Festivals of Japan: Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri in Osaka
By John Asano
On September 17, 2015
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is a fun high-octane festival held in Kishiwada in the south of Osaka. The festival is the biggest and most famous danjiri matsuri in Japan. A danjiri is a traditional Japanese wooden float that has elaborate carvings and is decorated with various ornaments. The wooden floats are made in the shape of a shrine or temple and are pulled through the streets of a neighbourhood during festival days.
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri first began in 1703 when the daimyo (feudal lord) of Kishiwada Castle, Okabe Nagayasu prayed to the Shinto gods for an abundant harvest at Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto. Typical of many fall festivals in Japan, the Danjiri Matsuri is essentially a harvest festival to pray for a good autumn bounty.
Today, the festival is considered to be Osaka’s wildest festival and is kind of like their running of the bulls, where local citizens can prove their courage and manhood. Like the running of the bulls in Pamplona there are several casualties every year, so it is not to be taken lightly. The festival is held every year on the weekend before Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no Hi). This year in 2015 the festival is on from September 19 to 20.
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri features 35 elaborately hand-carved danjiri festival floats made by highly-skilled local carpenters and sculptors. Many of the floats weigh over 3000 kg and are pulled by an eager team of up to 1,000 participants. Each float represents a different district of the city with glory up for stake as each team is vying for victory and the honour it will bring their neighbourhood.
The highlight of the festival has to be the elaborate floats that are pulled through the narrow streets of Kishiwada at high-speeds. The daiku-gata is given the privilege of standing atop the danjiri and is the star of the show, hopping and dancing wildly to the music as if to energize and urge the team on to victory. They are the person in charge of controlling the float and their dance performance is a sight not to be missed.
The festival gives local communities the chance to show their strength, courage, endurance and bond together as one team. Rhythmic taiko drumming and shino flutes accompany the floats by groups of musicians to encourage the different teams. Most of the action takes places on the second day (September 20) with the best place to see the festival being west of Kishiwada Station.
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is one of Japan’s most thrilling and spectacular festivals featuring elaborate festival floats pulled through the streets of Osaka at breakneck speeds. If you are a thrill-seeker, make sure you mark it down on your calendar.
Location: Kishiwada City, Osaka
When: September 19 – 20
Time: First day 6:00 am to 10:00 pm
Second day 9:00 am to 10:00 pm
Official Website: www.city.kishiwada.osaka.jp/site/danjiri/english.html
The festival is held close to Kishiwada Station which is accessible on the Nankai honzen line from Nankai Station.