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Carrying Shrines at the Yokosuka Mikoshi Parade

The Yokosuka Mikoshi Parade takes place on October 19 and is a fun event that brings Japanese culture and US Navy personnel together.

By 4 min read

Every autumn the city of Yokosuka celebrates its seasonal Mikoshi Parade, which showcases traditional Japanese culture while incorporating all of the traditional festival events you’ve grown to love in Japan. It begins at the Chuo (meaning “center”) train station, and ends on the grounds of the United States Naval base.

Some say the history of the Mikoshi parade dates back to the 8th century A.D., but it is possibly even older, and clearly has deep roots in Japanese culture. The “mikoshi” (神輿) itself is a portable shrine that is carried on the shoulders of those transporting it from the beginning to the end of the parade. Before being carried, it is cleansed of evil spirits in a purification ceremony.

To those practicing the Shinto religion, the mikoshi is not simply a portable shrine, but is believed to be housing a god that will bring the people nearby happiness, good fortune, or wealth. Carrying the mikoshi is no joke, either. These can weigh upwards of 1200 kgs (over 1 ton), needing dozens of shoulders to hold up this heavy weight.

As they parade down the street, those carrying the mikoshi will shout a loud chant while beating the old-style Japanese drums that have become popular in festivals around the country. There are 4 different styles of shouldering used across Japan, all with a different chant and pattern of moving this shrine up and down as they parade the street. These practices show another great example of how every aspect of Japanese traditions contain deep meaning.

Those taking part in the mikoshi parade are all clothed in a “happi coat,” similar to the yukata worn in summertime. The happi coat is only worn during festivals, and has a crest on the back that usually represents the family or company of the group. You will also see them in either headbands or hats representing the “gambatte” spirit, and of course with tabi (traditional white-toed socks) on their feet.

Watching such an age-old tradition being carried out in front of you is exciting, no doubt. But the best part is actually getting the first hand experience of carrying the mikoshi yourself. During my first mikoshi experience, my sister and I were simply standing in awe of the loud noises and bright colors being paraded down the street. Then, all of a sudden, we were pulled directly into the street by some of the mikoshi bearers. They wanted us to hold up the mikoshi in their place, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The joy of the “small town” Yokosuka parade is that the locals love pulling foreigners into the tradition along with them.

Before we knew it, we were under the weight of the shrine, chanting and bobbing up and down along with them. All of the Japanese men were laughing so hard, but we didn’t care; we loved getting the chance to be a part of their ceremony. The joy of the “small town” Yokosuka parade is that the locals love pulling gaijin into the tradition along with them, which makes for a much more fun and memorable experience.

If you get worn out by the carrying all that weight, fear not, Japanese festival food is abundant at this parade. You’ll find all of your favorite festival foods like okonomiyaki, ikayaki, and cotton candy. Blue Street, named by gaijin for its blue colored tiles and roofs, is jam-packed with so many food vendors you can barely walk. If you follow the parade to the end, you’ll also get another chance to visit the Yokosuka Naval Base, if you bring proper ID. Inside the base you’ll find even more festival food and drinks, only this time they’re American.


With so much to do in and around the parade, this festival easily becomes an all-day affair where you can enjoy both Japanese tradition and American culture combined. And maybe even become an official “mikoshi bearer.”


When: Sunday October 19th, 2014 10:30-15:00

The Parade will begin at Yoksuka Chuo Station and end on the Yokosuka Naval Base. Visitors will enter through Womble Gate and need to bring valid photo ID.


Tokyo Station -> Yokosuka Chuo Station: 78 minutes, ¥1080
 Festival takes place directly outside the station.


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