Shiogama Minato Matsuri began right after the ending of the Second World War in hopes of reviving the industry and well-being of the people of Shiogama. It is now regarded as one of the three major boat festivals of Japan. Held on Marine Day (a national holiday), the festival features mikoshi floats parade through town, and then at sea, sacred shrine boats decorated as dragon and phoenix parade over the sea along with approximately 100 accompanying boats. Watching the boats sail by with Matsushima (regarded as one of the Three Views of Japan) in the background makes you feel like you are looking at a Heian period picture roll. Even on land, parades are held all across town, with the festival merging both land and the sea. Approximately 7,000 fireworks are lit over Shiogama port at the pre-festival fireworks held the night before, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
Deities of Shiwahiko and Shiogama Shrines each cross Matsushima bay, riding the dragon and phoenix boats. The boats are decorated with strips of five colors and flags, and the bow of the boats are decorated with—as the name suggests—a phoenix and a dragon. The phoenix boat is loved by many, as it is used in an Australian tobacco design, magazine covers, etc.
During the pre-festival, fireworks are lit over the ocean. Feel the sea breeze while viewing the fireworks in the sky, and in the sea as reflections. (an hour from 8 pm)
We wish for you to view the land parade, in addition to the mikoshi's sea crossing. Especially, the sight of the shrines' parishioners climbing down the steep 202 stone steps of Shiogama Shrine's "Omotezaka", carrying the mikoshi weighing approximately 1 ton, is a must see. After that, the mikoshi parades the city towards the wharf where its procession boat awaits. After the sea-parade, the portable mikoshi shrine is greeted by the people as it climbs back up the stairs. Experience the somber atmosphere as well.
Many food stalls are open near the festival location. The festival also is a celebration held in wish for good catch, so don't miss out on the seafood here. Fish or grilled skewered tuna are among our recommendations. Make local sake and kamaboko (fish cake) your souvenir!
There are areas that are off-limits due to earthquake-related quay wall restoration.
There are areas that are off-limits near the festival location. Do not get close to the dangerous areas, and follow the instructions given by security guards and police officers in the case of earthquake and/or emergency situations.
5 min walk from Hon-Shiogama Station (JR Senseki Line)
35 min by car from JR Sendai Station