Misasa Onsen Hanayu Festival 2019-Take Part in a Giant Tug of War in Tottori!



You might have come across various different festivals in your travels throughout Japan. But in this article, I will be talking about Misasa Onsen Hanayu Festival – one of great cultural significance to the people of Tottori, in the Southwest of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Take part in a giant tug of war, read up on your manga, and eat some delicious local delicacies, all while relaxing in the beautiful onsen town of Misasa.

What is Misasa Onsen Hanayu Matsuri?

Misasa Onsen Hanayu Matsuri is a traditional festival designated as an important folk asset. This festival celebrates the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha with a giant tug of war called Jinsho. During the festival, alongside traditional ceremonies and parades, you will notice two ropes. Each weight around two tons and about 80 meters long. These ropes represent male and female. Locals make it of wisteria from the mountains. The ropes are then used in a grand competition between the “east” and “west” of the town. The tug of war will decide the fate of the town for the next year. Good harvest if the East wins, business prosperity if the West wins.

History of Misasa Onsen Hanayu Matsuri

Although there are various theories about the origin of the Hanayu Festival, the mayor says that it celebrates the birth of Buddha. Besides, the festival is also a way thank for a good harvest and prosperous business in the year ahead.
The 900-year-old Misasa Hot Spring, which served as a base for the Mitsutukayama pilgrimage pursuing mind and body, is deeply connected with the Mikutoyama faith.

“Japanese Heritage Site” Misasa Onsen

The Japan Heritage Attraction Dissemination Project started in 2015. It is a national system aiming for 100 certifications before the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. As part of the strategy, in order to attract tourists from home and abroad, Japan is looking for some of its most breathtaking cultural properties. The project seeks to find sites that are not only visually appealing but also those with rich historical stories. As such, the Misasa Onsen was chosen as one of these designated sites.

Basic Schedule of Misasa Onsen Hanayu Matsuri


8:00 ~ 17:00【Making the rope】 The rope at the great tug-of-war contest will be created by local craftsmen in front of the firehouse.

19: 00 ~ 20: 30 【Route out】 The completed rope is carried to the hot springs.

20: 30 ~ 21: 00【Fireworks】 Around 1,000 fireworks are launched into the spa area around Koiyabashi.


9: 30 ~ 10: 30【Shrine festival】 It is a ceremony which celebrates the blessings of Misasa Shrine and hot springs. Dedication of Urayasu dance by primary school students. (With a rice cake)

10: 30-11: 00 【Pharmacist Donation Festival】 Dedication to say thank you for the grace of the hot spring.

11: 30 ~ 12: 30【Birthday Ceremony】 Children’s parade by the local children. Onsen Square → Onsen Honkori → In front of the Florist Annex → Misasa Shrine

15: 00 ~ 17: 00 【Children’s Mikoshi】 Parade by local children around the residential area. Shrine → prefectural road → hot springs main → florist annex building → shrine

20: 00 ~ 20: 30 【Fireworks】 Around 1,000 fireworks are launched into the spa area around Koiyabashi.

20: 30 ~ 21: 30 【Routing out】 The rope is carried to the “green gate”, a central location where the competition will take place.

21: 30 ~ 22: 00 【Great tug of war】 The tug-of-war contest takes place between the East and West to bring prosperity in the following year.

Basically, Day2 has more activities and is the main day of this festival.


The real thrill of the festival is the rope of this tug of war. The length is 80 meters, the diameter is about 1.5 meters. There are two ropes, one “male” and one “female”. The weight of these two ropes together is about 4 tons. This is amazing as a new rope is hand-made by the residents every year. This tradition has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural property of the country. The competition starts with setting up the rope first. The tug of war is performed in the main street of Misasa Hot Spring. Residents of the area are divided into east and west, and the rope is drawn from the east side to the west side.

With the chants of “Oisa, Oisa!”, the rope is hoisted and the competition begins. Tourists are encouraged to participate in the game. Though, I recommend that you save your spot an hour before the competition begins or you will quickly lose it! After the competition, the rope is cut up into small pieces which are said to bring good luck, to make sure you get yourself a keepsake!

Details and Access

Date: 3rd and 4th of May, 2019. (They might change the date each year, but it is usually around the first week of May.
Place: Misasa Jinja shrine and Misasa Onsen Town high street
Address: Misasa, Misasa town, Tohaku – gun, Tottori Prefecture

Official website: http://spa-misasa.jp/eng/
There is an English Website available, though there is not as much information as on the Japanese website.
Phone: 0858-43-0431
※There are other language websites available, but there is no landline available in English. If you would like to contact them, we recommend contact with emails. →mokk@spa-misasa.jp
1. Easiest Way to go from Tokyo (Haneda) is by air. Flight to Tottori Airport then take a coach to Misasa Onsen. About 10000 Yen+

2. If you are a Japan Railcard holder, use the Shinkansen or train journey to go!
Tokyo (Shinkansen) to Himeji then change to Super Hakuto train to go to JR Kurayoshi Sta. Take Hinomaru Bus to Misasa Onsen. About 18000 Yen+
This is a good journey to see around, but it is a little complicated. So, only recommended for advanced travelers in Japan!

If you are already in the Kansai Area (East Japan), it will be much easier than from Tokyo!
Train, car, and coach are available. The cheapest option is the motorway coach and takes more than half a day. A quicker way to go is of course by plane. There is no discount for train or coach ticket if you book in advance in Japan. It depends on the season. Also, Shinkansen or train fee is the same the whole year.

Accommodation Around Misasa – Onsen

1. Resort Hotel: Misasa Royal Hotel

Are you interested in Resort hotel? This is a big chain hotel, and you might feel more comfortable.

2. Kiya Ryokan

You can stay in traditional Japanese-style accommodation.

3. Ume-Ya

There is no website available! Old fashioned style accommodation and self-catering style. (Min 5 days stay)
Phone: 0858-43-0534
Address: 933-2 Misasa, Misasa- Cho Tohaku-Gun 〒682-0123

There are so many ‘Onsen Ryokan’ available in this area. I highly recommend to stay in a traditional Japanese hotel.

Words that you should know!

Matsuri – Festival
Onsen – Hot springs
Nishi – West
Higashi – East
Tsunahiki -Tug-of-war
Mikoshi – Sedan chair
Roten – Pop up shops

If You Can’t Make It

At Tottori ken Misasa Onsen, “Hanayu Festival” takes place every May. The festival is held only once a year, but in the “Hall of Counters”, a series of miniatures reproducing the festival are displayed. Thus, you can capture the charm of the Hot spring Festival throughout the year. Since it is free to enter, please enjoy while you take in Misasa Onsen.

When you go to the museum, be sure to go upstairs! Did you know that Tottori is famous as the Manga Kingdom?! The second floor of the museum is a treasure trove of comics and manga, which you can read for free! Truly, the “comic kingdom”!


1. Baumkuchen

A traditional German sweet that has been somewhat adopted into Japanese culture. The local variety is made with local eggs and cream along with delicious honey and baked in a traditional oven to produce a truly exquisite flavor. Try the almond variety, and even try toasting it for a unique way to eat this treat! (Vegetarian-Friendly)

2. Japanese Wagyu Tsukudani (food preserved in soy sauce)

The original staple of Yakiniku restaurant, this marinated beef jerky is a sticky treat that can be kept for a very long time. Thus, making it the perfect souvenir. Tsukudani is made carefully using Tottori Kuroge Wagyu beef and the renowned Miwa pepper, along with a touch of sake to season. A delightful delicacy by a craftsman’s expert tongue!

3. Negimiso–Pon

A traditional type of rice cracker made with inflated rice. This crisp sweet made by Fakasawa confectioners can only be found in Tottori. The popcorn-like confection may have a flavor of miso or azuki. (Vegetarian-Friendly)

Closing Remarks

The Misasa Onsen festival is a truly unique experience whilst traveling in Japan. Where else can you take part in a tug of war to decide the fate of the future?! The town is a wonderful stop on a journey around the southwest of the country, so be sure to drop by!

If you would like to experience this outstanding festival and explore Tottori prefecture with a friendly local guide, please check the banner below!

All images are courtesy of「©Tottori Pref.」

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/

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). 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/

Did You Know That There is a Festival Every Day Somewhere in Japan?

Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/6572/


Hi! I`m Manami - a freelance writer originally from Chiba, but now living in Bournemouth in the south of England!

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