This festival you see is Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival). Matsuri means a ritual for worshipping gods or Buddha or an event held in gratitude towards nature.

There are up to 300,000 festivals throughout Japan. Festivals have many meanings. These festivals are mixed with a diversity of folk and are invariably held in any regions in Japan where there is a shrine. There are many festivals in the fall as a show of thanks for the year’s harvest.

This series of photographs was taken during a festival in the Iwado area where the mighty warrior Akimoto Nizaemon, a local, won the sumo-wrestling contest in 1558 at Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu. Reportedly he was allowed as the winning prize the Hachiman shrine of Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu which he brought back to Iwado village. That local shrine was rebuilt in 1952.

During a festival a Mikoshi is used. Mikoshi is a portable shrine in which the spirit of a deity is carried on the shoulders of bearers. Often portable shrines are paraded through the town. Some Mikoshi are very old and some newly made. The cost to produce a new Mikoshi is paid by donations from residents and companies in the area. A new Mikoshi was made several years ago in the area where I live. The name of shrine is IZUMI – JINJA and it cost more than 10 million Yen, around $9000 US Dollars.

Shrines are dedicated to the religion of Japan-Shintoism. Japanese visit the shines for many reasons, when building a new house, having a baby, getting married, asking for some help, praying for their happiness. Shintoism began as a religion worshipping the gods of nature. During a festival floats serve as ritual vessels to ferry deities through neighbourhoods where waiting parishioners offer up prayers to secure good fortune, ward off disaster or to ensure a bountiful harvest. Each of the regional events center on float processions including the famous Yamahoko of Kyoto’s Gion Festival and the thrilling Oiyama Race of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival in Fukuoka. Our local fall festival is held on the first Sunday in October and is run by around 200 people from the neighbourhood. It is a wonderful day for the community to celebrate together. 

Written by Midori Nakamoto