It was with great excitement when our Japanese hosts announced that we will have a glimpse of Takayama’s famous Autumn Festival. And who wouldn’t? Takayama’s Spring (April 14 & 15) and Autumn (October 9 & 10) Festivals is considered as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan together with Kyoto’s Gion and Saitama’s Chichibu Night Festivals.
And, unlike most of the festivals here in the Philippines that were developed just recently and for tourism, Japan’s is historic, have been performed for centuries and the pomp and pageantry is paralleled by its great craftsmanship and woodwork. In Takayama’s festivals which involves the procession of area yatai or elaborate processional carts, are considered tangible folklore assets.
The streets were already deserted when we arrived and hurriedly walked to the area near the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine, affectionately known as the Hachiman-Sama. Takayama is guarded by two deities: to the northern half is Hachiman, who’s festival, also called the Hachiman Festival, is celebrated during Autumn and probably started in the late 16th or early 17th centuries as a thanksgiving to the gods for bumper harvests. The southern half is guarded by the Sanno-sama located at the Hie Jinja Shrine and the Spring Festival is also called the Sanno Festival.
It is during these two festivals that the deities go around town. In the Hachiman Festival, the Hachiman-sama rides the mikoshi portable shrine and is escorted by locals in kamishimo dress. Musicians and dragon dance performers join the parade. In the square below the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine, the Hoteitai yatai is located wherein puppets perform twice daily in the two day celebration.
It was really a marvelous experience to see all these beautiful processional floats/carts, locals in various traditional attires and knowing the interesting stories behind this festival. And of course, the yatai are stunning! They’re elaborately made with intricate woodwork and drapes, puppets, metalworks and decors. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to witness the night festival wherein the eleven yatai are pulled around town bedecked in hundreds of lanterns and I can just imagine who splendid it will look.
Soon. I will be back to witness this again.
Thanx to Cebu Pacific Air for this trip!
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