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Update: June 10, 2013

Nagahama Hikiyama Festivals

Nagahama Hikiyama Festivals

Nagahama Hikiyama Festivals

The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival, one of the Three Great Float Festivals of Japan, was designated a national Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1979. It is said to have its roots in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), when upon the birth of his first son, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Lord of Nagahama Castle, gave money to the townspeople in celebration. The townspeople then used this money to build twelve hikiyama floats to celebrate at Hachiman Shrine. Since the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868), float teams in this annual celebration have vied against each other to create the most beautiful float by continually remodeling their float and by adding lavish decorations such as fine woolen tapestries. Many of the hikiyama in use today were built in the Edo period. Housing a kabuki stage and dressing room on the first story and a pavilion on the second story, they are roughly three meters wide, seven meters long, seven meters tall, and have gabled roofs. Out of the twelve hikiyama with stages, four (the debanyama), plus the differently constructed Naginatayama float, are chosen to parade the streets during the festival every year. Notable among the float decorations are two Gobelin tapestries woven in Belgium 400 years ago: one depicting a lady and her three attendants (Hououzan kazariketsuzuri) and the other a group of soldiers brandishing spears (Okinazan kazariketsuzuri). These tapestries are registered national Important Cultural Properties. The highlight of the festival is the Kodomo (Children’s) Kabuki, performed on the floats by boy actors dressed as adults to the enthusiastic applause of onlookers. These wheeled kabuki performances, for which the children begin rehearsing for in the winter, are remarkable for how completely the actors devote themselves to their roles. The festival begins on April 9 with an offering of incense and four days of shrine visits by the young kabuki actors. On April 13 the float order is determined by lottery, after which kabuki can be seen throughout the town until April 16. Celebratory performances, culminating with enchanting evening shows on the assembled lantern-adorned hikiyama, are also held throughout the day on April 15 at Hachiman Shrine. In 2010, all twelve hikiyama participated in the festival to celebrate the merging of Nagahama and six nearby towns.

Important Cultural Properties of Japan

The Hououzan kazariketsuzuri and Okinazan kazariketsuzuri Gobelin tapestries

Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan

Nagahama Hikiyama Festival

Festival Schedule

Offering of incense and ahrine visits (Hadaka mairi)
April 9, 10, 11, and 12
From 20:00

Children's Kabuki
April 13, 14, 15, and 16
From 7:00 to 21:00