Festival of Kakunodate is a historic festival handed down for over 300 yeas in the Kakunodate area in Senboku City, Akita Prefecture. It is an annual festival of Myojin Shrine, the guardian god of the town and Jojuin Yakushido Temple. The festival is held for three days in September in hope of the town’s prosperity and business success.
The most spectacular is the float parade, in which 18 floats with warrior dolls and Kabuki character dolls atop of them are pulled around the city accompanied by the sounds of Japanese flute and drums played by ohayashi musicians. On the first day, the floats are pulled to Myojin Shrine. Then on the second day, they go along the street with samurai-styled old houses and head for the residence of the head of the Satake family, who were the descendants of the domain lord of this area in the Edo period, and drop in at Yakushido Temple on the third day.
The climax is the collision of the floats. When the floats run into each other in the street, the men start a negotiation to get the right of way. Then if the negotiation falls apart, they start to make the float collide each other, at which the spectators get excited and the street is surrounded with enthusiasm. This elegant but fierce festival was designated as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1991.
The summer festival is held on the 1st Saturday of August every year at Jogi Nyorai Saihoji Temple in Okura, Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Located in the heart of mountains near the border of Yamagata Prefecture, it is a stately and historic temple with the formal seven structures and the huge precinct.
At the end of the Heian period, Taira no Sadayoshi, a loyal retainer of the Taira clan, secretly moved to this location and changed his name Sadayoshi to Jogi because he wanted to hide himself from his enemies. When Sadayoshi passed away in 1198, his servants and followers built a small temple beside his graveyard and enshrined the Amida Buddha’s scroll in the temple according to his will.
The summer festival in August is held to appease the soul of Sadayoshi. The parade of mikoshi (portable shrine) and dedication of performing arts are held during the day, while beautiful fireworks are shot up into the darkness of the sky at night. The five-storied pagoda against colorful illumination of the fireworks looks fantastically beautiful.
Numazu Summer Festival held around the last weekend of July every year is the biggest summer festival in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. A lot of attractive events including the grand parade of Numazu Shiki-saisai Dance, the competitive performances of Shagiri music, the Japanese drum performance and the Mikoshi parade are held during the day.
Each day ends with a gorgeous fireworks display held over the Kano River. Kano River Fireworks Display, which started during the post-war restoration period, is now the biggest fireworks display held in an urban area in the Tokai district. The riverside is bustled with spectators to enjoy this charming sight of the summer. 9,000 fireworks in total are shot up into the night sky during the two-day festival period. The finale of the festival is decorated with the 470 meter long Niagara Falls.
A tug of war is held in the sea during the Bon season in August every year in Hado Fishery Harbor in Chinzei-cho, Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. It was originally performed in memory of the souls of warriors who lost their lives in battles when Toyotomi Hideyoshi stayed in this village to dispatch his troops to Korea.
The rope used for this unique festival is made by young men in the town on the day before the festival. It is 40 cm in diameter and 35 m in length. On the day of the festival, men in local fishermen’s traditional clothes called “Donza” dive into the sea at the signal of a drum and hold each end of the huge rope floating in the sea. Then the men play at a tug of war, dynamically splashing water and valiantly shouting encouragement.
It used to be held on July 15 on the lunar calendar but now it is held at high tide on August 15.
Matsue Suigo Festival is held in early August in Matsue City, in the eastern end of Shimane Prefecture. Located almost at the center of the coastline in the Sanin region, Matsue had long been a thriving castle town during the Edo period (1603-1868), the remnant of which can still be seen everywhere in the city. Surrounded by water, as is called “a city of water,” and blessed with an abundance of beautiful natural scenery including Lake Shinji, Matsue was designated as an International Culture and Sightseeing City.
The Suigo Festival, first held in 1929, is a representative festival of this city of water. A diverse range of events are held, including the main event of the spectacular fireworks display over the lake and the Soriko boat race. Although the festival was discontinued during World War II, it was renewed and revived with the present name in 1987 and has been enjoyed by a lot of tourists from inside and outside the prefecture every year.
The festival is culminated with the fireworks display, in which more than 9,000 fireworks are shot up over Lake Shinji. The most impressive ones are the simultaneous shooting of the two fireworks from the two boats on in the lake and the slant shooting of Starmines, which gorgeously bloom up in the sky over the city of water.
Sakaenokuni festival is held on the 1st Saturday and Sunday in the area around Saga Castle in Saga City, Saga Prefecture. The festival was first held as Star Festival of the local shopping streets in 1962, which was changed its form into Noryo (summer evening) Saga Festival in 1972 and then was assumed the present name in 1990. Changing its names, it has developed into the biggest citizen festival that features a variety of events, which everyone can join and enjoy.
During the two-day festival period, the dancing parade “Yosakoi Saga” is held, in which over 50 dancing teams from both inside and outside the prefecture participate and show off their own styles of Yosakoi dances. At the plaza called “Omatsuri Hiroba,” many shops including outdoor café and street venders’ stalls are bustled with people.
Many events such as Star Festival, the eve events and the fireworks display are held on the first day. The second day starts with the parade of the distinctively designed mikoshi, which followed by various events and culminated with the So-odori dancing parade, in which more than 3,000 citizens participate and enjoy dancing.
Handa City located in the center of Chita Peninsula in the south of Aichi Prefecture had been a flourishing port town since the Edo period (1603-1868). Storehouses along the canal are still in use today and make a fine townscape.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City from early in March to late in May every year, and Handa Dashi Festival is held in October once every 5 years, gathering 31 valiant floats in the city at one place.
The 1st Handa Dashi Festival was held in May in 1979, and then the 2nd was held in 1987 as the 50th anniversary event of the city. Since then the festival has been held in October once every 5 years to this day.
Decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings, the floats valiantly march throughout the city, heading for the festival site. The scene of the all 31 floats gathering at one place is overwhelmingly impressive.
Many other fascinating events such as the folk performing art show, the citizens’ parade and the local product fair are held all through the city. During the two-day festival period, the whole town is filled with enthusiastic festival mood under the autumn sky.
Mt. Nonodake in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture has been known as the holy mountain since the ancient times. Nonodake Hakusan Festival with a history of more than 1,000 years is performed gracefully with the traditional ritual at Konpoji Temple at the top of the mountain. The festival is continued for about 1 month from New Year’s Day to the end of January.
The most attractive event during the festival period is the Oyumi (the sacred archery) ritual performed on the 4th Sunday of January. After the prayer for a rich harvest is offered, the rice cake called “Oshitogiage” is dedicated to Hakusan Gongen. Then, assisted by the priests, two Chigo (young boy acolytes) wearing Eboshi hats and Hitatare garments shoot twelve arrows that represent twelve months of the year. This is an augury for the climate and harvest of the year. If an arrow hits the mark, they will have a good weather, and if an arrow misses the mark, they will have a strong wind. The archery augury by the cute boys gets a favorable reputation that it is accurate.