Oct 012012
Kitano Tenmangu Zuiki Matsuri

“So how about decorating mikoshi shrine with vegetables and fruits?” – might be what a young priest in Kitano Tenmangu shrine answered to his superior back in 9th century, when being asked “Think something up to get people to our festival.”

Sep 252012
Dazaifu Tenjin Matsuri

Sugawara Michizane was a prominent poet and politician in 9-th century Japan. Due to intrigues by rival Fujiwara clan, he was demoted of his court rank by the Emperor and appointed a minor post in Dazaifu on Kyushu.

In October, in Dazaifu, a festival commemorating Sugawara takes place.

Aug 012012
Sumiyoshi Matsuri in Osaka

Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the most important Japanese shrines. Though nowadays it lies in the boundaries of Osaka city, historically it has been more connected to the city of Sakai.The name of the latter means “the border,” and comes from the meeting point of three provinces.

During Sumiyoshi Festival, participants cross another border. They ford the Yamato River carrying a portable shrine mikoshi on their shoulders.

Jul 252012
Osaka Tenjin Matsuri - one of the three biggest Japanese festivals

What I have found distinctive in Tenjin Matsuri, in Osaka, is its drummers’ performance. Despite colorful attire, the rhythm and chants are gloomy and dark. Like other similar activities, they originally were intended to fend off calamities and illnesses.

In the evening, the taiko drum, portable shrine mikoshi, and festival car danjiri are all placed on boats and take part a ship parade.

Jul 242012
Gion Matsuri – Hanagasa Parade

Hana means “flower” in Japanese. Kasa means “an umbrella” but also a large straw hat, which protects from sun or rain.

In the Hanagasa Parade during the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, we can see both: large umbrellas and hats decorated with flowers. There is also a real treat for photographers and tourists – maiko – geisha apprentices all grouped together in a cart pulled by young men.

May 172012
Asakusa Sanja Matsuri

Probably the largest and most popular traditional festival in Tokyo – Sanja Matsuri – takes place in May.

Three mikoshi – portable shrines – are carried by a huge crowd to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

They commemorate two fishermen who found the statue of Kannon goddess and the statue itself.

May 152012
Mifune Matsuri – boat festival Heian-style

In a beautiful scenery of Arashiyama, a place in western Kyoto, a colorful festival takes place in the middle of May.

After religious ceremonies in Kurumazaki Jinja, the deity of the shrine is transferred to a boat. Then guests on other boats approach and pay homage. Musicians and artists in historical costumes from Heian period, perform dances and stage poetry competitions.