Laugh your Heart Out at This Laughter Festival in Wakayama in October 2017!

  • WAKAYAMA
  • EVENT
  • They say laughter is the best medicine. In every country in the world, laughter and comedy are celebrated in different ways, and Japan is no exception. In Japan, people say that laughter is so powerful that it can cheer up the gods!

    The Warai Festival, held in the town of Hidakagawa in Wakayama Prefecture, is a traditional event with a long history in Japan and is a unique experience you should not miss. Read on to find out about this fabulous festival of laughter that will make even the gods happy!

    History

    There are seven major traditional festivals in Japan which include laughter as part of their ritual performances. One of these festivals is the Warai Festival of the Nyu Shrine (sometimes spelled Niu Shrine) in Hidakagawa, Wakayama Prefecture. The Nyu Shrine was established in 1909 during the Meiji Restoration, after the unification of the many Shinto shrines in the Nyu village.

    The Warai Festival is celebrated yearly in October on the Sunday following the National Athletic Holiday, and in 2017 it will be held on the 8th October. Sometimes called Warai Matsuri or Nyu Festival, the festival traces its origins to a legend. Every October, it is said that gods used to gather in Izumo. However, the goddess Niutsu Hime no Mikoto always overslept and arrived late to the gathering. She was laughed at by the other gods, and so she hid at the Nyu Shrine. To raise her spirits, the people laughed outside the shrine until she eventually came out. The Warai Festival celebrates this legend and is designated as a Prefectural Cultural Heritage.

    Activities

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    The day-long festival begins with a parade led by the festival leader called the Suzu Furi (Bell Jingler). Dressed up in a clown-like costume with a bell in his right hand and a treasure box in his left hand, the Suzu Furi leads the parade with the ‘Warai Otoko’ (laughing men). These are men in traditional costume carrying twelve different kinds of autumn crops skewered on sticks. These crops are given as offerings at the Nyu Shrine with prayers and gratitude for a good harvest. The ritual ends with laughter done in unison, replicating what the townspeople did for the goddess in the legend that prompted the Warai Festival.

    A mikoshi (portable shrine) is a main part of the parade, being carried through the streets. There is also a tradition called ‘yotsudaiko’ where four boys play drums on top of a wooden float, and ‘nobori sashi’ which involves people balancing bamboo banners. Impressive folk dances and lion dances are also performed during the festival!

    Hidakagawa

    The town of Hidakagawa is also known as the home of the Dojoji Temple. Built in 701, the temple holds one of the oldest statues of the Thousand-armed Buddhist Saint Kannon as well as other relics designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The Dojoji Temple is also the setting of some well-known Noh Theatre Productions as well as the Tale of Anchin and Kiyohime.

    The Yoo-hoo Point is another must-visit if you are in Hidakagawa. This is a place said to produce the best echo in Japan! If you shout, your echo will return three seconds later!

    The longest wisteria trail can also be found in the Miyama no Sato forest park in Hidakagawa. You can see the Wisteria flowers in bloom during the Wisteria Festival held from the end of April to early May. Go up to the observation deck to see the Tsubayama Dam, the largest in the prefecture, and admire the scenic mountains of Wakayama.

    How to Get There

    Hidakagawa can be reached by train from Wasa Station on the JR West Kisei Main Line, specifically the Kinokuni Line between Shingu Station and Wakayama Station. Wasa Station is sometimes called the “Nobody Station” due to the relatively small average number of passengers who use the station every day.

    Experience the infectious power of laughter and be amazed at the wonderful Wakayama Warai Festival. Enjoy this unique festival brimming with dancing, singing, and laughter for everyone!

    Wakayama Warai Festival Website

    Would you like to stay in Wakayama? Check out all the hotels in the area here!