Traditional dances, folk music, and a parade of portable shrines or decorative floats are common to most festivals in Japan. However, in Aichi, a martial art form takes center stage in one festival. Be amazed by a masterful performance of martial arts in the Sanage Festival!
The Sanage Festival or Sanage Matsuri (猿投まつり) is held annually at Sanage Shrine (猿投神社) in Toyota City (豊田市), Aichi Prefecture (愛知県) every second Saturday and Sunday of October. In 2017, the Sanage Festival will be held on October 7 and 8.
The festival traces its origins to a time when practitioners from 186 villages of the Mikawa, Owari, and Mino regions gathered to celebrate at the shrine. This usually led to disputes, making the festival known by another name – Kenka Matsuri or Brawling Festival. The Sanage Festival is a designated Intangible Cultural Asset of Aichi.
Sanage Shrine is said to have been founded in the year 192 during the reign of Emperor Chuai. It enshrines Osu no Mikoto who, according to the shrine records, died on Mt. Sanage from a snake bite. His grave can be found near the mountain summit. Osu no Mikoto was known to be left-handed so a left-handed scythe is also enshrined at Sanage. Sanage Shrine includes three shrines with its main shrine at the foot of Mt. Sanage, and the east and west shrines located in the east and west peaks of the mountain, respectively. Together they are called Sanage Sanja Daimyojin.
On the first day of Sanage Festival, the Shiraku Sai (試楽祭) or Rehearsal Festival is held. Rituals are done at the shrine and portable shrines are paraded.
The Hongaku Sai (本楽祭) or Main Festival is held on the second day of the Sanage Festival. Its highlight is the Bo-no-Te (棒の手) which is a martial art form. While it is also performed in other festivals in Aichi, the skill of practitioners in the Sanage Festival sets them apart. Literally meaning “bar hand,” a Bo-no-Te performance uses weapons such as staff, baton, sword, spear, and sickle. Bo-no-Te is offered at the Sanage Shrine in prayers for an abundant harvest.
From Nagoya Station (名古屋駅) on the JR Central Line, take the train on Nagoya Municipal Subway’s Higashiyama Line bound for Fujigaoka and alight at Fushimi Station (伏見駅). Then, transfer to the Tsurumai Line bound for Toyotashi. At Akaike Station (赤池駅), take the train on the Meitetsu Toyota Line and get off at Toyotashi Station (豊田市駅). This route via train takes around 56 minutes.
From Toyotashi Station, board the Toyota Oiden Bus bound for Fujioka via Kano and alight at Sanage Jinja Mae (猿投神社前). Sanage Shrine is within a 3-minute walk from this stop. The bus ride takes around 25 minutes.
Walk past the main Sanage Shrine and discover the wonders of nature that is its home. With an altitude of 629 meters above sea level, Mt. Sanage (猿投山) is a popular hiking spot in Aichi. The Toyota International Association’s Travelers’ Guide provides a good reference if you decide to hike up Mt. Sanage. It includes a transportation guide, suggested clothing and things to bring, suggested hike itinerary, and other basic information.
Enjoy the unique Sanage Festival featuring the best practitioners of Bo-no-Te! And while you’re at it, why not make the most out of your visit by dropping by Mt. Sanage as well?