Kurikoma Dashi (Float) Festival is held on the last weekend of July every year in Kurikoma in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is an attractive festival that tells coming of summer. It originates in the festival held to pray for a rich harvest about 300 years ago, when the area was under the rule of the Date clan.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, some of the floats parade through the town, while the Bird Dance by elementary school children, the Teodori Dance by 300 women and Monji-Jinku, the distinctive combination of folk song and dancing, are performed all over the town.
On the main festival day on Sunday, Ohayashi music performance is held at the festival center early in the afternoon. Then the 10 festival floats altogether start for the parade all through the town.
The floats are about 4 m tall and decorated with colorful ornaments. Each float is carrying a huge colorful doll of popular figure such as Miyamoto Musashi, Kaguyahime and Matsuo Basho. The dolls are designed to move mechanically. The town receives about 30,000 tourists for the two-day festival period every year.
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.
Toyoma Fall Festival is held on the 3rd weekend of September every year in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. It has been handed down for over 300 years, serving as the annual festival of Toyoma Shrine, which houses the guardian god of the town.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, archery rituals such as the Hikime ritual to drive away evils by shooting arrows and the Oomato (big target) ceremony are dedicated to the god. From 5:00 in the evening, Toyoma Takigi-Noh (Noh by the light of torches), a prefecturally designated folk cultural property, is performed at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum.
On the main festival day on Sunday, the parade of about 13 festival floats, warriors, the beautiful women Yosakoi dancers and Chigo (young children in ancient costumes) go through the town to the music of Toyoma-bayashi played by children. The floats are handmade and pulled by the members of sub-town associations. About 13 floats participate in the parade every year. Each float is decorated with a huge paper-mache doll such as a fierce tiger, a bubbling crab, or the characters from “Journey to the West.” Everyone in town enjoys this biggest event of the fall.
Ome Taisai, or Ome Grand Festival, is held in Ome City, Tokyo on May 2 and 3 every year. It is one of the largest traditional festivals in the Kanto region. After the Shinto ritual performed at Sumiyoshi Shrine in the city on April 28, twelve festival floats go along the Ome Kaido Avenue on parade. In the Edo period (1603-1868), mikoshi (portable shrines) were carried through the town, but later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), some local communities that organized the festival bought the floats, which had been used for the famous Tenka Festival in Chiyoda City, Tokyo.
The highlight of the festival is “seriai,” an aggressive performance shown by floats as they go by each other on a parade. The excitement comes to its peak as characteristic “kenka-bayashi,” in which ohayashi musicians on the floats compete with each other by beating Japanese drums and bells passionately. During the festival period, the entire city is filled with a festival atmosphere.
Hokkaido Jingu Shrine located in Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City is one of the major shrines in Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Okunitama no Kami, Onamuchi no Kami, Sukunahikona no Kami and Emperor Meiji. It was founded in 1869, when the Meiji government decided to set on the development of the land in Hokkaido and they enshrined the three deities to guard the land. In 1871, the name of this new shrine was decided as Sapporo Shrine and the construction of the buildings started. Since then the shrine has been worshipped as the guardian god of Hokkaido as well as the family god of the people living in this island. In 1964, Emperor Meiji was enshrined together and it changed the name to Hokkaido Jingu Shrine.
The precinct is known as a cherry blossom viewing spot. On the annual festival day in June, mikoshi and floats with ohayashi musicians parade in the city. The shrine is selected as “the New Ichinomiya Shrine of Ezo Province (literally meaning “a modern version of the first shrine of Ezo province)” by a civilian shrine pilgrimage group named Zenkoku Ichinomiya-Kai.
Hishio Festival held in early May at Kamizaki Shrine in the Kamezaki district of Handa City, Aichi Prefecture, has a long history. One theory states that it dates back to the late 15th century, but its origin is unknown. It is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Five festival floats, all of which were constructed in the late Edo period (the 19th century), are pulled down to the beach in front of the shrine when the tide ebbs, which originates in the legend that the enshrined deity landed on this village from the sea; hereby it was named “Hishio,” meaning “low tide.”
The floats are then pulled up to the bank of the beach and stand closely side by side. The line of gorgeously decorated floats looks very impressive. After the Karakuri doll performance, which is solely seen in the areas around Chita Peninsula, is done on the upper story of the floats, they are pulled around the town.
As the wheels of the floats are removed and buried in the sand of the beach after the festival to prevent corrosion, the preparation of the festival starts with digging them out, which is followed by assembling of the floats, Ohayashi music practice, and so on. It takes more than one month to prepare for the festival.
Nakano Shrine is located in Nakano, Tsukui-cho, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Mihosusumi no Mikoto, Toyoukehime no Mikoto and Takuhata Chijime no Mikoto. It is said that the shrine was founded in 835 and restored in 1571. The main hall is made of Japanese cypress wood and decorated with relief carvings. The shrine is known for its annual festival with a history of 300 years, which is held on the 4th weekend of July every year. In this festival, six floats march in the town with a portable shrine. The competition of the floats carrying Oayashi musicians on the stages is very powerful. On New Year’s Day, visitors can experience “Chinowa Kuguri,” in which sins and dirtiness are expelled by walking through a large ring made of thatch. Though old, Nakano Shrine is still visited by a lot of local worshippers today.
The city of Chiryu in Aichi Prefecture was the 39th of 53 post stations on the Old Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). Chiryu Festival is held at Chiryu Shrine from May 2 to 3; Hon-matsuri (the main festival) and Ai-matsuri (the interval festival) are held alternately once every two years.
The main festival is famous for Bunraku and Karakuri performance and the parade of the gorgeous five festival floats, each of which is about 7 meter tall and 5 tons in weight and owned by the town within the city. The techniques of operating Karakuri dolls have been handed down since the Edo Period (1603-1868). Bunraku and Karakuri art is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
In the interval festival, the pretty floats decorated with colorful flowers and the children in Yakko (men servants of daimyo) costume parade through the city.