Whenever we sleep, we usually have a dream or two, perhaps even more. Sometimes we remember them, sometimes we don’t. If you do remember your dreams, what do you think they mean? In Japan, what started as a dream became a treasured tradition. Let’s find out more about the Miya Festival!
Miya Festival is held in Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture every third Saturday and Sunday of October. This 2017, it will be celebrated on October 21 and 22.
The festival traces its roots to the year 1696 when Sazaemon, mayor of Miya, which is now part of Gamagori City, dreamt that Yatsurugi-Daimyojin, the main god of Yatsurugi Shrine, moved to Wakamiya Shrine. Believing that the dream was a message from the god, a ceremony was held to move him. This served as the beginning of what soon became a yearly tradition for the city. The Miya Festival, also called Miya Matsuri, is a designated Intangible Cultural Heritage of Gamagori.
On the first day of the festival, four dashi floats (also called “yama”) are assembled in front of Yatsurugi Shrine. To the music of the flute and other traditional instruments, children and adults dressed in colorful costumes offer dance performances to the shrine.
On the second day, the dashi floats are transported from Yatsurugi Shrine to Wakamiya Shrine. Yatsurugi Shrine is sometimes referred to as the town’s “Nishi no Miya” or West Shrine, while the Wakamiya Shrine is referred to as “Higashi no Miya” or East Shrine.
The dashi float is different from the mikoshi portable shrine usually used in festivals. Mikoshi is primarily used to transport a deity. On the other hand, dashi floats are designed to resemble the mountains where gods are believed to reside. Aside from being decorative, dashi floats are large enough to hold people who are meant to welcome the god. The dashi floats of the Miya Festival are designated Tangible Cultural Assets of Gamagori City.
The festival’s highlight is the Kaichu Togyo where the gorgeous dashi floats are paraded in the shallow waters of Mikawa Bay. Witness the endurance of the men called “ujiko” as they pull the floats up to 400 meters from the shore before going to Wakamiya Shrine. These men loudly shout “Wasshoi!” to encourage each other as they carry the dashi floats. Around 200 men pull the floats in the waters from 10:45 AM and it lasts for about 15 minutes. This practice began in 1996 when the festival celebrated its 300th anniversary.
The coastal city of Gamagori is one of the 38 cities in Aichi. Feel the Japanese hospitality “omotenashi” at their four onsen (hot springs) districts: Miya Onsen Spot, Gamagori Onsen Spot, Katahara Onsen Spot, and Nishiura Onsen Spot. Make sure to have a taste of the city’s gourmet delicacies and bring home souvenirs that can only be found in Gamagori.
From Tokyo, Gamagori is accessible by train. The fastest route takes around 90 minutes by taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Toyohashi Station. From Toyohashi Station, take the train bound for Ogaki and alight at Mikawa Miya Station on the JR Tokaido Line. Yatsurugi Shrine is just a few minutes’ walk from this station.
Experience the spectacular festival of Gamagori City this autumn! Cheer the ujiko men on as they carry the dashi floats and keep their city’s tradition and culture alive.