Takayama Spring and Fall Festivals, Truly Enchanting Cultural Events

Takayama Spring and Fall Festivals, Truly Enchanting Cultural Events

Takayama festivals are held annually in Takayama city, Japan. The Spring Takayama Festival is also known as Sanno Festival, due to its apparent relation to the Hie Shrine(also known as “Sanno Shrine”) which was originally built in 1141. The Autumn Takayama Festival, on the other hand, focuses on the Hachiman Shrine. People in Takayama region worship this shrine in gratitude and reverence for a good harvest each year. Two festivals are held each year: one, on the 14th or 15th of April and another, on the 9th and 10th of October.

Preparations for the Festival

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Each of these festivals require about a dozen of festival floats which are called “yatai” in Japanese. These floats are tall and heavily decorated with embroidered drapery. They were designed back in the 17th century and are roamed around the city at night. The style of the floats’ intricate carving is similar to the style of art in Kyoto during the Momoyama period. During the festival day, before dusk, the yatai are already lined up for the parade.

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When the night comes, the floats are lit up with as many as 100 chochin lanterns. These are traditional forms of illumination in Japan. And as the floats proceed through the town, they fascinate people by the breathtaking scenery they create. These floats are wheeled around by people in traditional clothing. Each of these floats represents a district of Takayama.

The Puppets

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Apart from the gorgeously decorated floats, there is another cultural asset in the form of puppets or marionettes in the festival. They are usually made of wood, silk and brocade or embroidered cloth. Manipulating the puppets requires a special skill. You have to operate them by strings and rods from within the yatai. Let’s say, for example, the three marionettes of Hotei Tai require 9 puppet masters to manipulate the total 36 strings! They have to make sure the puppets move in a lifelike manner.

This festival can be an exciting experience for many local and foreign people. It is also one of the best ways to truly appreciate the unique Japanese culture!

Takayama City Guide

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