimage group named Zenkoku Ichinomiya-Kai.
This festival is held at Oyama Shrine in Fuse on Oki-Dogo Island in Shimane Prefecture on the first Day of Ox in April every year. The origin of the shrine is not clear. It has no shrine pavilion housing the deity but it enshrines the old cedar tree, which is some hundred years old.
It is said that Oyama Shrine Festival was first held by a mountain practitioner hundreds of years ago. According to the historical record of the festival written in 1825 by a mountain practitioner in Fuse village, it seems that the festival had already been performed hundreds of years before.
Locally called “Oyama-san” or “Yama-matsuri,” the festival is the event that tells people of the coming of spring. It is nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
On the day before the festival, villagers perform the ritual called Obitachi-no-shinji (the belt cutting ritual), in which they go into the nearby mountain to cut out vine stems, which are put around the sacred cedar tree, and parade through the village carrying a large sakaki (a holy branch). On the following festival day, the Obishime-no-shinji (fastening belt) ritual is held, in which the vine stem is put around the sacred tree seven and a half times.
The Annual summer festival of Tsuno Shrine in Tsuno Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is held from August 1st to 2nd. As the festival of Hyugakoku-Ichinomiya Shrine (the highest-ranked shrine in ancient Hyuga Province), the festival has been so proudly handed down by the people of the town as to be said that even young people living in far-off cities never fail to come back to their hometown to join the festival.
On the first day of the festival, the parade of the huge mikoshi (portable shrine), which is said to be one of the few most magnificent mikoshi in the country in structure, size and decoration and weighs more than 300 kg, goes around the town with the powerful call of “Chosaina! Sora! Yare!” while the drummers on the four drum floats and two kids’ floats beat on the drums repeatedly.
The climax is Omiyairi (the returning of the mikoshi to the shrine) held on the second day. In the roaring sounds of drums, men carrying the heavy mikoshi come back into the shrine precinct, where Kenka-daiko (drum fight) is performed by the drum teams competing in showing off the valiance. The dynamic sounds of the drums fascinate the spectators.
Jugoya Festival (Moon Festival), or popularly called “Jugoya-san,” is held on around the 15th day of the 8th lunar month every year in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture. The whole city is wrapped in a festival mood with a lot of tourists from inside and outside the prefecture.
It is said that this festival originates in the festival of Tomitaka Hachimangu Shrine, which was founded by Nasu no Yoichi and Kudo Suketsune to bolster the morale of the soldiers of their troops, who had come to Kyushu in pursuit of the Heike warriors having escaped from the battle field at Dannoura. The enshrined deity at this shrine was transferred from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura at this time.
On the festival day, the parade of Mitate-zaiku, the flower floats and the dancing teams walk through the city. In the recent years, Hyuga Jugoya-daiko drum performance is added to the festival program, which further warms up the festival mood in the streets.
Tachineputa Festival is held from August 4 to 8 every year in Goshogawara City in Aomori Prefecture. This traditional festival had been discontinued until about 80 years ago and was revived in 1998. Together with the Neputa festivals held in the cities of Aomori and Hirosaki, it is counted as one of the three big Neputa festivals in Aomori Prefecture.
The Neputa festival in Goshogawara was started by wealthy merchants in the towns during the middle of the Meiji period (1868-1912). It featured the parade of gigantic Neputa floats. However, in the Taisho period (1912-1926), the Neputa floats had to be diminished in size due to the spread of the electric cables. With their miniaturization, the popularity of Neputa also declined.
In 1993, the old design drawings of the floats were discovered, and the Tachineputa Reproduction Association was established. Today, they are restored to the original size of more than 20 meters in height, which is as tall as a seven-story building.
The magnificent parade of these colorful and gigantic floats goes through the streets of the city with the valiant shout of “Yattemare!” which astounds spectators.
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.
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.