According to history, the Danjiri Matsuri (float festival) was held in the 16th year of the Genroku era in 1703. It was started by the Daimyo of Kishiwada, Okabe Nagayasu, when he prayed to Shinto gods for abundant harvest.
Start: September 15, 2012
End: September 16, 2012
During the festival, castle gates were opened, letting in the people and several groups with their floats. “Danjiri,” originally meaning “festival float adorned with various types of decorations,” are still made of keyaki (zelkova) wood, and built without the use of a single nail. Approximately 3.8 meters high, 4 meters long and 2.5 meters wide and weighing in at 4 tons, the danjiri today are more than sturdy enough to hold the festival participants that ride on its back chanting the lively festival music known as hayashi. Each Danjiri pulling team staged various high-spirited performances as they enter the gates.
The festival is actually divided into two: the first one is held in September and the most famous of the two, while the second one is held in October, which is less famous but involves more Danjiri. The September festival is also divided in two, with the Kishiwada danjiri running from the Nankai line, around the castle down to the seaside. The other September festival is held at Haruki Town and centers around Nankai Haruki Station line. Meanwhile, the towns between the Nankai line and the mountains hold their own Danjiri Festivals in October. These involve 47 Danjiri and centre around the JR stations of Kumeda, Shimomatsu and Higashi-Kishiwada.
Pulling floats as a group can be a hard task. But it sounds definitely exciting. The parade starts with the Hiki-dashi (Opening pull) which is the opening of the festival. Danjiri teams start a mad dash around the streets of Kishiwada at the sound of siren at exactly 6 in the morning.
According to participants, Yari-mawashi (Corner turning) is one of the most dramatic elements of the festival. Working both front and back levers together, Danjiri teams skid their floats around each street corner, an action that is done quickly with the sound of drums and shouts of the pulling team. It’s like dragon boat rowing, only held on the street and instead of rowing, you’re pushing and pulling the float to get to the destination.
The most visible team member of the Danjiri team called the Daiku-gata (Carpenters) will step on top of the float and do his own style of performance. The most famous gesture is the Hikoki-nori (Airplane dance) in which the performer spreads out his arms wide standing on one foot.
Visitors will admire the decorations of each Danjiri, most of which are adorned with intricate wood carvings or Horimono which depict celebrated battles in ancient Japan.
After the parade and dance, the Danjiris divide into three groups the next morning to say their prayers at three major Shinto shrines in the area. This gesture is called the Miya-iri. The festival doesn’t end there though. The Danjiris in the evening light up the streets with brilliant red lanterns as the slow procession starts along the main parade route.
Visitors may also visit the Kishiwada Danjiri Museum, located in Kishiwada city. It was opened on September 1, 1993 and features a state-of-the-art video system which shows previous Danjiri festivals and floats. Another place of interest is the row of traditional houses in Hommachi, a part of Kishiwada which extends 500 meters north to south and 200 meters east to west on the old Kishu Kaido highway.
Photos by Marisoleta via Flickr Creative Commons