Goldfish Lantern Festival – Enjoy a Feast of Adorable Lanterns in Yamaguchi
Do you often find yourself intrigued by mysterious tales and legends? Do you want to experience authentic and traditional Japanese culture? If so, the Miminashi Hoichi Festival in Yamaguchi Prefecture may be the experience that your Japan trip is lacking! The tale of Miminashi Hoichi – a bard who outsmarts an evil spirit but loses his ears, is a traditional Japanese fable. The Miminashi Hoichi festival is held to pay respect to Hoichi and wear the willow.
The festival takes place at Akama Jingu – a shrine in the city of Shimonoseki every summer on July 15th. The main attraction of this festival is the biwa instrument performance. You can listen to talented musicians play the traditional instrument that plays an essential role in the story of Miminashi Hoichi.
Akama Jingu is a shrine dedicated to the seven-year-old emperor Antoku, who died in 1185 in the battle of Dan-no-Ura. What makes Akama Jingu so special is the statue of Miminashi Hōichi (Earless Hōichi), the blind bard whose musical talents get him into trouble with ghosts in a story which Lafcadio Hearn made famous.
In English, “Miminashi-Hoichi” means “Earless Hoichi.” The tale is, in short, about Hoichi – a monk who loses his ears to an evil spirit.
Hoichi was deaf from birth, but his ability to play the biwa (a traditional Japanese string instrument) exceeded any others’. His performance was so beautiful that a vengeful spirit approaches him and eventually possesses him. To save Hoichi from the spirit possessing him, a fellow monk writes the sutra all over his body, knowing that the spirits cannot see things that have the sutra printed on them. However, he forgets to write on Hoichi’s ears, leaving only his ears visible to the spirit.
Consequently, the spirit leaves Hoichi, but tears his ears off and takes them with him. Hoichi’s fellow monk feels incredibly guilty for what had happened to Hoichi and apologizes to him repeatedly. But, Hoichi becomes famous as the earless monk with a talent to play biwa and lives the rest of his life in fame and wealth.
Date: July 15th every year
Place: Akama Jingu
Admission Fees: The festival is divided into two parts. The first half takes place outside the shrine and is free for everyone. To take part in the second half which takes place inside the shrine, you must pay a fee.
Address: 750-0003 Amidajimachi, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Access: You can access this shrine by taking a ten-minute bus ride from Shimonoseki Station (下関駅), and getting off at Akama-Jingu Mae station. The cost of the bus ride is 260 Yen.
Another way to access Akama Jingu is to take a taxi or drive there yourself.
An early-morning visit to the Karato fish market is an excellent opportunity to try sashimi for breakfast or lunch when the fish doesn’t get any fresher. The best days to come are Friday and Saturday when the stallholders are selling sashimi and bento from the day’s catch. The market is closed on some Wednesdays. A bus ride from Shimonoseki to the market takes 220 Yen and seven minutes.
Tsunoshima Ohashi is a bridge that crosses the cobalt-blue Setouchi Ocean. Since its opening in 2000, the bridge also served as the shooting place for numerous movies, commercial messages, and television programs. As a toll-free bridge connecting remote islands, it is one of the longest in Japan, extending over a length of 1,780 meters. It takes 15 minutes by bus from JR Sanin Main Line Kottoi station or 30 minutes by bus from JR Sanin Main Line Takibe station.
The Miminashi Hoichi Festival is bound to give you a summer of unique and eccentric memories. Besides the festival, Shimonoseki holds many of Japan’s hidden gems including the fish market Karato Ichiba, and the beautiful Tsunoshima Bridge.
If you would like local guides to bring you to the Mininashi Hoichi Festivals and show you Shimonoseki from a different perspective, please click n the banner below.
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Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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