Thirty-three traditional Japanese festivals have been recommended by a UNESCO panel to be added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, and are expected to be officially approved next month. Of the 33 festivals chosen, three happen to take place here in Gifu so we thought it would be appropriate to introduce them in further depth.
The Furukawa Festival（古川祭り）
The Furukawa Festival, held every year on April 19th and 20th in Hida city, is a festival of both tradition and power. This festival is the most important event of the year for Hida locals. There is the traditional procession of the mikoshi portable shrine, and then a festival float parade. The elegant floats, some of which act as stages for child kabuki plays, and the Edo period streets of the Furukawa district go hand in hand creating a very unique atmosphere.
One of the more unique performances of the festival is the okoshi daiko drums of awakening performance. This performance has half-clothed men playing taiko drums of various sizes with so much energy and emotion that you can’t help but to feel imbued with the festival spirit.
Event Information: http://travel.kankou-gifu.jp/en/see-and-do/33/
The Takayama Festival（高山祭り）
The Takayama Festival, said to be over 400 years old, is famed for their exquisitely crafted festival floats. This festival is held in Takayama city and takes place twice a year: once in the spring, and then again in the fall. Of the three Gifu festivals chosen for the UNESCO list, The Takayama Festival is the most well-known.
Each float itself is a work of art and includes karakuri marionettes, which are masterfully designed and fashioned in Edo period clothing. When it turns to night the festival floats’ lanterns are lit, making for a complete change of scenery.
The Ogaki Festival（大垣祭り）
While the Ogaki Festival still seems to be under the radar for us English speakers it should not be overlooked. This 360 year old event is said to be the most traditional festival for all of the Mino area. Like the Takayama Festival, the parade floats of the Ogaki Festival are a sight to behold. The festival is made up of a total of 13 parade floats: three were received from the feudal lord Ujiaki of the Enpo era (17th century), and the other ten were made by local neighborhood associations.
The parade floats are known to feature stages for kabuki child plays or karakuri marionettes (and in some cases both). Seeing the enormous floats being surrounded by crowds of lively spectators will make for an unforgettable sight.
Time: 8:45am-11:00pm (based off of 2016 times)
Date: Saturday and Sunday nearest to May 15th (2016 dates were the 14th and 15th)
Location: Hachiman Shrine(5min walk from JR Ogaki Station’s South Exit) and the surrounding area in Ogaki city.
Having these festivals added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list gives hope and a sense of security to their respective communities. This is because international recognition for the festivals’ cultural value will make it that much easier to maintain and continue them long into the future. If you ever have the opportunity, please make it out to one of these festivals.