Tomorrow I get to go to one of the 3 most spectacular Gion Festivals in Japan. (The other 2 take place in Kyoto, and Fukuoka, if you were wondering!)
Aizu-Tajima Gion Festival is an annual shinto celebration which takes place on July 22nd, 23rd and 24th.
For 800 years, gion festivals have been an important chance to ensure that local people will be free from disease, natural disasters, and danger for the coming year. Offerings are made to the gods whilst local people pray for safety and a year of rewarding personal encounters.
People from all over the country come to view – and take part – in this fantastic festival, so I am very excited to be able to go this weekend. I’m really looking forward to seeing the festival with my own eyes, taking photos and learning about how local people celebrate.
Here are a few of the highlights of the festival that I have found from my research.
Tajima is made up of 4 main areas, each of which has its own festival float (called yatai in Japanese).
These festival floats are paraded through the streets at a number of occasions during the 3-day festival.
In days of old, men from different areas of the town used to get into competitive fights, often causing serious injury to each other! Luckily, it has become a bit safer in recent years!
All participants want to show their neighbours how proud they are of their district, so the performers on each float try their hardest to make their district proud!
During the evening of July 22nd and 23rd, local children perform kabuki, a style of Japanese theatre, atop yatai festival floats. Each kabuki performance is around 8 minutes long. Children perform on top of the yatai float from their own area of the town, exchanging places with other kids after their performance has finished, so everyone gets a go.
30 women dressed in traditional bridal kimono make a silent procession through the streets of Tajima early on the morning of July 23rd.
They are joined by men wearing kamishimo, a type of ceremonial dress that the warrior-class wore in the Edo period.
During the procession 7 (nana) offerings (hokai) are brought to the town’s shrine. The offerings include 3 casks of sake (referred to as doburoku), 3 plates of rice mixed with red bean, and 1 platter of fish. The location of this procession changes every year, but it always finishes in front of the shrine.
Information on the schedule of the festival is a little difficult to find in English. If I receive any English pamphlets over the weekend, I will definitely try and upload it.
By car: 1 hour by car from Aizu Wakamatsu, 2 hours from Fukushima City, 1 hour 44 minutes from Koriyama
From Asakusa, take the Revaty train to Aizu-Tajima Station (Takes around 3 hours 15 minutes)
From Aizu-Wakamatsu, take the Aizu Tetsudo Line from Aizu Wakamatsu Station to Aizu-Tajima Station (Takes around 75 minutes). The festival is a short walk from the station.
That’s all for today! I’ll update you on my weekend in Tajima next week!!
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