The sound of Shangiri—the festive chanting of Tajima Gion Zōshi—echoes though the air. This is the annual celebration of Tajima’s central shrines Tadeuga-jinja and Kumano-jinja, passed down with over 800 years of rich history. This “Gion” festival is one of the “three Gion festivals of Japan,” standing alongside Kyoto’s well known Gion-matsuri, and is listed as an important intangible cultural heritage.
The Gionsai in July is famous for the Nanahokai march (or hanayome gyōretsu)—the elegant sight of women dressed in lush bridal kimono marching to the shrine. In addition, the festival is packed with things to see, such as the nationally rare children’s Kabuki, the parading of kenka-yatai throughout town, and the climactic Daidai-okagura dance ceremony on the final day. Immerse yourself in experiencing this 800+ years of traditional heritage!
At around 8 a.m. on the second day (23rd), the Nanahokai march hits the road. This is a sacred ceremony where men in kamishimo and woven sandals (zōri), and women in bridal kimono, march to the shrine with their offerings put inside seven “Hokai“ containers. The women—consisting of 30 or so brides—are known exceptionally as being the “fanciest bridal march in Japan”, attracting many photographers attempting to capture their elegant beauty.
Rumors say that if you join this march, the chances of your marriage increases!
Local children perform kabuki on yatai (mobile stages)! It is a form of kabuki theatre rarely seen in other parts of Japan. Originating in the late Edo period, it was performed up until the early Meiji period before it ceased for some time. It was revived, however, in 1994 after a hiatus of about 120 years! Since then, the children not only perform on the yatai, but all over and outside of their
prefecture as well.
On the mobile yatai sits the stage where children perform kabuki, and is pulled with them still on-board. In addition, each district has four big yatai’s that they pull around in a competitive manner known as “kenkayatai”, maneuvering them in ways they almost collide into each other. Witnessing the large stages pulled by men, stopped inches away from crashing, is a thrilling sight to see. (please do be careful while watching from a close distance)
Please be mindful of others during the Nanahokai march.
Please be extra careful during the pulling of the large yatai.
Aizu-Tajima station on Aizu Railway
Address: Nakamachi Tajima-aza Minamiaizu-machi Minamiaizu county, Fukushima prefecture
Right outside the station