Kouchi Festival takes place at Koza, Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama prefecture on July 24th and 25th each year. It is also known as “Mifune-matsuri”, or Boating Festival, and is held on the banks of the Koza River. The festival is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by the Japanese government.
The festival dates back to the Gempei War in 12th century when the naval forces of Kumano who fought for Genji Clan celebrated their victory at Kouchi Shrine. The festival replicates the triumphal return of the military force.
Three boats decorated with vividly colored battle cloth, mizuhiki paper strings, spears, halberds and lanterns enter the river after the opening ceremony at the Koza Shrine and slowly move up to Seisho Island where Kouch Daimyoujin, the local deity, is enshrined. The boat takes two days to reach the island and therefore all prayers and offerings take place on the 25th.
Shishi dances are demonstrated in the town and an exciting boat race called “Kaitenma Kyousou” is undertaken by junior high school students further enchanting the crowd.
Tsu fireworks display is held in Akogiura Beach in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture in late July every year. First held in the Edo period, it has changed its form with the times. Although it was discontinued during World War II, it was revived from 1950 onwards.
Taking advantage of the location, distinctive methods of shooting up fireworks are employed here. Numerous starmines are shot up one after another in a very short time from the boats, which float right in front of the spectators’ seats, keeping the safe distance. They are not only gorgeous but overwhelming itself.
The most spectacular display is “Kaijo-jibaku Hanabi (the offshore self-burst fireworks), in which ball-shaped fireworks are thrown into the sea one after another from the boat running at full speed and they bloom into large circular shapes and spread colorful petals all over the sea surface. You will never forget the beauty of their rich colors like peacocks spreading their tails.
Ori Kagura is a solemn Shinto ritual performed at Kifune Shrine in Ouri in Ohi Village, Miyagi Prefecture. It is designated as a village’s cultural property. Kifune Shrine was founded in 1443 by transferring the deity from Kashiwagi in present Sendai City. Ori Kagura, together with the children mikoshi parade, is dedicated to the deity at the annual festival of the shrine on September 1 on the lunar calendar.
In around 1877, the villagers invited Nanbu Kagura dancers from Iwate Prefecture and Kizaemon Ishikawa and other 8 people learned the kagura dance from them. Following the tradition of the Nanbu Kagura style, the repertoire of Ori Kagura is composed of three categories; Shinmaimono (sacred dances), Gunkimono (military epics) and Dokemono (comical plays).
The shrine was damaged by fire in 1877 and all the utensils of the kagura except masks went up in flames. However the kagura dance was revived in two years by the donation of the local people.
Yakunin Taue Odori (Yakunin Rice Planting Dance) is open to the public at the summer festival of Johgi Nyorai Saihoji Temple in Okura, Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, on July 6 on the lunar calendar every year. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property as a precious traditional folk performing art that has been handed down in a community. It is said that a mountain practitioner named Genso from Kyoto taught this dance to the people in this area in 1833.
The word “yakunin” used for the name of this dance indicates “to play a part.” In the Yakunin Taue Odori dance, the part called Yajuro is supposed to be a half-ogre man, and the head of Yajuro plays a part of the god of rice paddy. He wears a hikitate eboshi cap (a cloth cap pulled upright) with the sun and moon marks and a junbaori jacket with the kanji charcters representing Emperor Jinmu (Japan’s first emperor) on the back and join the rice planting dance danced by women dancers called “Saotome,” exchanging the words of compliment and responses with each other.
The words uttered by Yajuro and the song and movements of Saotome dancers are typical to this rice planting dance, which can’t be seen in any other similar dance in the country.
Oyamasankei is a festival held at Iwakiyama Shrine in Hyakuzawa, Hirosaki City, Aomori Pref. Iwakiyama Shrine was established as a Bettoji (attached temple) of Oriinomiya Shrine (detached shrine) in 1628. The enshrined are five deities including Utsushikunitama no Kami, which are collectively called Iwakiyama Oogami (Great god of Mt. Iwakiyama). There are two big festivals held at this shrine; one in spring and the other, Oyamasankei Festival, in fall. From July 29 to August 1 on lunar calendar every year, people from the same village form a group and visit the back shrine at the top of Mt. Iwakiyama to thank and pray for rich harvest. The groups of people, all dressed in white and with white Tekko (wrist coverings) and Kyahan (leggings) on, head for the top of the mountain chanting “Saigi, Saigi, Rokkon Shojo,” with the musical accompaniment of Japanese flute and drums. After praying, they spend a night at the mountain top, worship the rising sun, and climb down the mountain chanting “Batara, Batara, Batarayo, Iiyama-Kaketa.” It is said that a person who come down the mountain safely will have the good fortune.
The Otaru Ushio Festival was inititated in 1967 (Showa 42) in the hope of preserving the history, culture and further development of Otaru, Hokkaido.
The festival is held aroud Otaru Bay for three days on the last weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) of July. More than a million people from Hokkaido and from outside visit the festival at this time. Ushio chochin lanterns featuring wave patterns are displayed throughout Otaru and the city fills with excitement as the festival begins.
On the second day of the festival, 5,000 dancers from Hokkaido and outside Hokkaido participate in the Ushio-nerikomi parade. The dancers move in time with the rhythm of the Ushio-Ondo, and the parade stirs up more festival excitement.
Meanwhile, various events are held elsewhere in the city, such as the local Ushio taiko drums perfomance. The drums create a rich and enjoyable rhythm. The final day of the festival features a display of 2,500 fireworks set off into the beautiful night sky of the Otaru Bay, marking a spectacular culmination to the festival.
This festival shows a local appreciation of the sea and Otaru's hope for the city's continued development. The afterglow of festival excitement does not disappear for a long time
Ayamegahara Primeval Flower Garden spread on the small cape called Chinbe-no-hana located about 12 km away from the central part of Akkeshi Town in the eastern part of Hokkaido.
As many as 300,000 stocks of beachhead iris (Iris setosa) come into bloom from the middle of June to the early July on this 100 ha flatland. During the blooming season, visitors can enjoy communities of iris and the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean beyond the flower garden. During this period, the flower field is sometimes wrapped in a dense fog from the ocean, which will allow you to experience the mystic atmosphere. Other than irises, this primitive flower garden is filled with as many as 120 species of wild plants that produce flowers one after another from May through October.
Why has such a large-scale primitive flower garden been created on this plateau? The answer is the horse. The horses depastured in this field didn’t eat irises but ate other grass for choice. Shouldn’t we give thanks to the horses for this floral paradise?
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Geshi (夏至) literally meannig “to reach summer” is the 10th solar term. It usually begins around June 21st, the longest day of the year when the Sun is farthest north in the northern hemisphere and Sun gets the highest meridian altitude. As the axis of the Earth declines 23.5 degrees towards or away from the Sun ecliptic, the meridian altitude of the Sun differs from season to season. It is this declination that creates seasonal changes on the Earth.
The summer solstice marks the first day of the summer. Different from the winter solstice, there are relatively few social activities held in Japan. Farmers usually start rice planting on the day of Han-geshi, the 11th day from the summer solstice. In the Kansai region, people eat octopus on this day in hope that the roots of rice plants will grow steadily like octopus legs. In Sanuki area in Kagawa Prefecture, July 2nd is Day of Sanuki-udon Noodle, because farmers usually entertain assistant workers with Sanuki-udon noodles after rice planting.