Katsuyama Sagicho is a unique festival held in Katsuyama city of Fukui prefecture in the last weekend of February to welcome spring. Let’s learn more about this fun-filled Japanese festival.
Katsuyama Sagicho is a 300-year-old festival started during the Ogasawara reign in the area. During the festival, 12 two-story wooden structures called ‘Sagicho Yagura’ with their ‘irimoya’ i.e., half ripped roofs with gables or ‘kirizuma’ which have two sides connecting to a ridge are constructed. Men and women dressed in red dance to shamisen, flutes and taiko drums cheerfully. A taiko is usually played by three men on the second floor of the yagura; one person strikes a monotonous rhythmic beat while the second strikes with dance-like movements and the third sits on the taiko to dampen the sound. This kind of performance is not found anywhere else and is unique to the festival. The first floor of the yagura is just a storage room and acts as a base for the taiko players. Out of the 12 yaguras, 3 are designated as tangible cultural property. The Yagura procession looks especially captivating in the night with lights.
During the Katsuyama Sagicho festival, paper lanterns called ‘Tsuji-andon’ with pictures and poems are hung near the yagura. Right from one week before the start of the festival, the streets of Katsuyama city are decorated with ‘tanzaku’ ( long narrow bits of colorful papers). Also, witty art objects made of household items and wood are created and displayed. And finally, the festival ends with burning up of all decorations called ‘dondo-yaki’.
Dondo-yaki is a ceremonial bonfire used to pray for a good harvest of crops. The burning of ‘go-shintai’ , a square structure of bamboo or pine wood takes place at the Benten river bed, famous for its cherry blossom viewing. Sacred fire from the Shinmei shrine is used to light up the go-shintai. This tradition is called ‘Go-jinka Okuri’. The fires lit up continue until the next morning when people come and roast rice cakes over the embers. The rice cakes are to be eaten for good health. This after-fire celebration is called ‘Ato-moyashi’.
Celebrate the Katsuyama Sagicho festival in the end of February (February 27th and 28th for 2016) and hear the spring knocking on our doors. This is a unique festival of its kind and is fun to celebrate with everyone.
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