Autumn

Exciting Katsugi-Mandō Festival 2018 at the Shōwa Village in Gunma

Erica.I

Writer

Ever experience an urge to see people battling with the huge torch? Want to experience the festival not widely known to people, not even to people in Japan? Then you must see the unique and one of a kind Katsugi-Mandō at the Suwa festival, held at Shōwa village in Gunma prefecture!

Image courtesy of http://gunma-dc.net/

History of Suwa Festival and “Katsugi-Mandō”

The Suwa festival started in the Edo period (1603-1868) as a harvest festival worshipping the Suwa Daimyōjin – the God of sericulture. Even though the details of the birth of Katsugi-Mandō part of the festival are not clear, according to one the story, it started as the homage to the floats parade at the Gion Festival (festival dating back to 9C!) in Kyoto. The part with the Katsugi-Mandōs is called “Nana kai meguri” (roughly translates to “seven times rotation”) and is the grand finale of the Suwa Festival.

Image courtesy of: http://gunma-dc.net/

What is “Katsugi-Mandō”?

The “Katsugi” means “to carry”, and “Mandō” is a name for a flaming torch, which was used during the Buddhist festivals (the Chinese character “万灯” literary means “thousands of lights”). In the Katsugi-Mandō’s case, these torch shaped objects are made of samurai dolls and other decorations that children seemed fit. These Mandōs are made by local middle school boys and are as tall as 3m (over 9 ft), weight about 40kg (over 88lbs), and it takes about a month to make it. These Mandōs are then carried around during the festival finale by several middle schoolers.
[From left: Samurai doll of Naoe Kanetsugu (1560-1620), Oda Nubunaga (1534-1582), and Sanada Yukimura (1567-1615), all famous Samurais in Japan>]

What Do People Do with Katsugi-Mandōs?

The first Katsugi-Mandōs were so heavy that the local adults were carrying them or rather pulled them, and it was called “Hiki-Mandō”(hiki=pull)), but as the time passed, children were entrusted with the responsibility of making and carrying these Mandōs. Since the first Katsugi-Mandōs in the mid 19C were made by the local middle school boys, that tradition has been passed down and only the local middle school boys participate in creating the Mandōs.

At the finale of the Suwa Festival, Katsugi-Mandos are carried around the wooden platform with the music. Then, children will start hitting other Mandōs with their own Mandōs. (Each Mandō is carried by one boy, so sometimes they just accidentally drop them on the ground. But other kids running around the platform with Mandōs help them up)

While You’re Enjoying Watching the Katsugi-Mandōs…

Why not check out the other activities at Suwa festival? There are parades by the local groups and traditional Japanese music too! There is one festival with huge parade floats in the nearby town – Shimonita town as well. Just don’t confuse the Suwa festival with other Suwa Festivals, since there are many Suwa festivals that worship the Suwa Daimyōjin all around Japan! (Though, other festivals are pretty awesome too)

Details and Access

Where and When

Kawahake shrine (September 28th-29th) and Omori shrine (September 30th and October 1st). Same dates every year.

Address

Kawahake Shrine: 1007 Kawahake, Showa, Tone District, Gunma Prefecture
Omori Shrine: Morishita, Showa, Tone District, Gunma Prefecture

Fee

None

Access

Take the bullet train (Hokuriku Shinkansen or Joestu Shinkansen) from Tokyo station to Takasaki station for about an hour, or take the Ueno-Tokyo line bound for Takasaki, which will take about 2 hours, then take the JR Joetsu line bound for Minakami station, get off at Iwamoto station.
30 mins walk from JR Iwamoto Station (or take a taxi).
*there is a station named “Iwamoto-cho” in Tokyo as well. Make sure you’re headed to the Iwamoto station in Gunma, and not the one in Tokyo!

Closing Remarks

There are many less known festivals in Japan. Come and see what they have to offer and experience the excitement from the first hands! I’m sure that this small festival will stay in your mind for a very long time!
If you’re you are coming to Japan for the first time, do not fret! Just visit Huber. website and start looking for a local guide and a future friend! Please click on the banner below!

Discover Tokyo’s Festivals Every Month

If you look at Tokyo from another angle, you will figure out that this is a city of festivals. Each part of the town has a local community with its traditions. And for Japanese people, it is essential to keep a sense of their community. Thus, you can see plenty of festivals almost every week in different parts of Tokyo. The following article will provide you with the best Tokyo festivals each month of the year!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5852/

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Erica.I

Things I can't live without: Roaming inside a bookstore, cats/dogs, tea, comfy chairs, British period drama... and more books!

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