The Imari Tontenton is a Shinko-sai festival at Imari Shrine, located on the riverbanks of Imari river in Imari City, Saga Pref. The festival is also known as Imari Kunchi, and has continued for over 200 years. “Gassen” battles between floats are held in multiple locations throughout the neighbourhood during the festival dates.
Signaled by the sound of the drum that rings out “ton-ten-ton,” the Ara-mikoshi and Danjiri floats are slammed against each other and eventually fall into Imari river. The float that makes it back onto the riverbank first wins. As the name “Kenka-matsuri” (fighting festival) suggests, it is an aggressive festival that causes many injuries every year.
In the downtown areas, the “Imari Autumn Festival” is also held by the local residents. The festivity features the children’s “Wasshoi Parade” and “Imari So-odori” dance, as well as performances of Imari Taiko drums and other traditional arts. Combined with the many outdoor vendors, the festival takes over downtown Imari for the three days.
The highlight of the festival is the Kawaotoshi Gassen (river throw-in match) held on the final day. After being slammed together Mikoshi and Danjiri floats are thrown into the river while they are still in contact, and then are carried back onto the riverbank. The float that makes it back onto the riverbank first wins, so you cannot tell who wins until the very end! Since the deity of Kokitsu Shrine promotes good harvest and that of Totoshima Shrine promotes good luck at sea, the prospects of the year is predicted according to the Gassen winner; good harvest if the Ara-mikoshi wins, and good catch if the Danjiri comes back first.
The Imari Shrine is made up of of Nakashima, Totoshima, Kokitsu and Iwakuri Shrines. Among them is the rare deity of sweets enshrined at Nakashima Shrine. Imari is said to be the birthplace of Japanese sweets and confectionery, and the founder of the famous Morinaga & Company, Ltd., Taichiro Morinaga is a confectionery king from Imari. Why not visit the deity of sweets while you are here for the festival?
Recommended items are those made based on the Happi coats worn during Imari Shrine’s Mikoshi procession, and the Onbashira plates made using the previous year’s Onbashira (sacred pole) and wooden bars used for carrying the floats. They are sold at Imari City Tourism Association, and at Imari Machinaka Ichiban-kan. You can also shop for souvenirs at the Okawachi Nabeshima-yaki village where many Imari-yaki pottery kilns are located. (There are buses that run from Imari Station)
It is said that walking under the floats during the festival will exorcise your bad omens. Although please note that women are strictly prohibited from touching any of the floats due to traditional rules.
As visitors you will not be able to participate in the festival, yet if you wish to take pictures in front of the Mikoshi floats, the carriers may greet you by posing together. Please be extra careful when approaching the floats.
Although viewers are permitted to touch unmoving Mikoshi and Danjiri floats during the festival (except during sacred rituals), touching the white and red Mikoshi floats are prohibited at any time. Furthermore, please be aware that women are not allowed to touch any of the Mikoshi and Danjiri floats at all due to traditional restrictions.
Please do not pass the safety line drawn during the Gassen.
Please note that viewers who cannot follow local and traditional rules at Kawaotoshi and other festival venues may be asked to leave.
Access to Imari City
Imari Station (JR/Matsuura Railway)
Imari Shrine 83 Tachibana-cho, Imari City
Imari Junior High School
4063-1 Tachibana-cho, Imari City
Autumn Festival venue
Hamamachi intersection, Imari-cho, Imari City
Higashi-hachiya Festival Square
Higashi-hachiya, Niri-cho, Imari City
Imari City Residents’ Community Center
391-1 Matsushima-cho, Imari City
640 Imari-cho, Imari City (riverbank)
Please go to the Autumn Festival venue from the North exit of Imari Station after going through the shopping arcade.
It is a 10min walk to all of the other locations from there.