The Sakaki Matsuri is a festival of the people, and is a tradition that has been continued since the Muromachi Era over 500 years ago.
Hundreds of youths holding lit torches run down the approx. 2km road of Taimatsuyama mountain to the Mochizuki Bridge. Upon arriving at the bridge, the torches are thrown down into the Kakumagawa river at the same time as an act of purification. The torches leave behind streaks of light in the dark of night making for a breathtaking fantasy-like sight. It is like a waterfall of fire. After the torches are thrown in to the river, four Sakaki Mikoshi (portable shrine) covered in sakaki leaves are brought forth and are bashed at the ground and each other while being paraded vigorously. There is also a shishimai (lion dance) performed to an elegant flute, as well as a public folk dance performed to the song Mochizuki Kouta. All impurities are cleansed by the fire and Sakaki at this festival, a time to pray for a rich grain harvest and a healthy year without disease.
Without a doubt, the highlight of this festival is when the local youth throw their torches into the river leaving behind streaks of light that make a fantastic waterfall of fire in the dark, followed directly by the crashing of the Sakaki Mikoshi.
You will want to get a taste of the energy overflowing from this event that is referred to as a "strange" festival.
With plenty of events for everyone, such as the opening ceremony that starts at noon, the child mikoshi parade, the shishimai at night as well as folk dancing, this is the perfect opportunity to see proper traditional Japanese culture, the Shinshu region lifestyle of past days and the mountainous stretch of historical travel accommodations called Mochizuki-shuku.
Please try out this summer festival, overflowing with Japanese culture, that is perfect for everyone, not only the young crowd.
Please watch from a distance when the mikoshi are bashing into each other as there is possibility of injury when viewing too close.
Access to Saku City
Sakudaira Station, on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen Line
Address: 263 Mochizuki, Saku City, Nagano Prefecture
By local bus
Please take the Chikuma bus Nakasendo Line headed for Ashida from the Sakudaira Station. 30min ride. Get off at Mochizuki Bus Terminal. The venue is right there.