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Usually, Japanese Festivals are a prayers and/or an appreciations for rich harvest and big catch at each year. Of course, some are held for great health and happiness as well as other good wishes. However, did you know that there is a Sushi Festival? The southern part of Japan’s famous Lake Biwa is where this matsuri takes place. In this article, I will introduce a rare yet traditional Sushikiri (Sushi Cutting) Matsuri in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture. You will learn more about this one-of-a-kind event and see how you can enjoy this festival!
This matsuri is held on May 4th and5th at Shimoniikawa Shrine（下新川神社）every year. Shiga is famous for fermented crucian carp sushi（鮒ずし）. This matsuri is about serving it to elders. It might be hard to believe it but, cutting and serving the sushi is the highlight of this whole festival.
Every year 2 high school students are chosen to perform Sushikiri. They practice for months for the huge and honored roles. The audience consisting of executive officers, new born babies of the town, and tourists constantly jeer at 2 young men at Sushikiri matsuri. It is not some simple booing. It’s the big yell for them. With some support of superiors who have played the roll the year before, these 2 young men cut and serve crucian carp sushi to the Shinto priest and the president of the community.
On the 4th of May, the eve of Sushikiri matsuri is also a big day. First “patrol” begins around 9 pm with big drums . Second patrol is at midnight. Last one is at 3 am. The patrols and celebration of the festival continue till next morning.
2 groups organize Sushikiri Matsuri. There are also 2 roles at this festival and the groups change roles every year. One is in charge of Sushikiri and dance performance, the other is in charge of patrols.
You will be amused by the 2 young men’s exaggerated Sushikiri performance in good coordination. You can also enjoy the warm jeering too. Although the matsuri itself isn’t so big, you will feel the warmth of the community at this festival.
In old days, this festival used to be very strict on rules and customs. For example, females were forbidden to take part in it, and those who can play roles of 2 Sushikiri young men were limited to first sons only. However, the matsuri itself is getting more simple every year, and traditions are changing due to the decline of birth rates nowadays. Yet, the heart of matsuri is carried on by generations.
The best way to get to the venue is taking a bus. Get on a bus from JR Moriyama station to Sazugawa（幸津川） bust stop. It is about 20 minutes ride. You can also bike there since biking around Lake Biwa is a popular outdoor activity.
You can’t drive to the shrine at these 2 days as they close the road. If you are driving, you may want to park your car at a parking lot of park nearby.
If you are sake lover, you can’t miss trying fermented crucian carp sushi. The strong smell of fermentation stops people from eating it, but it goes very well with sake.
Also, if you go about 2km from the shrine, there is a farmer`s market – Ouminchi（おうみんち）. You can purchase freshly picked vegetables and other products as well as crucian carp gelato.
Matsuri is not just a fun festival. Deep inside, each matsuri has its purpose and reason to take place every year. Sushikiri matsuri connects people of different generations in the community while celebrating and supporting children’s growth. Get this once in a lifetime experience at this unique festival!
And if you are looking for a guide or need accompany, check below!
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!
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!
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!