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.
Choyo-no-Shinji and Crow Sumo Wrestling is Shinto rituals performed on September 9 at Kamigamo Shrine, which is famous as the oldest shrine in Kyoto. According to the concept of Yin and Yan, the odd number is the number of Yan (shine). Thus 9 is considered to be the number that Yan reaches to an extreme. As September 9 is the day when the extreme Yan overlaps, it was called Choyo (Double Yan) and was celebrated as the auspicious day since the ancient times. Since September is the blooming season of a chrysanthemum by the lunar calendar, it is also called the Chrysanthemum Festival.
In the old days, people drank chrysanthemum wine and purified themselves with dew on chrysanthemum petals in hope of a long life. Today, people in Kyoto visit Kamigamo Shrine on this day and offer chrysanthemum flowers to the deity and pray for the healthy life.
After the Choyo Shinto rituals are performed‚ a Shinto priest called “Tone” places a bow and arrow and a sword against a cone-shaped hill of sand. He then utters the cry “kaa‚ kaa‚ kaa‚ koo‚ koo‚ koo,” imitating the cawing of crows. After this ritual‚ children, divided into two teams of “Negi-kata (priests)” and “Hori-kata (people who cerebrate),” wrestle each other in matches. The sumo wrestling originates in an ancient Shinto rituals performed in the Heian period (794-1192) and it is designated as an intangible cultural property of Kyoto City. Free chrysanthemum flower sake will be offered that is believed to be effective for healthy longevity.
Yamanaka Hachimangu Shrine in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded during the reign of Emperor Monmu (696-707). The enshrined deity is Hachiman Daijin. The shrine is known for its close association with Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Dendengassari performed at Yamanaka Hachimangu Shrine on January 13 every year is a traditional rice planting ritual handed down since the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Praying for an abundant harvest of the year, a man disguised in a cow carries the piled two pieces of rice cake, each of which is about 70 cm in diameter and 10 cm in thickness, on his back and walks around a big drum on four limbs at the shouting sign of “Deeen! Deeen! Gassariya!” After going around the drum, he falls over to the floor, which represents that the rice cake is so heavy that even a cow falls down.
Flower Festival at Shiogama Shrine in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an annual festival of the shrine held on the 4th Sunday of April every year. As the festival is held during the cherry blooming season in the Tohoku region, it began to be called “Flower Festival.”
The origin of the festival dates back to the Anei era (1772-1780), when a severe flood attacked the region and farmers suffered from a bad harvest. It is said that when the villagers offered a prayer to the deity at Shiogama Shrine for a good harvest, they had good weathers and a rich harvest in the next year. To express their appreciation, they held a festival and the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade in 1788.
On the festival day, 16 shrine laymen called “Yocho” in white costume carry the mikoshi and walk through the city. During the procession, the carriers do not utter a single word and just walk in a solemn manner exposed to quiet Gagaku music (Japanese court music) and flattering cherry petals.
The travel of deity has been handed down to the modern generations for over 200 years without impairing its magnificence.
Kanmachi Houin Kagura is a music and dance performance held on the second Sunday of October each year. The performance takes place during the Mamekarasan Festival at the Inari Shrine in Toyosato-cho, Tometo, Miyagi Prefecture. The performance has been designated as an important cultural entertainment of the prefecture.
Houin, who trained in Tometo, established a kagura group and performed kagura as prayers for good harvest in the Edo period. The performance was adopted by the shrine devotees in the mid-Meiji period.
During the Mamekara Festival, Kanmachi Houin Kagura, such as Iwadohiraki, Douso, Maou and Ubuya, are performed over 8 hours as part of the shrine ablutions. A shrine ritual then takes place. Many visitors approve of the traditional splendor of kagura. The local people call it 'Mamekara Myoujin', and it is a familiar event for them.
Zuiki (Taro Stalk) Festival is held at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto from October 1 to 4 every year in appreciation for the year's grain harvest. It is said that the name comes from the Mikoshi (portable shrine), whose roof is thatched with a taro stalk. The original form of the festival was first held in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192) and Zuiki Mikoshi festival held by the shrine parishioners already started in as early as the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Both at Shinko-sai Festival on the 1st, when the portable shrine is carried from the main shrine to Otabisho (temporary shrine) and at Kanko-sai Festival on the 4th, when it returns to the main shrine, a gland parade of 150 shrine parishioners dressed in Imperial costumes of the Heian period including Chigo (boy acolytes) and various floats such as Gohoren (phoenix floats) march through the city. During the festival period, various events such as Chakugo-sai (arriving ceremony), Kencha-sai (tea dedicating ceremony) and Kabuto no Gokuhou-sen (ceremony to offer a helmet) are carried out. Zuiki Festival, which has a history of over 1,000 years, is one of the representative autumn festivals in Kyoto.
Yakurai Jinja Miwaryu Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down at Yakurai Shrine in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a kind of the Hoin-styled kagura dances that were performed by mountain practitioners. Its dancing style, Miwaryu (the Miwa school of dancing), dates back to the period reigned by Empress Suiko (the 7th century).
This kagura had been danced by shrine priests since the period when this area was ruled by the Osaki clan, who served as the Oshu Tandai (the responsible head of the shogun’s executive office in the Tohoku region), during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). It is now danced by volunteers among the shrine’s worshippers and managed by the Omiya family, the hereditary shrine priest family.
In 1683, the 4th lord of the Sendai domain, Date Tsunamura ordered Miwaryu Kagura be transferred to Kameoka Hachiman Shrine, the family god of the Date clan in present Sendai City, from which Kameoka Shrine Kagura derived. Miwaryu Kagura was also dedicated at Kamo Shrine in present Sendai City later by the order of the domain lord.
As there is no similar-styled kagura dance existing in the prefecture, the prefectural government acknowledged its cultural preciousness and designated it as an intangible folk cultural property in 1978. Since then it has been formally named “Yakurai Jinja Miwaryu Kagura.” At present, it is performed at the spring and autumn annual festivals and hands down the religious faith peculiar to this mountain area centered around Mt. Yakurai.
The annual festival of Oshio Tenmangu Shrine in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture is held on October 14 and 15 every year. It is known for the Oshio Lion Dance, which has been handed down since the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Six lions representing each of the six districts of the town perform powerful and elegant dances, which are respectively different from one another. This traditional Shinto ritual is designated as a prefecture’s important intangible folk cultural property.
On October 14th, the float parade goes through the town in the afternoon. Then in the evening, the six lions, each of which is operated by several men and covered with black and brown long bear hair, gather together in front of the torii gate of the shrine. Their jumping and dancing draw cheers from the spectators. The highlight of the festival is the parade of lion dancers on the 15th. The six lions appear in front of the shrine and start marching through the precinct to the oratory hall. They raise their heads high and jump into the air to the ohayashi music of Japanese drums and flutes. Their dynamic dance is really impressive.