Hyozu Festival is held from May 3 to 6 every year at Hyozu Shrine in Gojo in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. Hyozu Shrine is a historic shrine founded around the late 3rd century, when the capital of the country was relocated to present Otsu City. Later in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Kinmei, the shrine was relocated to the present place and the shrine building was constructed here. The enshrined deity is Omunachi no Mikoto.
On May 5, after the Shinto rituals are performed at the shrine in the morning, about 30 Mikoshi (portable shrine) and the drum floats carried by shrine parishioners from 18 sub-towns get together in the front approach to the shrine, where the parade of Mikoshi starts in the afternoon.
Large and small Mikoshi and drums in various styles are carried with powerful cry of “Choito Sa!” along the 300 meter front approach lined with pine trees. The climax is the gallant performance known as “U-no-ikinuki (Rest of Cormorant),” in which Mikoshi carriers roughly lift up and down the Mikoshi and run about to the sounds of drums.
It is said that Hyozu Taisha Shrine in Nosu City, Shiga Prefecture, was founded during the Nara period (710-794). As its name Hyozu literally means “the master of soldiers,” it had been worshipped by the Imperial Court and the warrior class.
The shrine treasure varies from weapons to Buddha’s ashes, which is the reminder of Shinbutsu Shugo (the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism). The vermillion main gate magnificently awaits visitors. It is said to have been dedicated by Ashikaga Takauji and the Japanese ink writing on a rafter shows that it was constructed in 1550. It is a 1-bay and 1-entrance well-balanced gate in Irimoya-zukuri style, which is prefecturally designated as a tangible cultural property.
Beyond the gravel path is the Haiden Hall (oratory). The red thick rope hanging from Waniguchi (the bronze gong) is very impressive. Its magnificent garden was constructed in the Heian period (794-1192). It is a pond-stroll garden. The ground covered with a moss carpet looks superb especially in the rainy season. From the middle to the end of November, the tinted autumn leaves are lit up for night visitors.
Mukabaki Shrine located at the southern foot of Mt. Mukabaki in the western part of Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in 718 by transferring the deity from Kumano Taisha Shrine in present Wakayama Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Izanagi no Mikoto, Izanami no Mikoto and Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. Being called Mukabakidake Sansho Daigongen (the Great Three Gods of Mt. Mukabaki), the shrine was worshipped by the successive lords of the Hyuga domain.
The huge precinct is covered with densely grown trees, among which the main hall stands in the tranquil atmosphere. The trail up Mt. Mukabaki starts from the precinct.
Mt. Mukabaki (813 m) is a fine mountain with precipitous flat cliff, which looks like a folding screen. It was named so when Yamato Takeru visited this place to conquer the Kumaso tribe and said that the mountain looked like a “mukabaki,” which was a fur to wrap around the waist.
Imayama Hachimangu Shrine is located at the top of a hill, which commands a view of Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture. Enshrining 10 deities, the shrine is worshipped by local people as the guardian god of the city. It is the largest shrine in the northern part of the prefecture
Going along the front approach, which is surrounded with densely grown trees, you will see the two-storied vermillion main gate standing atop the steep stone steps. The huge precinct is dotted with several historic shrine buildings including the impressive Honden hall. The stone statues of Chinese lion-dogs on either side of the entrance of the main hall tell of the shrine’s long history.
It is said that Tsuchimochi Naotsuna, the local lord of this area transferred the deity of Usa Hachimangu Shrine (in present-day Oita Prefecture) and founded this shrine in 750 as the god to guard the ominous direction of the Castle. According to the book “Usa Kagami,” this area was a part of the territory possessed by Usa Hachimangu Shrine and annual tribute was collected by the shrine. As Usa was far away from the town and it was very difficult for local people to visit Usa Hachimangu Shrine, the foundation of Imayama Shrine was welcomed by local people. The shrine had been protected by the successive lords of the domain during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Mifune Festival takes place every October at Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, one of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines, located by the estuary of Kumano River, Wakayama Prefecture. Mifune Festival, or Boating Festival, dates back an amazing 1,800 years. It is designated as intangible folklore cultural asset by Wakayama Prefecture.
The festival’s inspiration is said to come from the pirate ships of Kumano in the mythological age, and was also influenced later from the fact that technologies of shipbuilding and navigation were developed in Udonomura, a neighboring village of Mie Prefecture.
The festival is to dedicate a dance called “Hari Hari Dance” to the local deity. It starts by transporting the spirit of the deity on the portable shrine to Shinkousen Boat at the riverbed of the Kumano River , then nine speed boats leading the Shikousen Boat and Morotobune, race each other around an island three times. On the Morotobune rides the parishioner of Toritono Shrine at Udomura dressed as a seaman who swings a red painted oar and demonstrates a dance along with the rhythm of oarsmen. As he chants “Hari, Harise”, the dance became known as the “Hari Hari Dance” and the ritual has been handed down over the centuries.
The Mifune Festival is an ancient ritual that bring scroll paintings of the age of the gods alive today.
Mishima Summer Festival is held in Omiya-cho, Mishima City, Shizuoka Pref. in the middle of August every year. This is the biggest festival in Mishima City, where nearly 500,000 spectators gather to enjoy it. Centered on the annual festival of Mishima Taisha Shrine, a variety of events are held everywhere from Mishima Taisha Shrine to the avenue in front of Hirokoji Station and its surrounding areas. Accompanied by the sounds of Japanese bells and drums of Shagiri-bayashi (Japanese traditional music) played on top of the floats, the Shagiri floats are pulled around the town. During the three days of the festival, the whole town is filled with bustling attractions such as a parade to restage the war procession of Minamoto no Yoritomo, Yabusame (horseback archery), Daimonji-yaki (great bonfire event) at the western side of Mt. Hakone, Noheibushi (folklore song and dance ) Parade, Mishima Samba Parade, etc. Mishima Summer Festival is a big event with proud tradition and a long history.
Shinane Festival is held on August 24 and 25 at Shinane Shrine, or popularly called Shinane-sama, in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. Shinane Shrine enshrines Ajisuki Takanehiko no Mikoto (a son of Okuninushi no Mikoto) and Hitokotonushi no Mikoto. Since its foundation in the latter half of the 5th century, many people have prayed here for prosperity in industry, safety at sea and in traffic, curing illness and family safety.
The festival begins with the dedication of the drum and kagura dance performance on the evening of 24th. The 300 m long front approach is lined with night stalls and crowded with thousands of visitors. On the 25th, an old ritual of transferring the sacred body from the shrine hall to mikoshi (the portable shrine) is carried out in the solemn music of Shinto flute, Japanese flute and drums. After the ceremony, the mikoshi makes its sacred procession to a temporary resting spot.
As it is said that when Shinane-sama is over, the summer is over, too, the festival has become the event that tells people the turn of the seasons.
Kannazuki is a Japanese traditional name for October. Kannazuki (神無月) can be translated literally as “the month when there are no gods.” In Shinto tradition it was said that the eight million gods of Japan left their shrines and congregated annually in October at Izumo Taisha Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. In Izumo, by contraries, it is considered trendy to call October “Kamiarizuki,” which means “the month when the gods are present.”
There are still other theories as to its origin, however. The most strongly supported theory is that the 無 character should be a particle meaning “of” and therefore Kannazuki means the month of gods. Another unique theoru staes that it is a pun for Kaminashizuki (雷無月), which literally means the month without thunderstorms.
The day around October 8th is called Kanro (cold dew) and it is said that the year’s’ first dew condensation can be seen on this day. Leaves turn red in the middle of October and the day around October 23rd is called Soko (frost descent), when the year’s first frost covers the ground in the northern part of the nation. As winter draws near, it is getting colder and colder and biting north winds start to blow in this season.