Shinjo Matsuri 2

On the 25th August my CIR colleagues and I were invited to the ShinjoMatsuri held in none other than Shinjo, in the Saihoku region of Yamagata Prefecture. ShinjoMatsuri has a history of over 260 years, is designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties and is currently being considered to become a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, so I was very excited to get the chance to see it in person! Straight from the station we were given a warm welcome and taken to the staging area of the festival and taken to our front and centre seats with a great view of the festival. The sun was blazing (which is almost unheard of in the UK, by the way) so I thanked my luck that we were seated near the drinks stand.

The festival started out quite slow with a beginning ceremony, but quickly picked up once the Mikoshi and floats (and horses!) were brought out. The floats were followed by musicians playing the flute, drums and shamisen, creating a lively atmosphere. The floats themselves were expertly made life-size displays historical and mythological figures against a wonderfully colourful backdrop of Japanese nature. Even if you have just a passing interest in Japanese myth and history you’ll find yourself recognising numerous figures – I’m no Japan buff to speak of but ones I did notice were Oda Nobunaga, Izanami & Izanagi, Momotaro jumping out of a peach and my favourite Japanese myth, Princess Kaguya.

Izanagi and Izanami: Power couple. Also brother and sister.

It was great to be able to recognise at least a few key Japanese figures, and I’m sure that those with more knowledge of Japan would be excited to see just how many historical and mythical figures they know. Besides that, the floats were just incredibly beautiful to look at; it was clear that a huge amount of effort went into every float in the festival, and the result was really a marvel to behold! Even the backs of each float was meticulously decorated with images of rivers and mountains. 

Me with my fave, Princess Kaguya (the figure in purple and red at the top of the float)

The whole festival lasted about an hour and a half, which was definitely a good amount of time for how hot it was outside. Following the festival, we hit the streets to get a taste of my favourite thing about festivals: festival food. After treating myself to shaved ice, Hiroshima Okonomiyaki and bubble tea, I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed!

Food of the gods.

Matsuri left an amazing impression – and a sunburn on the back of my neck but I only have myself to blame for that. Did I have a good time? Yes. Was it worth the sunburn? Absolutely. Would I go again? I’m already looking forward to next year!


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