Spring Festivals in Japan (はるまつり)

(This post is long overdue…)

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After coming back from my fun and busy spring break trip, I was welcomed back with a weekend filled with spring festivities. I invited friends from Gifu to come to my town in Kanayama for our spring festival before heading up to Takayama’s the following day. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were excited and looking forward to seeing the crowds, hearing the chants, and admiring the mikoshis (festival floats).When we walked to the starting area, I was immediately rushed with cheerful students and excited greetings. My friends and I weren’t expecting to participate in the actual floating-carrying, but once we got there, we got invited to join and Mr. Oshima rushed to his house and returned with happis to wear(festival cotton coat).IMG_4609IMG_4608IMG_4605

The night was filled with lots of beer, sake (Japanese rice wine), chanting “わっしょい,” and laughter. It was an amazing and interesting experience carrying a mikoshi. There were a total of 6 floats: 4 big floats and 2 children’s floats. I helped carry one of the children’s’ floats in the beginning and then switched to the bigger ones. Luckily I had worn a scarf to the parade and got to use that as padding to rest the mikoshi handle on my shoulder, but some of my friends weren’t as luckily and had some intense-souvenir-bruises the next day. This day was definitely a fun and memorable day.

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The next morning my friends and I ate breakfast and then hit up the outdoor onsen in Gero.(Usually everyone is naked and separated by sex at onsens, a Japanese hot spring-bath, but because it’s outdoors in a park, you can…and should…wear a bathing suit; some elderly people don’t when it’s night time and dark out…) It was nice to relax in the warm onsen bath after a long, fun night.

After onsen-time, we drove up to Takayama to see their mikoshis and eat some lovely festival food. Although we didn’t see the famous illuminated mikoshis at night, we watched the puppet float performances mid-day. We also walked around the traditional shops and by the river, taking pictures along the way. It was very crowded, as the Takayama Spring Festival is very well known, not only in Japan but internationally. Luckily we survived the day and got back at a reasonable hour so that my friends could get back to Gifu City.

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Overall, I would definitely recommend that anyone who decides to visit Japan go at a time when there are festivals! The big fireworks festivals are supposed to be amazing, but I’ll be back in the US for most of them during my summer break. However, there are always different festivals happening in Japan, so surf the web and hopefully you’ll be chanting,”わっしょい!” someday too!Wishing on a Star
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