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.
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.
From the end of April through the early May every year, Hirosaki Cherry Festival is held in Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. It is counted as one of the four big festivals in Hirosaki City; the others are the Snow Lantern Festival in February, The Neputa Festival in August and Autumn Leaf Festival in October.
Hirosaki Park is the ruins site of Hirosaki Castle, where the Tsugaru clan had resided during the Edo period (1603-1868). The only existing donjon in the Tohoku region remains in the park. The castle ruins site was arranged into Hirosaki Park and open to the public in 1895. It is now one of Japan’s representative cherry blossom viewing places.
The cherry trees were first planted in Hirosaki Park in 1715, when 25 stocks of Kasumi-zakura (Prunus leveilleana) were sent for from Kyoto. Later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), additional cherry trees were planted several times. Today as many as 2,600 cherry trees in about 50 sub-species including Somei Yoshino cherry come into bloom in spring.
The cherry trees that stand at the edge of the water moat extend their branches over the water, reflecting their beautiful images on the surface. When the park is lit up at night, the donjon shows its elegant figure in the midst of the cherry blossoms, which creates a fantastic scene.
Chizenji Temple worshipping Benzaiten is located on Awajishima Island. Benzaiten is the Japanese name of the goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of wisdom and performing art and one of Shichifukujin (Sevn Gods of Fortune) in Japan. The temple belongs to Shingon Sect and the Sango (the name of the mountain in which it is located) is Daiko-zan. The time of its establishment is unknown, but its history is as long as its earliest record can be found in a copied sutra “Dainehan-kyo” written during the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). The main hall was built in the middle of the Edo period, where the statues of Dainyorai and Benzaiten are located. The temple is one of the Awaji Shichifukujin Pilgrimage temples and visited by as many as a hundred thousand pilgrims during the year. Especially during the winter there is a day when more than 2,000 pilgrims visit the temple. On the first prayer day to Benzaiten on January 7 and at the ritual of Sentai Jizo Nagashi (the floating of the talisman representing Jizo) held on August 23, a lot of pious visitors come to dedicate their prayers.
Ojima Neputa Festival is held in Ojima-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture. The Neputa festival, which is typical to the Tsugaru region, is held in this town because the village of Ojima was an outland territory of the Tsugaru domain in the 17th century. In 1985, a group of people interested in this historical link visited Ojima-cho and the Neputa troupe joined Ojima Festival from the next year onward.
Since then the enthusiasm for Neputa grew among the citizens and they went as far as to build their own Neputa lantern and change the name of the festival to Ojima Neputa Festival.
The festival is held on August 14th and 15th every year. The parade of the 8 m tall Ogi Neputa (Fan-shaped Neputa) lantern and the float carrying the Joppari drums is valiant itself. Colorful pictures of warriors lit up against the dark sky look fantastically beautiful. The highlight of the festival is the joint performance of the Joppari drums and Ohayashi music at the end of the festival, which is very impressive and worth seeing.
Tanabata Edoro Matsuri is a festival held in Yuzawa City, Akita Pref. in August every year. A lot of decorative strips and paperwork are attached to thick bamboo poles and boxes with pretty ladies painted on them are lit up at night. The festival dates back to the middle of the Edo period (around 1700), when a princess of Takatsukasa family, a court noble in Kyoto, married into Satake Yoshiyasu, the 5th head of the Stake Nanke clan, one of the branch family of the Akita domain lord. Gripped by homesickness, the princess wrote her nostalgic feelings on strips and put them on a bamboo pole. Accordingly the townspeople who heard of the princess’s grief began to display strips and streamers on the bamboo poles and prayed that she might get over the grief. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), the present lantern boxes were began to be displayed on the streets. The boxes are also displayed in the city hall all through the year. A lot of visitors come to enjoy this fantastic summer festival held to the memory of the princess.
Miyoshi Great Lantern Festival held for two days in August at Miyoshi Inarikaku Shrine is one of the most famous festivals in Aichi Pref. Three great lanterns of 11 m tall and 6.5 m in diameter are hung in the precinct and lit at night. In 1927, the Shin-Aichi Shinbun (newspaper company), the predecessor of present Chunichi Shinbun, planned to select “Aichi’s New Ten Notable Sights” and Miyoshi Inarikaku Shrine was selected as the second. In memory of this selection and his own 60th birthday, Yazo Nonoyama, a townsman of Miyoshi-cho, dedicated a great lantern, which was first lit at the summer festival in 1929. The other two were dedicated in 1988 by the municipal government of Miyoshi-cho and many well-wishers of the town in memory of the 30th anniversary of the town organization. Since the summer festival in 1993, three great lanterns came to be lit in the precinct as the symbol of the festival.
Genroku Bouze Dance, or Genroku Buddhist Monk Dance, is dedicated to the deity of Itsukushima-jinjya Shrine located in Minashiro Miyanokubi, Shintomi-cho, Yuyu-gun, Miyazaki Prefecture, and is performed annually on August 15th according to the lunar calendar. The dance is designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset by the town.
Genroku Bouze Dance has been passed down since Muromachi Period in four neighboring areas of the town; Miyanokubi, Hiraikura, Yadoko and Oku. During the rule of Takanabe Akizuki Clan, the dance was performed as part of the festival dedicated to the water god mainly at Hiokimizunuma-jinjya Shrine which was associated with the clan.
The dancers consist of more than five groups of three people, a monk, a man and a bride as well as singers, drums and clappers accompanying them.
The dance celebrates a rich harvest, and there is a storytelling element where a man and his bride are dancing together happily, a monk tries to cut in between them and get in the way. It contains the theme of human drama which became popular at the end of Edo Period.
Genroku Bouzu Dance is a folk art that has a long history passed on through the generations.