Shimada Obi Matsuri 2019 – Rare and Colorful Festival in Shizuoka



Shimada Matsuri means Shimada Festival. Another name for this event is Shimada Obi Matsuri. Obi is a sash belt in English. Obi is one of the most sophisticated parts of Japanese bridal attire. This festival is not an event which you can see often. Even for Japan – the country of festivals, this festival is held quite rarely, only once in 3 years. In this article, I will introduce you to this historical and exceptional festival. You will learn more about its history and the process of the festival along with its schedule.

History of Shimada Obi Matsuri

A long time ago, a woman who married a man from Shimada had to come to Shimada to live with him together. It was a Japanese tradition when a woman dressed up in a bridal kimono went to Oi shrine to pray for the safe delivery of children. This shrine enshrines the God of water. However, it was embarrassing for those women to show off their attire to the public, especially on the way back from the shrine.

The guards who protected Mikoshi Togyo (a Shinto ritual where portable shrine parades to pray for the happiness of people lining the path of the parade) felt sorry for the brides. They decided to put kimono obi of the symbol of brides on the wooden sword that the guards always wore. And the guards also prayed for the safe delivery of children for brides.

After that, the parents of brides who also cared about their daughters started bringing trousseau especially expensive obi from various places. Next, the merchant came to see those obi. This is how the parades began and go on nowadays. That was the beginning of this festival, and the reason why it is called obi matsuri. For over three hundred years people from Shimada were keeping the Obi Festival to pray for prosperity and safe delivery. This festival has been held 108 times since 1696, and in 2019 it will be its 109 anniversary.

Festival Breakdown

The festival takes place only once every three years in October for three days.  Seven districts and two towns participate in Shimada Obi Matsuri. People from the 1st to 5th district carry a portable shrine (mikoshi) with amulets from Oi shrine after they get purified at the shrine. The representatives from the 6th district dance the Kashima dance. The 7th district participants guard a portable shrine. One town makes all arrangements to welcome God, and the other towns have the responsibility for the parade.

The Process of the Festival

Men under 40 years old run the lord parade. Men over 40 years old run the headquarters and support young men. There have some strict rules as well. For example, they cannot use cellphones during this festival for three days. However, there is a messenger, and everyone has to contact him when they want to tell something to someone. And when they carry a portable shrine, they cannot walk back. When carrying mikoshi, the teamwork is very important. There are three major roles. The leader sets the moving rhythm, the supporters move, stop, and change the direction, and the power men handle ropes. Also, there are two kinds of dances for children. Inside of rope, many elementary students perform a dance called Jiodori. And on a portable shrine, kindergarden children perform a dance called Uwaodori.

Facilities at the Festival

– The headquarters of this festival will open on the first floor of P-five parking at Hondori 5 chome.
– The information centers are at the north and south exits of JR Shimada station, the stop of the shuttle bus is nearby the river, the north, south, and in front of the headquarters.
– Omotenashi plaza. There are some shops where you can find local food and souvenirs when you leave the north gate of JR Shimada station.
– Coin lockers. You can put your bags or luggage. It will be set up next to the washroom after you leave the north gate and turn right.
– Wheelchair facilities. Rental is available at headquarters or the information center at the north and south exits of JR Shimada station. The number of wheelchairs is limited.
– The rest area for babies, the temporary washroom, the smoking area will be set up in some places. Please do not smoke in public, there arealways smoking areas in Japan. If you want to know where it is, please check the map.

Details and Access

Dates: October 12th, 13th, 14th, 2019. Usually takes place in the middle of October with three intervals (as for every three years – tiger, serpent, monkey, Year of the Boar).

Place: The north of Shimada station around Hondori. Shimada-shi Oi Shrine, high street, and the outskirts.

Address: Oicho, Shimada-shi, Shizuoka

Official website (Japanese only):


If you come by car…
It takes 15 minutes from Shimadakanaya Interchange of Shintome highway.
It takes 15 minutes from Yoshida Interchange of Tome highway.
The temporary parking areas will be open.
From parking areas to the venue, there are shuttle buses, and they run from 9 AM to 6 PM.

If you come by JR train…
From Tokyo: Use the bullet train, and get off at JR Shizuoka station, then change train.
It takes 30 minutes, and get off at JR Shimada station.
From Nagoya: Use the bullet train, and get off at JR Kakegawa station, then change train.
It takes 20 minutes, and get off at JR Shimada station.

Closing Remarks

This obi festival is a historical and beautiful festival that happens quite rarely. At the same time, it is one of the strangest festivals in Japan, considering its history as you can not often see men wearing traditional female bridal attire. Last time, the festival was held in 2016. So it is going to be held in 2019 next time. There are some sightseeing places in Shimada like a museum, rose hill park, and so on. You can also stay at a hotel with a hot spring.

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"I'm Yuka from Sapporo, Hokkaido. I studied English in Canada, and I like communicating with people. I hope you'll love Japan!"

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