Kutami Festival is held in Shinmei at the Shirahige Shrine. The festival takes place in spring when the cherry trees are in full blossom and there is a freshness in the air. The festival features six gorgeous floats that parade through the town to lively music.
The highlight of the festival is the 'thread-separating trick', which has been designated as a National Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset and a Prefectural Important Folklore Cultural Asset. The 'trick' is a kind of marionette performance. Threads are not directly linked to the 'trick', which is enacted using an original technique that differs to usual puppetry. The performance is highly valued in terms of both history and art.
This unique marionette performance changes its theme every year and may center around, for example, a folk tale, recent news, popular animation or sports. Each year presents something new and refreshing.
The Chagu-Chagu-Umako Fesival is a parade that begins at Onikoshi-souzen Shrine in Takizawa and finishes at Hachiman Shrine in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.
The festival is held on the second Saturday of June each year. About 100 local horses decorated in colorful outfits slowly parade as part of the festival.
The festival is held to pray for the safety of both people and horses, as this was traditionally a horse-breeding area. This festival goes back to feudal times when houses in the local Nanbu-Magariya style incorporated features for the excellent care of horses.
It is believed that the Chagu-Chagu-Umako Festival was originally a time to rest horses in the off-seasons, and developed into the parade seen today.
'Chagu-chagu' is the name of the bells hanging from the necks of the horses. The sound of their jingling in early summer has been selected as one of Japan's 100 scenes with sound, and has also been designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset of the nation.
Saru Mawashi in Japanese means 'monkey show' and is a street performance using a monkey.
The history of Saru Mawashi in Japan is long and dates back to its introduction from India via China. A monkey was supposed to be a guardian of a horse, which was important for samurai. Monkeys were kept in a stable and a monkey showman served generals.
'Monkey' is pronounced 'saru', which means 'leave' in Japanese. So, a monkey was believed to be able to remove your misfortune which is why they performed on New Year or at festivals all over Japan.
There are many different kinds of monkey performances because monkeys can imitate human actions like 'folding your legs under yourself', 'standing at attention' and 'reflection'. Monkeys can also do tightrope walking, pass through a ring and walk on stilts.
In 1963, the monkey show died out when the last monkey showman retired. But in 1977, the Suo Monkey Showa Association was revived and they continue to spread the show as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The Isshiki Giant Lantern Festival takes place at Suwa Shrine in Isshiki, Hazu-gun, Aichi Prefecture. The shrine was established as a branch temple of Suwa Taisha (in Nagano Prefecture) in 1564.
Back then, a monster known as Kaima used to appear and ransack the land and its crops. The villagers offered an Evil-Repressing Sword in front of their household altars and prayed for the monster to be expelled.
The monster did disappear and the ritual became an annual event. Gigantic lanterns about 4m round and 6m high are hung in rows. The people of the area form associations of 6 groups each, which compete with their lanterns. The Isshiki Giant Lantern Festival is held on August 26 and 27 every year.
Onogaku is a type of traditional performing art from Ono in Maetsuemachi, Hita, in Oita Prefecture.
Onogaku is said to have begun as a dedication or offering following a drought in 1331. It is also believed to have been performed to celebrate the birth of Hachimandai-Bosatsu (Buddhist god of protection, also known as Emperor Ojin). The exact origins, however, are still unknown.
It is believed that at first, Onogaku was performed as a dedication after drought, a period of rain or an epidemic, but its main purpose is said to be as a prayer for rain. In modern times, however, it is performed as a dedication to Uji-gami (the protective deity of a region) and Oimatsu-tenman-sha in order to wish for a good harvest of the five grains, as a cleansing of plagues and misfortune, and to celebrate the new emperor and his success to the throne. It is also designated as an intangible folk-cultural asset of Oita.
No certain date is fixed to hold Onogaku, but it is usually performed toward the end of October. More than 100 people parade and dance in Onogaku, creating an epic atmosphere that is absolutely gorgeous.
Naoshima-onna-bunraku is a form of traditional puppetry that has been designated as an intangible cultural asset of Kagawa Prefecture.
It dates back to the Edo period from its beginnings on Naoshima island in Kagawa Prefecture. Naoshima island is in the Seto Inland Sea, near Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of Japan's four main islands. Naoshima is close to Okayama Prefecture on the mainland in Honshu.
During the Edo period, the fiefdom of the lord of Naoshima (of the Takahara clan) was confiscated, falling under direct government control. The new Edo government lifted prohibitions on entertainment for the public. Entertainments thrived, including Kabuki (traditional Japanese theater where performers wear elaborate make-up) and Noh (classical Japanese drama). The Naoshima-onna-bunraku originated from a form of puppetry, at this time, called Ningyo-jyoururi, in which dolls performed to shamisen music. However, during the Meiji period, bunraku puppetry on Naoshima lost popularity and eventually died out.
However, during the Showa period, the art of Bunraku here was revived and restored by three women, and since then only women have performed Bunraku.
While playing the shamisen, three women maneuver one doll or puppet and narrate a story. Bunraku is indeed a tradition of great substance in Japanese culture.