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Taiko, Japanese drum, and Mikoshi, portable shrine, are the symbols of Japanese festivals. Furukawa festival is a traditional event in Hida city, Gifu Prefecture, which has continued for a long time. At this festivity, you will see the parades of portable shrines and wonderful Taiko performances by people wearing Japanese summer festival clothes – Happi. If you want to see the dynamic Japanese Taiko and mikoshi that people carry, this is the event you cannot miss!
Furukawa Festival is a celebration of Keta Wakamiya shrine in Furukawa-machi, Hida city, Gifu prefecture. It takes place on the 19th and 20th of April every year. There, you will see enormous festival floats similar to those of the Takayama Festival and “Okoshi Daiko” that the participants play to start the start of the festival and the parade of portable shrines. The Furukawa festival is a national important intangible cultural asset and UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
The origin of Furukawa Festival is not clear, but according to the old documents, we can see that the first festival float appeared in 1776 and Okoshi Daiko in 1831. In the old times, the festival occurred on the 6th of August of a lunar calendar. However, because of the prevalence of an epidemic in August 1886, the festival was postponed to November. Later, the festival took place on the 16th and 17th of April as a spring festival in 1887. The festival has been held on the current dates since 1889.
Shihimai or lion dance is a traditional performing art that originated in China. Shishimai is one of the important Japanese traditional dances now. The performances are slightly different in each region. At Furukawa festival in Hida city, two shishi (lions), shishi for mikoshi parade and shishi for festival floats perform. Those lions walk around the city and visit each house as the opening performance of the festival.
Okoshi Daiko is a special event of Furukawa festival that began around 1831. It is a common thing that Taiko, Japanese drum, is played to inform people about the start of a festival across Japan. Sometimes people call it Asa Daiko, or morning Taiko. However, what special at the Furukawa festival is that this Taiko event became an independent event. People walk around the shrine from the middle of the night of April 19th to tell the public about the beginning of the Furukawa festival that happens on the following day.
The Okoshi Daiko event is impressive indeed! Special performers – Okoshi Daiko Shyuji lift the Taiko turret on their shoulders. Then, the men who sit astride on both sides of the Taiko play it by turns. Since the old times, people around this area had been called “Furukawa Yancya” because they were rough-natured. Due to this, the Taiko there has been played with the dash. In addition, you will notice these hundreds of men performing the drum play only in cotton loincloths. This makes Furukawa festival one of the most famous “Naked” festivals in Japan as well.
Dates: The 19th and 20th of April annually
“Okoshi Daiko”: 8:00 pm (April 19th) – 12:30 am (April 20th)
April 19th: 5:30 pm (assemble at 4:30 pm) – 7:00 pm
April 20th: 10:40 am (assemble at 8:00 am) – 5:30 pm (makes several stops along the way)
Place: The city center of Furukawa-machi, Hida city
Address: Furukawa-machi, Hida city, Gifu Prefecture
Official website: http://www.hida.jp/english/touristattractions/4001419/4000091.html
Access: Get off at JR Hida Furukawa station and you will find yourself at the festival venue.
Furukawa festival is one of the most popular and famous festivals in Gifu prefecture. You can not only see the portable shrines and beautiful festival floats which are common at Japanese festivals but also you will enjoy Shishimai, lion dance and Taiko, Japanese drum performances. Not only local people but also many travelers from Japan and around the world enjoy these wonderful performances in Furukawa festival in Gifu prefecture. If you want to experience Japanese traditional performing arts which you cannot see in other places, this is the event you cannot miss! I am sure you will make unforgettable memories at Furukawa festival and enjoy the unique Japanese culture.
If you would like to see this energetic festival and explore Gifu prefecture together with a friendly local guide, please check the banner below!
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Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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